How to Tell Your Hairstylist You Don’t Like Your New Cut or Color (According to Two Hairstylists)

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We’ve all been there: You head into the salon for some fresh balayage or maybe just a light trim to keep your ends neat and you walk out with...something entirely different. It’s a disappointment to say the least because you had certain expectations of what your hair would look like after all the time and money spent. And then, there’s the awkward dance of figuring out the most tactful but honest way to let your stylist know you’re not happy with the results. 

We spoke to Sienree Du, who is an LA-based stylist for Mane Addicts and Richy Kandasamy, a colorist and R+Co Collective member for their tips on navigating these situations like a pro.

Set clear expectations from the start 

Both Du and Kandasamy agree that having an upfront consultation is key to avoiding situations like this in the future. You know the saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? Similar logic here.

“Everyone’s interpretation of colors, tones, and placement is so different. Starting the appointment with a number of reference images as examples is helpful. This way you can specifically point out things you absolutely love and things you don't want. Most of us are quite visual people, so this helps us a lot.” says Du. “Be aware that most images have been filtered and photoshopped, so make sure to have a thorough conversation with your stylist,” she cautions. On that note, “Being realistic about what can be accomplished on your own hair is also important,” she adds (i.e., wanting to lighten dark hair to a bright blonde in one session or wanting bangs or a choppier cut, but not being honest about the level of effort you typically put into styling your hair at home). 

“If the stylist has not made you feel comfortable and made you understand what they’re going to do, don’t even let them start the service until you’re on the same page,” advises Du.

Noted for the future, but what should I do if I’ve already had my appointment and I don’t like the results?

In an ideal world, you would talk to your stylist while you’re still at the salon. More often than not, they can fix things or at least make them better right then and there. And if they’re crunched for time that day, you can at least walk out with a game plan for the cut or color correction.

Whenever it’s time for that conversation, the best way to do this is, again, being as specific as possible. “Do this by referencing a visual, so you can compare and show exactly what you don’t like and point out the differences in the end look,” explains Kandasamy. “Tell your colorist in a calm way that you are unhappy with the end results. They will understand,” he assures. “Share the details of what you don’t like about the color or cut, like the highlights are too chunky or the tone is too brassy.”

What if it’s been a few days since my appointment? Is it too late to ask for a correction? 

“If you get home and you are unhappy after seeing your hair under everyday conditions, don’t worry. You can still call the salon to speak with your stylist and explain what you’re seeing and what you don’t like about it,” says Kandasamy.

“Your stylist wants nothing more than to fix things for you and do whatever they can to make things right,” adds Du. “Explain what you were expecting and be very specific. This will help your stylist figure out a solution. Bring in more photos of what you’d like, explain in detail the type of movement you’re looking for in a cut, or the placement of layers, the contrast level you want in your highlights, the brightness level, the tones you like and don’t like, and how you want your hair to look after you leave,” says Du. “Again, be open to what is realistic or not.”

And be reasonable with your timing. Most salons will honor any corrections free-of-charge within a week of the original appointment, so keep that in mind; it might be a bit harder to make a case if you reach out a month afterwards because your “color has faded.”

Still feeling nervous about talking to your stylist? Kandasamy has some parting words of reassurance for you: “A great stylist will always want you to be happy with the final results—especially since you’re their walking billboard.”

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...