1. Stalk Your Stylist
The best way to ensure you get a good haircut? Make sure you're going to a good stylist. "Do a bit of homework and research a potential stylist," says Teddy Antolin, a celebrity hairstylist at Sally Hershberger salon in Los Angeles. "Google the stylist's name, ask around about his or her reputation." When you see someone whose haircut you admire, ask where she got it. And before you book an appointment with anyone, type his or her name into sites like Yelp.com and CitySearch, where you might find useful reviews from other clients.
2. Don't Get Too Hung Up on a Magazine Photo
It's helpful to rip out magazine pictures of the look you want and bring them to your appointment. "Hairstylists are typically visual, so they have an easier time understanding your thought process when you use visuals," says Rodney Cutler, owner of Cutler/Redken salons. However, know going in that these pieces of inspiration might not be 100% realistic. "It's important to remember that, most of the time, the hairstyles you see in magazine photos involve hours of professional styling, which can make a cut look completely different," says TRESemmé celebrity hairstylist Mara Roszak. Rather than get your heart set on a very specific style, talk ideas with your stylist first. She'll probably have lots of suggestions about similar looks you'll be able to style on your own at home—and ones that may be more flattering to your face shape.
3. Tear Yourself Away from Those Tabloids
Believe it or not, the salon chair isn't the ideal place to play "Where in the world is Brangelina?" "If you want a good haircut, I would avoid looking at a magazine while it's in progress—not because you need to keep an eye on your stylist, but so you keep your head nice and straight," says celebrity hairstylist Dean Banowetz. Other things to avoid: crossing your legs and yapping on your cell phone. "Doing either of these will offset your body's balance and you'll end up with a crooked haircut," Cutler says.
4. Don't Micromanage Your Hairstylist
People love to complain about overly chatty stylists, but overly talkative clients can be even more problematic, at least when it comes to getting a good haircut. "Sometimes it can be distracting if the client asks too many questions about the cut during the process," Roszak says. It's OK to make small talk, but it's important to let your stylist relax and get into a groove. "Too many technical questions can break the rhythm of the haircut," Antolin agrees. If you have specific concerns about the nuances of your new style, it's better to bring them up before the snipping starts. "Make sure during the initial consultation that you feel completely comfortable with what the stylist's vision is," Roszak says.
5. Don't Just Say, "About Three Inches"
"The client's and stylist's perspective on an inch can be different," Antolin says. "It's best to physically show your stylist what you mean by an inch. And keep in mind that the stylist might cut the front pieces shorter than that if you want layers." On the flip side, whenever your stylist uses a term that you think leaves anything open for interpretation—"blunt," "bob," "choppy"—ask to see a photo that illustrates what he's referring to.
6. Be Honest About Your Lifestyle
Only you know how much time you're really going to spend each morning styling your hair, how good you are at maneuvering a round brush or how important it'll really be that you can pull your layers fully back into a ponytail. Before you commit to a new style, be honest, not only with your stylist but, more important, with yourself. It's also helpful to show up with your normal, everyday hair the day of a haircut appointment. "This gives us a good understanding of texture and manageability—so no wacky treatments the day before, or excessively dirty hair," Cutler advises.
7. Pay Attention to Product Recommendations
It's easy to write off the salon products your stylist recommends as an obligatory up-sell, especially when your wallet's feeling kind of empty these days. But with many of today's layered hairstyles, using the right styling product can make a real, visible difference. "Nowadays, it's not just about the cut but about the product technology that goes with it," Antolin says. That said, you don't necessarily have to buy the exact products your hairstylist recommends, and you definitely don't have to do so under pressure. Ask questions about exactly why each is beneficial, then go home and do some online research ( is one great source for product reviews). You might come across a great bargain alternative, or you might discover that the salon brand is completely worth a little extra cash.
8. Allow Your Cut a Week to Settle
It's normal to go into a state of shock after removing even just a couple of inches, let alone doing something more dramatic with your hair. Even if you initially feel like you hate your haircut, establish that you're going to wait one week until issuing a final verdict. Try styling it a couple of different ways. Wash it a couple of times. If after a week you're still feeling like the cut's a huge flop, call your stylist.
9. Know How to Express Your Disappointment
It can be difficult to keep your head on straight when you feel like the hair on top of it looks horrible. But it's important to keep your cool and talk through a disappointing haircut. "Simply say that this is not quite what you thought it would be," says Roslyn Baker, owner of the Mahogany Door Salon in Texas. "Calmly talk about options. Playing the blame game doesn't really solve anything." Nor does worrying too much about your stylist's feelings. Remember, it's not personal, it's just hair—and he or she has probably been through this type of situation many times before. There's probably a way to make your cut a bit better, and if not, there are always extensions. Any stylist worth her shears will work with you for free until you're feeling better. However, if the cut is truly atrocious, it's probably better to cut your losses and either let it grow out for a bit or pay for a better stylist to fix it.
10. Let a Bad Haircut Make You Brave
Been wanting to try lowlights or see how you look with side-swept bangs? Well, when you've already got a haircut you don't love, that's the best possible time to get adventurous. "Face it—you already hate your haircut," Banowetz says. "Why not experiment with a look you wouldn't have tried otherwise?" You might just end up liking your cut a little better—or, worst-case scenario, you'll make it even more horrible, and you and your girlfriends will someday be able to look back on these times and laugh.