New year, new hair? If you’re planning a chop, colour revamp or even just a trim, everything can be far more complicated when you have to find a brand new hair salon to boot. Maybe your own stylist did a disappearing act, moved on to pastures new, or perhaps you just need to shake things up right down to the person wielding the scissors.
Whatever the reason you’re starting from scratch, finding your new hairdresser can be a daunting task. Especially since you can’t exactly ask for a trial run—once it's chopped, it's chopped! But quell your fears friends, because we’ve done the digging and come up with an expert checklist to help you spot the pros from the pretenders.
1. Ask Around
It may seem like an obvious one, but word of mouth is a powerful tool and a recommendation from a friend, or just somebody with amazing hair, is always a good start.
“For me, I always think word of mouth is useful. If you love someone's haircut, ask who did it, especially if they have a similar hair type and texture to you," says Amy Lawrenson, Byrdie Editorial Director.
Richard Ward, Royal and celebrity hairstylist, couldn't agree more. “Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find a good stylist and will give you extra confidence in their abilities," he explains. "If you’re always admiring a particular friend’s cut or color, ask where they go and give the stylist a call. Lots of salons operate referral schemes, so don’t forget to mention their name!”
2. Get on Instagram
Much like a word of mouth recommendation, Instagram is now a hive of genuine hair inspiration, especially when you can easily track down who’s responsible for the cut, color or coiffing.
“I’m all for DMing people on Instagram if you like their hair, and I've been able to recommend my own hairdresser this way so many times,” says Shannon Peter, Byrdie Deputy Editor. “Instagram is a great tool for searching, just put in 'London hair stylist' for example, and you can scroll through the accounts of salons in your area, or check if a particular hairdresser has the aesthetic that you're looking for. It's what I'd do to find a tattoo artist, so why not for hair!”
Byrdie Social Media Editor, Alyss Bowen, agrees: “I definitely use Instagram as a tool for searching for a hairdresser. Several times now, influencers or celebrities I follow with hair that’s a similar texture or style to mine have influenced where I've gone. They always tag or do a shoutout. I know Laura Jackson does this and now that she has her bob I'm tempted to check out her hairdresser!”
3. Use the Consultation
The consultation is key for communicating what you want, but it can also be very revealing in terms of assessing your stylist, so use it as an interview of sorts—and listen carefully.
“Every appointment should start with an in-depth consultation, whether it’s for a color, cut or hair extensions, and of course a patch test prior to any color service,” explains Jack Merrick-Thirlway, Senior Stylist at Neville Hair & Beauty.
“During a consultation a good stylist will consider your face shape, lifestyle habits, check for unusual growth patterns, and take into consideration how your hair looks when its natural. They should also prioritize the health of your hair, and offer alternatives if your choice of cut or color just isn’t (safely) achievable on your hair type. They should discuss aftercare and maintenance with you too, and not allow things to sound overly ‘technical’—clients need to understand how the result is really going to look.”
4. Conduct the ‘Blow-dry Test’
Wish you could give a new salon or stylist a trial run? While you might not be able to stage a 'practice cut', there is one test you can carry out to get a feel for things.
“I think it's important to strike up a rapport with your hairdresser, so it’s a good idea if the first time you meet isn't when you're actually having your haircut. That you can always back out if you don't think you're on the same page,” says Amy Lawrenson.
Richard Ward agrees, and suggests using the rather genius ‘blow-dry test’. Here's how it works: “Always book in for a blow-dry at any new salon before you commit to a cut,” says Ward. "This is a great way to get a feel for the salon, and also establish a rapport with the hairdresser before allowing them anywhere near your hair with scissors!”
5. There’s An App
Like most things in life these days, there’s an app for this exact dilemma—several in fact.
Our favorites include Treatwell, where you can search for salons in your area and read (often brutally honest) customer reviews before you book. They also have lots of deals and discounts which are a bonus!
If you have curly or afro hair, it’s worth keeping an eye on website Tress Free. Though it’s not without its glitches at the moment, the platform aims to to make an easy job of finding Afro-Caribbean hair specialists in your area.
Opening image: Imaxtree