If you’re planning a chop, color 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 new pastures, 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. Cue top hairstylists Richard Ward and Jack Merrick-Thirlway, plus the salon nous of former Byrdie editors.
Meet the Expert
Here’s how to find the best hair salons and an incredible new hairstylist near you.
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. “If you love someone's haircut, ask who did it, especially if they have a similar hair type and texture to you," says beauty and wellness editor Amy Lawrenson. Ward 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. 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, beauty director at Stylist Magazine. “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?!”
3. Use the Consultation
Are you finally ready to commit to French-girl bangs? What about going for a trendy haircut like the mixie? 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 Merrick-Thirlway. “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 it's 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 Lawrenson.
Try to avoid requesting any type of hair transformation the first time you visit a new salon or meet with a new stylist. For instance, if you're looking for a cut, opt for a trim over a drastic change in length. When it comes to color, begin by trying a color that is similar to your natural shade. Steer clear (at least, initially) of colors that would require both bleach and dyes to achieve.
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. Try An App
Like most things in life these days, there’s an app for this exact dilemma—several in fact. Our favorites include StyleSeat, where you can search for salons in your area and read (often brutally honest) customer reviews before you book. If you have curly or textured hair, it’s worth keeping an eye on the website Swivel. The platform aims to make an easy job of finding natural hair experts in your area.