F.E.A.R. is a four letter word, that distracts and disrupts, even limits our lives. There is certainly plenty to be fearful of in this world of ours, but Fear Of the Hair Salon (FOHS) should not be one of them. And yet many people live with this fear and allow it to prey on them, inhibiting their style, even causing them such anxiety that they deny their hair the care it needs in the hands of the very best hair stylist in town.
I’ve encountered this fear of hair salons on a number of occasions. Clients who have experienced not only a disappointing, but actually a traumatic experience in the hands of a negligent or inexperienced hair stylist, from which they sometimes never recover. It only takes one such visit to forever mark the person for life and destroy all trust in even the very best hair stylist or colorist.
One client, in particular, stands out in my memory. From the first moment she entered the salon, it was obvious to me and others how uneasy she was. When she sat in the chair to begin the consultation, I could feel how tense she was as I ran my hands through her hair to assess its qualities. Her monosyllabic responses to my questions lent evidence to the dread she felt. Finally, I couldn’t help myself from asking her if everything was okay. She looked up at my reflection in the mirror with serious eyes and replied, “No, I am not okay. I hate going to the hair salon as much as hate going to the dentist and I only go when I really can’t avoid it. I have a big event to attend next week and I need to look my best. I know I don’t have the best of hair to work with, and I can’t afford any more damage. Please be careful and kind. It’s all I ask.” Her words pierced my heart. Going to the hair salon should be an empowering experience, not a torture, which was apparently what it was to this lady. It broke my hair stylist’s heart to see what a few bad hair salon experiences had reduced this woman’s relationship with my trade to.
Needless to say, I took extra care to make her as comfortable as possible. Her hair was medium length, dark, but dull, thin and limp, the ends very dry and split, while oily near the roots. Her hair had been damaged by aggressive products and permanent colors and, as I learned later, by a perm that went really bad. I was stunned to learn of some of the things that had been done to her very fine hair. A responsible and good hair stylist would have never opted for some of the “treatments” she had undergone. No wonder she was so mistrusting.
I took extra time to find out what she really wanted, not just what she was ready to settle for. Not just to be lauded later by her as the best hair stylist in Baltimore, but I really wanted this experience to leave her encouraged to put the past behind her. She began to relax a bit, as I asked her more questions about herself and what she wanted of her hair. She had little time to devote to it on a daily basis, she told me, and also “very little talent and patience” for it, so the style needed to be easy to keep up and if possible, versatile, i.e. something that could be changed slightly for a different look. She wanted color too, “natural looking” she stressed. She currently wore her hair in a tight banana bun, which made her look sterner and older. After a few more questions, I suggested a shorter, sassier cut that would lend her hair the appearance of volume by taking advantage of the natural wave of her hair, while still keeping it easy to care for. Adding a hint of semi-permanent chestnut red to her current color would give it a more vibrant and lively appearance. Finally, I suggested a treatment with a “special” product I like to use to condition and protect the hair without weighing it down. She agreed, with a little trepidation.
The rest of the appointment went well. I reassured her that none of the products I used would to damage to her hair. I steer away from any overuse of chemicals by applying only the best of l’Oreal’s professional line of products, conceived to care and treat every possible combination of hair. I only recommend semi-permanent color to minimize the application of chemicals and to leave the options open for a quick color change on a more regular basis if desired. Because of her fine hair, I wanted the color to combine with her natural one so as not to have to color it too frequently as it grew out, and yet still look good. There is an art to that, and it is one I am rather proud of.
By the time we were done, she was a very different person. Not only had she relaxed enough to begin to enjoy and partake in the transformation, but in the end, she also looked her best, just as she had wished. Her new style was feminine and fresh, stylish and natural. I showed her how a few quick steps and easy techniques would bring out the best of the cut, even diversify it, without a lot of fuss. On leaving, she asked if she could hug me and when she did, she discreetly whispered in my ear, “You are the very best hair stylist in Baltimore, and I really mean that”. This compliment, paired with the smile on her face and new bounce in her step, told me I had accomplished my mission and I would be seeing her again in my salon in the not too distant future. She was on her way to recovery from FOHS.