Test-driving a new hair salon is risky business. Unlike heels that hurt or jeans that don't fit, a bad haircut or a crummy color job cannot be exchanged or returned. And it may be months before we can shake off — or at least outgrow — our resulting grumpy mood.
So … how should you handle the urge to defect to a new stylist? When does it make sense to splurge on a new look, and when is it better to economize?
I'd have an easier time answering these questions if the options weren't so many. I want to support my neighborhood salon, but that low-cost mall chain also looks terrific (or will it merely turn out to be tacky?). They make me feel so comfortable at Casa LuxeHaven, but how do I justify the indulgence? Here are some tips for anyone tempted to switch allegiances.
If you have easy hair: Let's say your hair is fairly healthy. You use a do-it-yourself color — or don't dye your locks at all — and you prefer the timeless chic and easy care of a classic bob or lob. If those three conditions pertain, there's really no need to spend more than $18 or $20 for a chop and blow-dry.
Just make your way to an inexpensive, nationwide chain for a cookie-cutter perfect cut. (I'm thinking of outlets such as Fantastic Sams, Supercuts, Hair Cuttery or SmartStyle at Walmart.) The stylists at each franchise follow a prescribed formula, so you'll see consistent results even if you don't patronize the same salon or stylist every time. Walk-ins are welcome, but don't expect any frills.
The inside skinny: Chains are perhaps the best-kept secret of age-50+ CEOs and entrepreneurs with expensive-looking hair; they save their hard-earned cash on a good basic bob, then go elsewhere for color and highlights.
If you visit often — and love personal attention: Though prices at "boutique" salons vary widely, expect to pay $25 to $50 and up for a cut and blow-dry, and $35 to $75 or more for color or special services. Offsetting those higher costs is the comfort factor that comes from finding a stylist/colorist who understands your hair's peculiarities — and your preferences.
No matter which direction you want to head in — camouflage thinning hair, add layers or bangs, or gracefully grow out your gray with highlights and lowlights — there's security in having a team that works with you, not just on you.