On My Long and Wearied Search for a Hairdresser

dep_8500539-Barber-Hair-Salon-Hairdresser-Icon-Symbol-Sign-PictogramWhen I was a kid spirals would cascade out of my scalp in the most unruly way driving my mother crazy. Being a straight haired woman herself, she had no clue as to how to care for a daughter with this type of mane. She was convinced, despite my screaming and countless tears, that she could brush my hair and have it sit atop my head in an organized fashion. Of course this is not the case with curly haired girls as the cardinal rule of having healthy curls is, “Thou shall not brush curly hair.” When my mom grew tired of dealing with this “problem,” she simply took me to the salon and had the hair dresser cut off all of my curls. It sounds traumatic but having short hair was quite liberating.

My mom and I went to the same salon for over twenty years at least twice a month if not weekly. My mom would get her hair and nails done and I would maintain my short hair by getting it trimmed, cutting in layers and sometimes making the fatal mistake of cutting in bangs that I would then have to hide by pasting down with gel or wearing head bands even when they were out of fashion. It was fun to feel transformed and renewed even if my mom and I left the salon looking exactly the same, which was most often the case. When our hair dresser’s husband passed away, she suffered through a period of mental illness and had to close down her shop. That is when my hair began to grow down my back, the long forgotten spirals returned, and my mother by then an older lady on a tighter budget, began to do her own hair. It was the end of a tradition, more evidence that time had passed.

As a woman in her thirties I have no hair dresser to call my own. As a result I have been to a different salon every single time I have needed a haircut since 2007 and still have not found someone I can pay a return visit to. I went to the young gay guy who was skilled and gentle to my tender head but worked in a location too far away. I went to a woman who gasped when she saw my hair and said that whoever had cut it last left one side 2 inches longer than the other, (I think that might have been me…Who knew!?). I went to a lady recommended by a co-worker who was sporting various colors and various hair lengths in a jumble that almost made sense as a fashion forward hair style. That should have been my clue, the haircut she gave me left me with more split ends than I walked in with. And finally, last night after work I walked into a salon in a shopping center in North Hollywood where I experienced the cutest and the worst hairdresser of them all.

This young man of bulky, clumsy hands and gentle soul was experiencing his first day as a professional cosmetologist. He was nervous, concerned and every time he asked me a question it came out as if it had been rehearsed. He excused himself to the back room and left me mid hair cut various times to consult with someone. He worked slow and meticulously with sweat pouring down his forehead even though we were in a temperature controlled environment. His big hands got tangled in the knots in my hair and he actually cut his own finger instead of my hair. He came back with a band aid on that pulled my hair out even more as it stuck to the adhesive. I felt like a little kid again getting her hair brushed by her mother. Even though I was in pain the entire time and a simple trim took over an hour, I was rooting for him the entire time. At the end I told him he had done a good job and left him a generous tip. This morning I noticed he left one thick strand on the right side longer than the rest of my hair. I will either be cutting that piece myself, or combing it to the other side…

202 thoughts on “On My Long and Wearied Search for a Hairdresser

  1. deja vu.!! boy can I relate to your story! I am one of 4 girls in my family and I ended up with the curly q hair.. I always wondered why my mom would do my sisters hair but then would encourage my independence in doing my own hair… today I still can NOT find a consistent hairdresser.. for the prices they charge I feel like I never get my moneys worth!! I have recently decided to just leave my hair alone because my thick -coarse- kinda wavy hair is a difficult project for any average hairdresser… i haven’t completely given up hope im sure there will be some great hairdresser who will know what he or she is doing when it comes to me. with that being said I LOVE your well written story!!

  2. Great story!! I can relate from both ends…client & stylist. I have partially straight but mostly frizzy hair. So to this day I have yet to find someone skilled at mastering this challenge. As for being a stylist, I can relate to your ‘young, clumsy hands man’…I never forget what it was like to be brand new on the ‘floor’ taking clients for the first time. The the nerves, the sweat AND the excitement! Oh how I don’t miss those days. :) That was very sweet of you, even though it wasn’t perfect, to tell him ‘good job’ & tip generously! Sometimes all we need is a vote of confidence. :)

  3. This is adorable. I have never loved getting my hair cut, it always seems like such a gamble. If it goes wrong then I have to live with the consequences. I started cutting my own bangs because I can’t be bothered. Best of luck in your hair endeavours.

  4. Love this! Never underestimate the power of having an awesome hair stylist in your back pocket. They are like your secret I’m-A-Sexy-Beast weapon.

  5. As an Italian girl with naturally thick and wavy hair, giiiiirl, I feel your pain, haha! I just let my hair do it’s own thing now. Screw conformity! I hardly ever use a flat iron with it. Just let your hair be natural and do its thing.

  6. Your story is beautiful. And, I’m jealous of your hair. I’d let it grow long and hang gloriously. As it is, mine is as fine as cat hair and limp as wet grass. Boo, but, yay for you!

  7. Hi, my friend dropped me a link to your post today because my topic was also about how hard it is to find a hairdresser. I can really relate. You were very kind to sit thru the bandaid torture…I’m not sure I would have. Enjoyed your post!!!

  8. I had to sport a hairstyle for 7 years straight because that was the only length and style my hairstylist believed would suit me. Steps, mid length. I got bored of it and cut myself bangs last year, got many compliments; got bored of that too and chopped off my hair for a less than shoulder length blunt, got even more compliments. So I am my own hairdresser now. No more worries and it is a lot of fun :)

    • For years I have cut my own hair, because some hairdressers want to give customers the latest look. Never say “cut” to some hairdressers, unless you want to be nearly bald. Say “trim” instead. Some seem to like to work with short hair. You can guess why: your hair can be styled faster, they can handle more customers in a short time and make more money.

  9. Pity about the young gay guy being too far away. Best hairdresser that ever cut my hair: a young gay guy. Too bad he died of AIDS (in the late eighties). Second best that ever cut my hair was a trichologist who also treated my scalp. However, I always ended up evening my hair out as she invariably cut it unevenly (we talked a lot). After nine whole years of going to this gem I left the continent in 2002 and never again found a hairdresser who could do a reasonable job (unless I made a drawing of how I wanted it) and with whom I felt comfortable emotionally speaking!

  10. It would seem in L.A., of all places. you’d be able to find a decent stylist!? This makes me appreciate mine even more — he has a 3-chair salon in NYC’s West Village. If you get really desperate, come to NY and head for Hairhoppers. I’ve been going to him for a decade+ and have never been unhappy there.

    • It is definitely possible to find a good hair dresser in LA, but I go so self only and with such limited time to spare I’ve been pretty much going any where that is convenient at the moment. I have to stop doing this to my poor hair…

  11. lol – this really struck a cord – I too have curly unruly hair and nothing, nothing will tame it. It’s thick and curly and ginger! And I don’t have a hairdresser I trust. Now my hubby cuts it, very simply when it gets too long. That is the style that works best for me, longish in a ‘U” at the back, no layers, no fancy cutwork. I’ve never straightened and never want to. Just let it be a joyous jumble and relish those curls.

  12. Such a great and relatable story. I have found a hairdresser and she is quite good at what she does; the trade-off is that she lacks professionalism, and lives an hour away – if the weather is great – and the task of getting there requires its own post. Thanks for sharing – not having a good hairdresser can be “traumatic.”

  13. It’s as if you wrote my story! I, too am a curly girl. And had the brush-wielding mother who, to this day, brushes out her own curly mane! Thank goodness the 80’s are over and there are millions of products out there for us curliest now! Great post!

      • Yes! First I would go and check out naturallycurly.com. It’s a fantastic resource for all things curly. They have a product review where they rate products from A-Z in every price range! I discovered Mixed Chicks products there and my current favorite, Deva. I really like the DevaCare line. And for styling I also am using Tigi Curls Rock creme lotion. Yay for decent hair products! Happy shopping!

      • :) Love it! I knew I found my perfect mate when I was dating my husband and he was the first significant other to tell me NOT to straighten my hair. He liked it curly and it wasn’t “me” if it was straight. I kept him! :)

  14. I was a teenager in the ’70’s. While it seemed like all the ‘cool’ girls had long straight shiny hair that they faithfully brushed 100 strokes each night to get that lustrous gleam, I nightly wrapped my curly hair tightly around fat empty, previously frozen OJ cans, hoping to wake with straight silky locks. Some nights after too many nights of lousy sleep, (you try sleeping on huge cans), I’d brush my hair as close against my scalp as possible and pull a stocking over my head trying to ‘train’ my tresses to lay flat. Some nights I just cried myself to sleep gazing out my bedroom window at the stars in the night sky while praying to God that I would wake up in the morning with straight hair. And every morning I woke up with a wavy, curly, bushy, lopsided tangle of hair facing me in the mirror. I too had a mother with long sandy straight hair, and she had a curly headed daughter of half Italian decent. She had no idea what to do with my hair, and many times grabbed the shears and lopped off an unruly piece as I headed out the door to school. In every class picture I was the kid with the wacky hair. Whatever direction it got bent in while I slept, that was the look for my next day. Kids called me frizz-head, cotton candy hair, Brillo head. So I slept on juice cans. My silky headed mother said to hold my fluffy naturally curly head proudly high, (easy for her sleekness to say). My two Italian curly headed Aunts were beauticians, and told me repeatedly: “In order to be beautiful you have to endure some pain.” I wholeheartedly believed them, after all they had slept on their share of juice cans. But even with juice cans I had an inch of waves from the scalp and then flat dull loose-juice-can shaped hair. I’d comb it, pulling it down straight but it would pop right back into juice can mode. Finally after a lifetime of bad hair days, in 1974 I discovered the blow dryer, (I owe the creator my deepest gratitude for letting me get some sleep finally), and I blew my hair out every morning ever after into a beautiful Farah Faucet poster doo. (She had the best Charlie’s Angel’s hair.) I’m 54 now, and after many years of many compliments and many hours spent on my blown-out style, I wondered if my hair was even still curly. So a few years ago I stopped straightening, and I found the curliest tendrils waiting for me to love; waiting for hairstylists to finally have learned how to cut and style curly hair, (one hairdresser said cutting my hair was like trimming hedges); waiting for products that enhance instead of weigh down curls. So now I am cool with my big bohemian mop of curls that everyone loves… including me… and it only took me 50 years.

    • I slept on giant rollers before. The blow dryer has been my good friend since the 90’s but I try not to use it too often in order to not dry out my hair. It’s sad that we spend so much time not appreciating what makes us unique and beautiful.

  15. I feel for you on this. After years of saving money by going to franchise places, I invested in a local “nice” salon about a year ago. First stylist was fired after my first two cuts, next stylist quit to become a missionary in Africa after three cuts that were OK (I guess). So now I am on my third time having to explain my hair history, why I don’t dye it, my morning routine, etc.

    I used to wonder when I would hear someone say it had been two years since they had a haircut how they could do that or why, but now I think they are smart not to have to worry about it.

  16. Oh God! that was really funny…cutting hair reminded me of younger days..n i remember crying and freaking out…i caused a serious problem for the barber who cut my hair and my father who accompanied during my childhood days..now i go to a regular salon n simply cut in a way i cut everytime..am scared to try out new style :P

  17. Haha, yeah I know the pain of looking for a hairstylist. I’d recommend always talking to them first or during and try to tell them what’s happening to see if they give good advice or try to spot a stylist withe the same hair or cut as you – that’s what I try to do. I move around a lot so I always have to find new stylists. Hope you find someone good!

  18. I’ve gone through the stage you are experiencing – like an orphan, no place to call home – but for about 15 years have been in my current state, serial monogamist. One stylist lasted four years, the next one lasted four, and this current one, seven, although I think I may have to break up with her. After a while it’s like they stop listening to me and do what they want.

    What I have done is solicit suggestions from my local friends on Facebook. I’m giving my lady ONE MORE CHANCE, and then I guess I’ll be on the scene again, trying out those suggestions.

    One suggestion to you – if you ever get that perfect cut, take pictures, from several angles. That might help. And good luck!

  19. Thanks everyone for sharing your hair horror and success stories. It has been really fun to read how so many people can relate to the curly hair struggle.

  20. Where am I? :) I was minding my own business playing with my new wordpress blog? when I decided to take a walk – I stumbled upon you and I thought – this is wild – my roommate – a genius – is the master stylist and color specialist at michaeljohns salon on Camden Drive in Beverly Hills – he and I were talking about his desire to reach out to younger, more dynamic (don’t repeat that) women who he cold begin a new ‘clientele of the cutting edgers’ – his clients are now, and have been all the most powerful women and men but mostly women in all fields and housewives too- but he’s bored and wants a challenge – you sound like a challenge- LOL anyway – I had talked Michael,, Michael Thomas is his name, into giving a cut rate deal to young actresses at a friends talent agency here in LA, and I told him about you and this blog and he offered to treat you – free of charge – to a cut and color – and if you are at all interested – let me know, darling – this is fun! Hold on — I will go fetch as sample of his work. In fact, to make it easier – I will change my avatar to a photo I have of his work – I’ll do that now. Scott Utley

    • Thank you for the offer! I was so over haircuts when you first commented that I could not get myself to respond. I’ll look him up and see if the offer still stands in a couple of months.

      • Hahahaha! I am so sorry I missed this message. I get ‘ya. lol [time out until I stop laughing} Yes, of course the offer stands. Anytime, anything for you, darling. The only thing you have to lose is perhaps your hair. (joke) You write so clearly, I can even see you facial expressions.

  21. I can relate to this! I remember paying a fortune one time to go to the ‘best’ hair salon in my town. (I live in an expensive town so I was expecting something quite incredible). It taught me an important lesson. Always expect to be disappointed and you won’t ever be. I went in asking for a graduated bob – pretty basic, with ‘natural’ looking highlights. The hairdresser gave me what looked like a pudding bowl cut with the decidedly unnatural looking highlights. I looked like some kind of hybrid between a magic mushroom and a zebra. I cried.

  22. ahhhhh, completely relate to this – I have waist-length, layered, natural ringlets but my hair has a mind of its own – it can range from sleek ringlets, to frizzy mess, reminiscent of Monica on holiday in Friends when she had to get it braided just to cope…yikes!
    I cut my own hair these days, as I had a completely disastrous cut by what was meant to be the best salon around, where it ended up being cut to the base of my neck from waist length! by the time i realised what he was doing, it was too late – I have a feeling he sold my hair, as it was around the time that very high prices were being paid for it to make wigs. (found this out later!)
    the only hairdresser i found since then who listened and gave me a lovely cut, disappeared and the salon wont tell you where they go when they leave! grrrrr.
    On the plus side, I always get compliments about how lovely my hair is, so I am guessing that its not obvious i cut my own!! :-)

  23. I can relate! Long, thick curls all my life, and it’s so hard to even get ONE good haircut, let alone find a hairdresser that’s consistent. I finally have a great stylist who understands my hair and tells me not to brush and not to shampoo (this has saved my hair and has worked WONDERS to get rid of the frizz). I’ve finally given in and accepted that my hair can’t handle short layers. It sucks to look like a mushroom/mountain/whatever you would compare pyramid-shaped curly hair bad-haircut to. Excellent post my friend.

    • Thank you! I know, it’s hard to accept that what is sometimes in fashion would never work for a curly haired woman. I’ve tried bangs and just like short layers, they do not work.

  24. i relate but on the part of getting people to dye my blonde like I like it. I want platinum strands…alas I live in the big city of Austin and still drive back to my hometown to get my hair done!!

  25. This kind tickled me – As a bloke, I don’t have these problems, but sadly, I’m of an age when I used to be able to grow my hair long enough to sit on and it be the accepted norm, and someone has photos to prove it. I remember going to the barber, who made such a mess of it, I vowed not to have it cut until the time I left college – Had to relent in the end, and had head shaved for charity. Always had a woman cut it since – even though its a scratch and stand length nowadays. My sympathies ladies…….
    If you find someone who can do a good job – treasure them.

  26. I was one of those wild-curly haired kids while growing up. But miraculously it had turned wavy over the years. Just like you, my mum would take me to the hairdresser and cut it reaalllly short and after every haircut I had to endure endless taunts from my sister would call me a “boy”. Things went smoothly until we moved to a new home in a new area. My mother did the mistake of trusting this hairdresser would said she’s give me a ‘Bob’ but ended up doing a ‘mushroom’ cut. The things I was left bald on on side of my head. I cried all the way through the journey back home. The moment my sister opened the door, she howled with laughter (Even my mother couldn’t help but chuckle at me). I can never forget the incident.

    Over the years I started to love my frizzy wild hair. I comb it really hard and it straightens but after a while it become a frizzy and bushy. But I never chose to straighten it because that’s become my identity.

    Great Post :) :)

  27. It’s hard to find a good hairdresser. Fortunately for me, we have two of them in the family, my sister-in-law and my cousin. If I can’t get in by one then I go to the other. :-)

  28. I used to have “my own hairdresser” who I went to for a few years – even trusting her enough to “go crazy” and completely change my look by changing colour and style in one go. And I loved it.
    But then I moved to Dubai and I had the same problem trying to find a hairdresser who I trust enough to blowdry my hair, let alone cut it! I also went through a new hairdresser for each cut, and for 2 years I timed my major haircuts around a trip back home to visit “my hairdresser”!
    But, I did eventually find a hairdresser who I can call “mine” – even though I share her with my (now) ex. And I refuse to let her go – I have now trusted her to “go crazy” too and change my colour and style all over again! Which I am totally in love with :)
    Here’s to finding your hairdresser!

  29. I have been blessed with curly hair. It is a gift. Others have begged to braid it, straighten it…”NO,” I say. It is a gift.
    Here is how and why I appreciate the gift of curly hair.
    1. only comb it when it is wet using a brush or a pic, not a find tooth comb. Painless.
    2. be sure to use conditioner when rinsing. Some leave in conditioners are OK, too.
    Combing when wet is not painful for me. Letting it air dry is a blessing. Others are jealous. And we never have to worry about how it looks between times, it just curls and curls especially in damp or humid weather when other’s are wilting. If not washing daily, wet daily in order to comb. Let it do its thing. It also helps to wear a night cap in preventing morning snarls. There are some cute caps. Pin them in place. Finding the right hairdresser DOES help. Have you thought of advertising for one? An ad in the paper: WANTED a hairdresser who specializes in curly hair. Good Luck, and Blessings….Oh one more thing. God gave you the curly hair, ask Him to direct you to one; or direct one to you. He can do it. God knows everything. And HE wants His children to appreciate His creation – works of art, each one of us, YOU INCLUDED.

  30. Reblogged this on Love and Lenses and commented:
    I completely sympathize! Any form of wavy or curly hair is tough to tame. My Mom brushed and cut my hair straight across the bottom until I was about 14. Of course curly hair cut straight across comes out looking somewhat like a triangular puff ball. Looking back, YIKES! It was pretty atrocious (if you’re reading this, sorry Mom). I thanked the heavens when I finally went to the hairdresser and got a layered cut and some products to style it.

    As an adult, it was difficult to find a hairdresser who really understood how to tame my locks. I have “thick” hair because there is a lot of it, but the individual strands are kind of fine. I finally found a hairdresser I loved in Mid-town Memphis and faithfully went to her for 4-5 years.

    Then my husband and I moved overseas in 2009. For me, one of the most frustrating and complicated things about living abroad has been…my hair. In fact, it has probably been the number one most challenging day to day issue for me. No, not the language barrier, not adjusting to life without a car, not even using an eastern style toilet (seriously, right?). I know it sounds silly, but feeling attractive and feeling like yourself are pretty important to a woman.

    In Azerbaijan, the first hairdresser I tried was Turkish and worked in one of the fancier more American style shops. I needed to get my hair styled for a party and brought a photo of what I had in mind in case no one there spoke English. His English was limited, but we could still communicate and it seemed he understood the look I wanted. He proceeded to wash then dry my hair with a big round brush in the most…um animated way. I don’t really know how to describe it. He kind of flipped my hair around like he was trying to make it into some sort of musical number. It was weird…but got even weirder. The picture I had shown him as an example was of my husband and I on the day we eloped. My hair was curled particularly well but not in a fancy updo. Even though the man in the photo was clearly my husband or boyfriend, that didn’t stop the hairdresser from continually hitting on me. I explained I was happily married, but he insisted I should run away with him to Turkey. I suppose this is flattering to some customers (and perhaps a ploy for more tips) but for me it made the visit all the more uncomfortable. To top it off, I left looking like a poodle who had just been groomed instead of the sleek happy me in the photo.

    After that bad experience, I decided to go more local. I will summarize all my visits to various shops into a few words; dirty but friendly, puzzling and consistently bad. When I wanted it colored, I had a co-worker explain the color I wanted in Azeri on the phone. At which point they crossed the street, bought some boxed dye from the corner store and proceeded to apply the cheapest toxic Russian brand hair dye to my innocent locks.
    I came in wanting this /Users/emilykalmon/Pictures/Hair Cuts/Hair.jpg
    and always left looking more like this /Users/emilykalmon/Desktop/80s-hairstyles.jpg
    There was nothing I could do to stop it. This was probably due to the fact that most the women there had silky straight dark hair and the hairdressers didn’t have much experience working with unruly curls. And the fact that hairdressing techniques, like many things in Baku, were likely to be about 20 years behind the times.

    Throughout our travels I have had my hair done in too many countries and cities to name. Occasionally I will have a good experience. I happened by a good shop in Milan and popped in before my flight back to Baku in hopes of saving myself some pain later. They were amazing! Doting on me hand and foot. Food, drinks and a hairdresser who was wonderful with curly hair! He even knew how to blow dry it and keep it shiny and frizz free!!! If only I could visit Milan every 2 months :( I also found a very good hairdresser named Ariel in Delaware near my in laws (who have now relocated to Atlanta, Georgia).

    That brings us up to present day…Aberdeen, Scotland. It is much much easier to find products/services in Aberdeen than Baku, right? Apparently I just can’t pick em’! My first try here was a disaster. Evidentially, I first need to come in a week early to have a patch test for hair color. Ok, I’ve dyed my hair dozens of times but that’s alright. On the day there is much discussion over what I want and the official color number. “I dunno? I just want a touch up to the highlights at the roots,” I say. You’re the professional, can’t you take a stab at matching it? I have no clue what “number” or “numbers” of hair dye they used back in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. We get in what seems like an argument to me at which point I should leave but I’m too polite. She mixes and painstakingly spends hours trying to pick out each strand of highlighted hair. I mean H-O-U-R-S. I’m not exaggerating. The babysitter texts me asking when I will be, she is going to be late for a dinner date. The hairdresser’s children call multiple times wondering where Mommy is and what’s for dinner. We are there from about 4pm to after 9pm. Seriously! And the worst part is the highlights didn’t turn out. You can hardly see them at all.

    So, many years, trials and tribulations after my first hair cut at 14 years old and I’m still struggling to solve the problem.

  31. Pingback: Hair Dresser – A Global Search | Love and Lenses

  32. Curly, wavy … I yearn for someone who can get it right. They all want to straighten my hair. Or give me way to short layers that make me look like the hairball my cat threw up. Til I meet my hair dresser-in-shining-armour, I will be braided.

  33. I had gone to the same girl for years. When she quit doing hair I went through the same thing. Oh my, did I have some terrible cuts! Finally, I decided that a more expensive salon with great online reviews was the next try. Well, this past week I finally found my new stylist! She gave me a beautiful cut! Keep trying. Your new stylist is out there somewhere! :)

  34. I can relate to this aswell. I remember paying a ton mulitiple times to go to the ‘best’ hair salon in my county. I learned a valuable lesson, Always go in expecting disappointed and you won’t ever be let down fully. I went in and thought tht i asked for something simple, but apparently i didnt. The hairdresser gave me a lot more than I asked for or I guess a lot less than I wanted. I went from blonde to yellow, and long to choppy. I cried, it was awful.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your hair mishap. I had a hair nightmare last night where the hair dresser bleached my hair. It was horrible…

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