A flattering haircut has the power to not only soup up your style, but it can also lift your spirits and give you a confident spring in your step. But when a cut turns catastrophic, it can be a big blow to your self-esteem. “The style needs to work with the client and their hair texture,” says Mia Emilio, senior stylist at NYC’s DevaChan Soho Salon. The key is research and the right stylist who specializes in your type of strands. We spoke with curly hair pros to discover how we can score the perfect style every time we step into a salon.

Woman Curly Hair Haircut

Find styles That Fit Your Texture

Sure, we love scrolling through a slew of hair ideas on Instagram, but not all of the looks we love, screenshot, and save to our collections will work for us IRL. Aside from finding a cut that fits your face shape, your strands’ texture is important to the overall look.“The most important thing is to be realistic,” celebrity hairstylist Cynthia Alvarez explains. “You should bring in reference photos of hair with the same or very similar texture. If your curl is a 4C, do not bring in a 2B hair reference.” Instead, narrow your search for styles that suit your strands.

Scope Out Your Stylist’s Social Media

In the midst of your search for fresh styles, you’ll likely stumble across a few Instagram accounts connected to a number of stylists and salons. In fact, the platform has become the place for stylists to share their portfolio and score new clients. “These days, it’s easier to check people out with Instagram,” says Naté Bova, senior stylist at NYC’s Warren Tricomi Salon at The Plaza. “Look at the haircuts they’ve done, and see if any of those match up with a style you like.”

Then a quick Google search can help you learn if they’ve received training to cut curly hair and what salons they’ve worked in previously, as well as what hair types they typically work with. This will ensure that you have someone experienced with strands similar to yours. “You don’t become a chef by taking one cooking class,” says Emilio. “I always keep up with classes; education never stops. I treat each client for their curly texture even though textures are or can be similar they are not the same.”

Chat Before the Chop

Woman Curly Hair

Consultations can be the make-or-break moment of haircuts, good and bad. Your stylist should spend between 15 to 30 minutes talking to you before she breaks out the scissors. Expect to chat about how often you get your hair cut or trimmed, what types of products you use normally, as well as how much you style it, as it will all come into play when finalizing the look. “I won’t cut someone’s hair into a pixie if I know they can’t handle the maintenance,” Bova says, noting that the stylist should cater to your needs while keeping expectations realistic. “If a client blows their hair out most of the time, then I won’t go too short as it’s more difficult to blow out shorter curls.”

If it’s the first time you’re working with the stylist, a quick consult a few days before the first snip will help you decide if the stylist is a fit for you and your hair. Alvarez, who works with Shakira, suggests asking to see a few before and after shots from some of their clients if you haven’t already. If at any point something feels off or if you feel they’re not as knowledgeable about your hair texture as you initially thought, Bova says you shouldn’t be afraid to move on to someone else. “If the stylist doesn’t seem confident, then maybe you should find someone else,” she says. “If you feel pressured to do something else that you may not like, don’t let it ride.”

Look at the Length and Weight of Your Locks

The consultation is also the best time to go over all of your reference photos and discuss the length and density you’re after. Emilio suggests looking at where you want your ends and layers to fall around your face. Since curls can be very thick, your stylist might ask if you want to use layers to take off some of the weight and help shape the look of your strands. It’s worth noting, however, that one thing curls should stay far away from are razors or thinning shears, as she says they will just frizz out your hair. “Your ends should have a nice clean cut to ensure your curl is solid from roots to ends,” Emilio says.

Choose a Dry Cut

It’s common for people with straighter strands to have them spritzed before they’re actually snipped. But for those with more twirly, curly tresses, it can spell disaster not only for the shape but also the length of the strands, as you could end up with a shorter style than you expected. “The curls are stretched when they’re wet, so I am not comfortable cutting in this state because it’s hard to factor in shrinkage and curl pattern while cutting using this technique,” says Alvarez.

Most of our experts agreed that it’s best to cut the hair when it’s dry to see what the texture is doing in its natural state. That said, if your stylist does decide to wet your locks first, it should get another pass with the scissors once it’s dried to ensure you’re satisfied with the shape. “I prefer dry cutting as it allows me to customize the cut and see where each curl naturally wants to live,” she continues. “However, there are many stylists who prefer wet cutting and feel they get great results.”

Secure Some Styling Secrets for Yourself

Woman Curly Hair Styling

Sure, you might be satisfied with the shape of your new strands, but don’t take your eyes off of your stylist while they’re putting on the finishing touches. Most will take the time during styling to show you how to recreate that “straight from the salon” look once you’re home. While Emilio says the style should be relatively easy to achieve, ask for tips if you have trouble with a styling technique, such as how far away you should hold your diffuser from your strands to avoid frizz.

Bova agrees, adding that you should also inquire about how much product you should apply during styling. “The style can go all wrong if you’re not using enough or are using too much product,” she says. A good rule of thumb is to start with a nickel-sized amount of product and slowly add more until you get the hold and finish you want. You should also apply the product at your ends first and work your way up to prevent weighing down your roots — a must for finer hair types.

Come Back If Your Coif Isn’t Cut to Your Liking

It can be quite shocking to see your curly strands in a new state, and the length and shape can take some getting used to. Our experts suggest giving yourself a few days or up to two weeks to get used to the new look. But if you’re still unsatisfied, it can thankfully be fixed in most cases, save for if the cut is too short — then you’ll just have to wait for it to grow out a bit.

If there are aspects of the look that you still think need to be tweaked (if the hair appears too flat, it’s a weird shape, or one side is longer), go back to the stylist to see if you can get it sorted out. Most salons have a policy that allows clients to return within 30 days to adjust a cut or even a color, but definitely give them a call to find out for certain. Alvarez says the sooner you can come in and calmly let them know, the better off you’ll be. “Remember that you are paying for these services, so don’t be afraid or shamed into keeping quiet,” she says. “The stylist is providing you a service and should do all they can to ensure you leave as a happy and satisfied client.”

If the stylist doesn’t understand why you’re unhappy or simply doesn’t know how to fix the problem, then it might be time to move on to someone else who can. But be sure to go through the same steps as before and even mention what you didn’t like about your last cut to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

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(Photos via Getty)