There are few things worse than walking into the salon excited about a new haircut… only to leave majorly disappointed. The difference between ending up with a style you hate and one you love? Communication, communication — okay, and a few other helpful tips. Here, stylists share their best advice for ensuring you leave your next hair appointment without any regrets.

Woman styling another woman's hair at a salon.

1. Find the right stylist. It can make all the difference. “Go to someone who specializes in the type of hair that you’re drawn to,” says Michelle Pasterski, a stylist at Mixed Co. Salon in Chicago. “Instagram is a great way to scope out a stylist’s work, and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions even before you book your appointment.” It’s also a good idea to book a separate consultation — most salons offer this for free — to meet with your stylist, talk through what you’re thinking, and make sure the two of you have a good connection. This holds especially true if you’re planning a major hair change. But what happens if you feel like you’re not being heard or that your stylist isn’t asking the right questions? Move on. “It’s your job to ask for what you want, and your stylist’s job to let you know if it, or a version of it, is possible,” says Jon Reyman, founder of Spoke & Weal salons, located in California, New York, and more. (Photo via Hero Images/ Getty)

2. Be on time. “If your stylist is rushed, he or she may not be able to give you as good of a haircut as they otherwise could,” notes Pasterski. When you book your appointment, ask for an extra 15 minutes with your stylist, suggests Sonna Brado, the national artistic director of KMS. “We’re creative people that often work on a tight time schedule. Doing something new requires us to stop and redirect our energy into learning about what you want before executing it,” she explains. Requesting this extra buffer is especially important if you didn’t have a consult beforehand, or you’re going for a drastically different haircut.

3. Bring an inspirational photo. You’ve likely heard this advice before, but wait, there’s more. “Make sure that you can clearly tell your stylist what it is specifically that you like about a picture, whether it’s the length, the way it’s styled, or even the color,” advises Roz Murray, a stylist at Bumble and Bumble in New York City. And you don’t have to stick with just looks you love; it’s also helpful to bring in pictures of haircuts you don’t like, she adds. Just be able to explain why, and detail what you don’t like about them.

Woman cutting hair.

4. Use your body when talking about length. What you think is an inch can end up being very different than what your stylist views as an inch. “No one is measuring, so if you point to a specific place on your chin, collarbone, or chest, you’ll end up with hair that falls to that point,” says Reyman. (Photo via EmirMemedovski/ Getty)

5. Ask for a styling lesson. “You can make a bad haircut look good or a great haircut look bad, just based on how you blow dry it,” says Brado. That’s why you may leave the salon loving your hair, but hate it once you try to style it yourself. “The products, tools, and techniques used to style your hair are key when it comes to loving your cut,” Pasterski points out, so don’t be afraid to ask questions during the styling process. More specifically, ask exactly what product they’re using, and have them show you how to use it. It’s also worth talking about your styling preferences even pre-cut. “Be honest and upfront about what kind of time you’re willing to put into styling,” notes Murray. If you’re a wash-and-go kind of girl, make that clear; if you’re down with a multi-step tool and product routine every morning, say so. “It can make a big difference in the type of cut you’ll get,” Murray adds.

6. Keep in mind that you can always come back. “Most stylists will let you come back within two weeks for small adjustments, as you get used to the cut and styling it on your own,” says Murray. Above all, don’t sugar-coat things. At the end of the day, stylists want you to be happy, so forcing a smile and saying you love your cut (when you really hate it) isn’t going to do anyone any favors.

What haircut are you contemplating for fall? Tell us @BritandCo!