It’s no secret that changing up your hair can be scary AF. On the one hand, you could end up looking like your best self ever; on the other, things could go horribly wrong, and you may have to spend weeks in hiding while you wait for things to grow out.
1. How often do I wear a ponytail?
This is a crucial question for people who are considering going shorter, says Steven DeCarlo, senior stylist at Mizu New York salon. Obviously if you go too short, you can screw yourself over in the updo department. Talk to your stylist if you’re not sure how short you can safely go.
2. How much time am I willing to spend on my hair?
Bangs are a biggie for this. “When it comes to bangs, they can and tend to be more maintenance,” DeCarlo says. “That is something I always say before cutting bangs on a woman.” Are you willing to come in for regular bang trims? And are you willing to style your bangs every morning? If not, it’s probably not the ‘do for you.
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3. Am I ready to shake things up?
Jet Rhys, a celebrity stylist in San Diego, says she always asks people how long they’ve been thinking about a change when they say they want a transformation. “If the answer is for the last month or longer, I know she is ready for a new look,” Rhys says. If you just decided this on a whim, maybe give it another week or two.
4. Does the look I want exist?
You’ve probably heard before that you should take pictures with you, and stylists say that’s a really good idea—both for them and you to make sure the look you want is a legit thing. Your stylist should look at pictures you’ve brought and be honest with whether the look will work for you, Rhys says. If not, he or she will typically suggest tweaks to make it right. (Get fit and feel great with Women’s Health’s All In 18 DVD!)
5. When was I happiest with my hair color?
It seems like a weird question, but Frank Friscioni, color designer at the Oon Arvelo Salon in Manhattan, says it matters. If you want to recapture a color you had when you were a kid at the beach, that tells a different story than one that you liked at a work trip last year. Meaning, you might really be in search of a care-free, younger-looking color—your stylist can help guide you to a hue that works for you now.
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6. What’s my skin tone for the majority of the year?
Your skin tone may change, depending on the time of year and whether you just went on vacation, Friscioni says, and that can make a difference in how long you want to keep a color. For example, if you tend to be pale for the majority of the year, a bleached-blonde look could wash you out.
7. Where am I going to be in six weeks? And six weeks after that?
Hair color changes are no joke, and Friscioni points out that they require upkeep to cover up your roots and touch up fading color. If you’re planning to make a big change and you want to keep it looking new, make sure you won’t be out of town in a month or so.
Obviously, hair changes are a big deal, and Friscioni says it’s a good idea to absorb your new look. Check it out in non-salon daylight, and see how you feel about it in a few days. If you’re still thrilled, great. If not, call your stylist—he or she should be willing to work with you to get it right.