The secret is treating a trip to the beauty salon as a trip to the hair doctor.
The stylist is there to examine the hair, analyze it and make it better better beyond your modest expectations.
That's what Arnold Miller says. Miller, as president of Matrix Essentials hair and skin care products and a hairstylist for several decades, has had a lot of experience with customers and their hair.
"I don't believe I should necessarily do what the customer wants and I don't believe I should do what they don't want," Miller says. "They're paying for my professional advice."
A large part of Miller's job is giving pep talks.
"Our job is making people look better and feel better," Miller says. "We have to exceed the customer's expectations."
The first step in doing all of that is understanding, in general terms, the psychology of customers.
People don't have time for complicated hairstyles.
Everybody thinks there are hard and fast rules for hair and there really aren't any.
"There is no such thing as bad hair, only bad hairstylists. If somebody messed up your color, I can fix it. If they gave you a bad perm and dried up your hair, I can fix it or at least make it look better," Miller says. "Sometimes the mistake is not understanding that you can't make all hair look the same."
Luckily this season, there are no must-have hairdos. Apparently, as long as it's uncomplicated and low-maintenance it works. That includes everything from the California trend of dirty hair being fashionable hair as recently reported in the Wall Street Journal to a chin-length and clean bob. Long hair is just as stylish as the short cuts. But, simple is the key word.
"The looks are softer. There are no hard lines. There isn't any one length, but there shouldn't be any square lines," Miller says.
Color is in vogue. Not bleaching or obviously fake color, but gentle highlights and lightened shades to brighten skin tone and give hair a healthy glow. In plain terms this means that a little auburn in brown hair is fashionable; burgundy tints are passe. And, owning up to coloring your hair also is allowed.
A haircut should be multipurpose. Cuts should have enough versatility to change with the mood of the customer. Curls are a special occasion option but for the most part are too fussy for everyday wear. Opt for gentle waves. If your hair is straight, get a perm if you can. The goal is low maintenance.
Above all, Miller says that a good stylist will explain to his clients how to achieve their salon look at home. Few women make weekly pilgrimages to a beauty shop and if they only look good on the few days that their hairstylist shampoos and styles their hair, then that's bad business.