hair consultation tips

When Do You Say ‘It Doesn’t Suit You’? Consultation Tips

by akesha / last updated October 29, 2018

With the wealth of imagery and inspiration at your customers fingertips now, in some ways the consultation part of their appointment is easier than ever. But having a client dead set on a style or colour you know won’t suit them can put you in a tight spot. Are you up front and honest, do you gently dissuade? Steer them in a better direction? We asked some industry pros what their consultation tips are…

Sharon Peake, director Ethos Hairdresssing

It’s actually harder to deal with face suitability than hair suitability; what suits a person’s face isn’t just about the shape, it’s the size of their features and placement too, which can be hard to work out and is sometimes tricky to explain. I always try and demonstrate using the client’s hair and my hands to show length and shape, especially around the face.

For example, styles that cover the cheekbones and fall straight down the face are generally not as flattering as showing off that part of the face. That’s easy to demonstrate by pulling the hair flat to cover the cheekbones – and visible enough for clients to see for themselves.

It’s important for me that any potentially negative comments still sound caring and with the client’s best interests at heart.

To convey these ideas to clients, I say things like: “I’m not sure that’s the best look for you”, then let them elaborate and fill in for me. If they don’t get the hint then, I’ll imply that I’m just not sure something is the best look for them.

If clients request something old-fashioned, I try to steer them in the right direction by telling them that we’ll create a modern update on what they’ve chosen – and for people who want something too young, I tell them I’m worried it’s not classic enough, and reassure them we’ll create something modern, but classic. It’s important for me that any potentially negative comments still sound caring and with the client’s best interests at heart.

Gary Taylor, owner of Edward & Co

If a look is definitely not going to suit the client, try and use the picture or idea they have given you to find something similar that would suit them, rather than just saying no. After all it is our name that is walking round on the client’s hair when they leave the salon.

We have an honesty is the best policy in our salon.

If your client knows you, then they should trust you to give them the right advice. If it is someone you do not know then usually they have bought in a picture, so ask are they looking at the hair or is it the overall picture? Because face shape can determine a style and it can be adapted to suit your client. Also, particularly if it’s colour it’s important to discuss the possibility that the image been retouched or enhanced. If you manage your client’s expectations, then you should keep them happy.

James Campbell, group creative Director at Hensmans Northampton

Advising clients is one of the most important things we can offer as professional hairdressers. Yet managing client expectations is a never-ending task.

So many times, during a consultation a client has pulled out a picture of the beautiful Blake Lively. After 15 minutes of careful dissection of the hair colour, cut and styling we reached the conclusion that she just wanted to look like her rather than have her hair and with Pinterest and Instagram this is only getting worse.

Only last week I had a client whose hair I have done for years show me a picture of a beautiful pixie crop. Luckily being a long-standing client I know quite a bit about her hair habits and her lifestyle. I also knew that she would want this style for about a week so I said “let’s think about this” and within 2 minutes she laughed about her moment of madness.

It gets slightly trickier when dealing with new clients who are hell bent on the new style they have in mind. I tend to find compromise is best.

Find a direction that the client is happy with but also airs on the side of caution. Keeping a safety net, whether it’s a bit more length that can be taken shorter if needed, or a veil of a more subdued colour over vibrant panels. You will often find that the client is happy once you have finished their hair. If not, it’s not going to take a huge amount of work to get to where the client is happy.


Anne Veck, owner of Anne Veck Salons

A while ago a client wanted a total restyle. She brought her laptop with her and we started to go through her photo album of herself of at least 30 years ago and 30kg less! I listened carefully and went with her for a while but all the time I was racking my brain on how I was going to break it to her… 1. all those hairstyles were really old fashioned / very bad perms from the 1980s and 2. how was i going to tell her that her face was a lot bigger and those styles were not going to suit her now.

In the end I decided to be quite blunt and told her honestly. I said that I couldn’t possibly perm her hair like the pictures . It would widen her face and also the pictures were 30 years old, The styles were no longer in fashion. We settled for a modern short cut with a disconnection at the front creating an angle on her face! She looked great.

Suzie McGill owner of Rainbow Room International Uddingston Salon

This is something that happens so often in the salon, particularly with clients who are dark that want to go blonde. As a general rule, we always say that it’s best not to go two shades lighter or darker than your skin tone and many clients with very dark hair and dark eyebrows come into the salon wanting to switch their hair to a platinum/icy blonde shade that may not suit their skin tone, and also is not always achievable after one session in the salon.

Clients come into the salon for an expert opinion and if the client has been coming to you and your salon for a long time they should be able to trust your judgment.

As a hairdresser this is something you have to be able to deal with in the best way possible, communicating in an understanding way to your client and advising them how they can best achieve their desired look and the steps it will take to get there or that it’s best to maybe take the middle ground and go a couple of shades lighter to see if they like this first and if it make them look too washed out.

Carly Price, partner at Muse of London

I don’t think a straight ‘no’ is the way to speak to a client (after all they are paying the bill). I’ve had a few clients bring in pictures of big curly hair and their hair is really fine and straight. I would speak to the client and say that they need to take into consideration their hair texture and what’s realistic.

Or if it was something where I thought that it wouldn’t look right I would say to the client lets take into consideration your face shape, hair colour and what’s achievable. I would also ask the client “are you going to be able to have the time to create this at home” and “are you going to use styling products to recreate this” and if the answer was no, I would try to speak to the client about trying something that was more suitable for them.

Jason Hogan, associate colourist at Josh Wood Atelier

With hair colour becoming such a huge movement on social media, clients come to me with photos of a specific look they have viewed on Instagram – there is so much hair colour inspiration at our clients’ finger tips but it does sometimes come with unrealistic expectations. As the expert hairdresser it is our job to give advice on what colour will work depending on skin tone, face shape, and other factors such as their lifestyle to ensure they can upkeep the colour.

I use colour swatches to create a colour story so I can easily guide my client into a colour that would suit their skin tone and eye colour. Colour swatches are always very useful as it gives them a real feel for what a hair colour would be like next to their skin tone and be able to breakdown what it is that they really like about the hair colour they are swaying towards, for instance it could be the way the hair is lighter at the front of the face creating more movement and this can be achieved with colours that can be adapted to suit their skin tone and make their eyes pop. Rather than putting a client off a colour I like to think of ways to turn it into a learning experience for them and educate them into knowing what would work best for a beautiful look.

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