How to convince hairstylists to thin out my huge mass of hair?
September 4, 2016 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Every time I go get my (incredibly bushy but otherwise healthy) hair cut, I practically beg the hairstylist to thin it out. And every time, they do a little thinning and then say that they have to stop because anything more will cause it to look stringy. After some back-and-forth I normally just leave the salon, go home and attack my new, poofy hair halo (I normally get a bob) with thinning shears until I am happy with the way it lays closer to my head. It doesn't look stringy at all as far as I can tell. How do I convince hair stylists to do this thinning for me?

Is there some sort of code of honor among hairstylists that involves never thinning their clients' hair?

I normally remove a huge amount of hair once I get home to get it to look the way I want, and I'm sure a trained hairstylist could do a better job of it.

For what it's worth I've had this experience at high end salons as well as the Hair Cuttery, although generally I go to mid-range places ($40 hair cut or so).
posted by loquacious crouton to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe ask them for an undercut? (Where they shave a lot underneath but leave long hair over it?)
posted by MsMolly at 8:17 AM on September 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Do you go to the same stylist more than once? If so, have you tried saying, 'Yeah, you warned me about stringiness last time, but when I went home, it poofed out and I had to do my own editing with thinning shears."

My stylist would be horrified to learn I had needed to work on my cut after she was 'done' and would make every effort to not let that happen again. [Similarly to what you describe, I have a bob style, and it is very poofy. Even more fun, one side is poofier than the other, so insufficient thinning means I am lopsidedly poofy. After a few visits, my stylist has perfected the thinning, but always checks with me if I think more is needed...]
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:18 AM on September 4, 2016 [13 favorites]

Also, once you're home and find it's too poofy, I would call up to come back in and demonstrate what you think is too poofy. Perhaps they think that what you call too poofy is actually the desirable goal. You're the boss; show them what you don't like about the cut before you try to fix it yourself. [I know that's annoying to have to go back in, but doing that once or twice really communicated well to my stylist. In my case, there was one small section of my hair in the back that always weirded out a few days after getting cut, despite looking fine when I left. Once my stylist witnessed it, she knew what to do....]
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:21 AM on September 4, 2016 [14 favorites]

In my experience most less experienced stylists have not thinned out my hair enough.

Since I have started to ask for senior stylists and explain to the stylist that I have a lot of hair, that needs a lot of thinning out and that I need them to work with my waves and what not so I can leave my hair to air dry I have more luck.

But it definitely entails asking for what you want and not leaving until you get it and if they really make you beg personally I'd never go back to that salon.

I regularly get comments from stylists that I have a lot of hair, that it takes a long time to style etc and most experienced stylists will adjust how much weight they take out of your hair based on these observations. And I am always asked to run my fingers through my hair when they think they've taken out enough and have been known to ask for more thinning if required.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:28 AM on September 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yes I have had this problem my whole life. Hair stylists are extremely conservative about not taking away something they can't put back, I'm assuming because most of their customers are assholes with stringy hair. In the last 2 years it's gotten better and these are some of the things I have done that helped:
- cultivate a relationship with one stylist and get them to trust you
- schedule regular appointments every 4-6 weeks
- every time you go ask them to do a little bit more thinning
- show them the parts that you cut so they understand what you're really looking for
- I eventually got her to trust me enough to do a very radical undercut, which she really did not want to do. But she trusted me at that point and she did it and it worked out great. The great thing is because it's invisible, I can maintain it myself, and less thinning for me means less fly-aways. I also recently had to get it cut at a different salon and that experience showed me I did the right thing by cultivating trust; because although the new stylist went along with what I wanted because it was already there she was surprised when blow drying to find that the undercut was truly invisible like I said.

It really sucks that all of this emotional manipulation has to be a part of getting your hair cut but I guess people really treat their stylists like shit and they're gun-shy. I guess I can't blame them.
posted by bleep at 8:36 AM on September 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

I used to get awful haircuts that were clearly meant for a different hair type than I have (the haircuts wanted straight, average-weight hair when I actually have moderately curly, extremely thick hair) and yes, this happened at high-end places as well as more affordable salons. I stopped getting crappy haircuts when I asked around for the best stylist in town for ethnic hair (I am white) and then when I was in her seat explained that I specifically went to her because most stylists had no idea how to handle my hair so I requested someone who has demonstrated skill in various hair types. Totally worked.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:42 AM on September 4, 2016 [10 favorites]

As the owner of thick bushy hair that I keep in a bob: you want to make sure that you're going to a stylist who knows what they're doing with curly hair. High price tag does not necessarily mean that they do. There is a franchise now, DevaCurl, which will list their stylists; you can also just try searching for Your Town Name + Curly Hair Stylist.

Another way would be to make sure (1) that they're cutting it dry, or (2) at the very least, seeing the hair completely dry when it's finished, that way you can do the whole point and say "No, that's still too poofy" thing.
posted by damayanti at 8:49 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I like razor cuts for this reason. The trouble is finding someone who's experienced in this type of styling. But when you do find someone who's good with razor cutting, I find that it really takes the weight off.
posted by rdnnyc at 9:09 AM on September 4, 2016

I have similar hair and always look for salons that specialize in razoring. Usually the stylists and their clients are more, uh, hipster and you will see a lot of textured wild cuts coming out of there. That's what you want. A regular salon that specializes in Victoria's Secret blowouts and other pretty hair is less likely to have someone on staff who can do this.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:23 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have thick curly (bloke) hair that tends to go huge. I used to just assume that a stylist thinning it would make it smaller. After getting my hair cut by an elderly barber, he advised never to let thinning shears near my scalp again. The short thinned hairs are stiffer, and cause my hair to stick up (and out: think Dr. Steve Brule here).

It might be worth talking to the stylist in advance, and seeing if they know how to deal with your hair. Thinning shears - for me at least - are bad news.
posted by scruss at 9:24 AM on September 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

In my experience of trying to reduce the bulk of my hair, "thinning" seems to mean "using thinning shears." Thinning shears are scissors with one normal blade and one blade with slots like a comb. Too much cutting with these scissors definitely will make your hair look bad. It could be stringy-looking, or it could puff out and look even bigger than ever. Thinning scissors are okay if they're used near the ends of hair to make layers look less full.

The magic word my stylist uses is "texturize." There are three types of texturizing: internal cutting, end finishing, and razor cutting (or cutting by sliding one scissor blade down a section of hair). The last one is scary to me and I haven't allowed it on my hair, but I know it works great if done by an expert. Internal cutting is lifting up the hair and snipping very small sections at a very short length. They can't be seen unless you're searching for them. End finishing: making vertical cuts near the hair ends to take away any bluntness and bulk there.

With texturizing, my bulky hair looks much less heavy and it moves well. Note: "texturizing" products are a whole different thing and many of them actually make the hair look fuller.
posted by wryly at 9:35 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yeah, thinning is considered Very Bad now (I also used to get it as a matter of course when I was a teenager in the 80s), in part because those shorter hairs don't always hang the same as the others, and because you get a lot of poofiness as they grow out (which might be contributing to your ongoing poofiness problem at this point; you may need to stop and let it all grow out for 6-12 months, and use product to control the poof while you wait, before you're going to get a fully-cooperative head of hair).

I agree with wryly that texturizing is the preferred method now, and also with the others that you may want to find a curl-friendly stylist or someone who works with more dimensional hair. My curl-only hairdresser usually did some razoring on me to prevent "golden retriever ears" because my extra hair seems to be extra concentrated on the sides of my head.

You may also need to learn some new techniques for drying your hair. I have two heads' worth of hair, and there are drying methods that make me look like I've just emerged from a life raised by wolves, and methods that make me look like a relatively normal human being. The differences are mainly in the proper use of the proper products, including how I apply conditioner in the shower (I use a series of curl protocols starting with scrunching in conditioner, rinsing, and applying the first layer of product in the shower on dripping wet hair to make sure the ends get sealed, and then it goes on from there but babying those ends so they don't unclump and poof is first priority). Assuming your hair is not board-straight, you might peruse the website to figure out your wave/texture type and the cuts/procedures people there are using to get good results.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:53 AM on September 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I found it helps if I make it clear to the stylist that I believe it's only hair, and that it will grow out.

I have incredibly thick hair as well and I ultimately hated how my thinned hair grows out, so instead I began shaving my nape. I prefer how my hair rests now when it's down, and the shaved part is truly invisible unless I put it up. Plus I feel badass and it's so much cooler in the summer.
posted by teslacoilswoah at 10:45 AM on September 4, 2016

I think it may be more because I found a great stylist than because of my wording, but when I first saw her, I said, "My last few stylists have left me looking like a mushroom head. I want to avoid looking like a mushroom head." She then checked in with me near the end of the cut to check whether it looked too "mushroomy," and when I said it did, she did whatever magic to get it to lay flatter. The visual metaphor seemed to help her understand what I wanted.

I think it can help sometimes to describe the problem you're seeing/having, rather than prescribing the way the stylist should fix it, if that makes sense. Maybe "thinning" is the wrong technical term and it's keeping your stylists from thinking about what technique would actually help, given the way your hair is.
posted by lazuli at 10:56 AM on September 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've never gone to a new salon and not gotten "You have the most hair I have ever seen" (I should state that I'm white and go to white salons where my Mediterranean hair is non-typical), and this is what I do.

Basically, make it clear that cutting your hair is not going to be typical because there is so much of it and it behaves a certain way, but it's okay, you've done this a million times before so you know your hair well and you two can work together to figure something out.

So, when you schedule your appointment with the receptionist do two things: 1) Ask them for their expertise on which stylist has the most experience with coarse and thick hair and ask them to send you to them, and 2) Request that they schedule you an extra 30 minutes to an hour. My regular stylists have always made this request, and I ask the new receptionists this both as a courtesy to my stylist and as a way to hopefully subtly say I have a lot of hair, no seriously, and I've done this before and know what's up so please trust me.

Then when you meet your new stylist, use the phrase "remove bulk" and tell them not the technique you would like them to use (ie, thinning out), but what result you want to accomplish ("my hair looks like a triangle wig and I would like it to look like it has movement and falls nicely"). Then ask them what they think would work best to accomplish your goal. This keeps it open for them to suggest methods you've never heard of, use methods they like best and are best at, and for you to have a conversation about what has and hasn't worked before. I've had maybe 5 different methods stylists use to remove bulk. (As a side note, what everyone is saying about getting an undercut to remove your bottom layer was just... magic for me.)
posted by moons in june at 11:25 AM on September 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have Big Hair. Thick, coarse, wavy/frizzy. Sometimes I have been strong-armed into having it thinned, which makes it pouffy. A lot depends on how you style it.

Where I live, summers are quite humid, winters are not. My hair is currently chin length and layered. In summer, it's quite curly/wavy, less so in winter. I use a generous quantity of gel and silicone shine product. I prefer not to do much other maintenance; I really just wash it every couple of days or so, and just let it dry. Days I don't wash it, I brush it, throw water on it, finger-comb it and ignore it. So, there may be other options for you.

When you go to a salon, ask for someone with hair like yours; they'll have a vastly better understanding of how to cut it. If the stylist won't do as you ask, ask harder You know, I really want to try having it thinned quite a bit more. If I'm not happy with the result, I won't hold you responsible. Please thin it more.
posted by theora55 at 11:32 AM on September 4, 2016

Can you take a photograph of yourself with the desired cut, then bring the photo to your next appointment?
posted by tickingclock at 12:11 PM on September 4, 2016

Like moons, I have thick, coarse, wavy, curly hair and get the "OMG, I've never seen so much hair in my life!" line a lot. My hair grows exceptionally fast as well. There is just a shit ton of it all the time, all over the place. So, I feel your pain of wanting it cut the way you'd like it to be.

A few suggestions:

1. Develop a relationship with a stylist who is experienced with your hair type! Anyone who is sheepish or afraid of your hair will not give you a good cut. Period. Ask other women who have your hair type (and whose cuts or styles you like) where they get their hair done. I've had women with my hair texture come up to me in the street to ask about my hair and I am ways happy to give them information about my stylist.

2. Be honest about how you like to style your hair when you aren't at the salon. Because of the amount of hair I have (and my general laziness about actually 'doing' my hair) My stylist creates cuts that require very little upkeep from me. That means less fussing with it. When I want to do something that requires upkeep, we chat about it and see if I feel like taking the extra steps to keep it the way she does in the salon. Having that back and forth is really important to having a style you like when you walk out.

3. Be honest with your stylist about what you are doing after you leave. They want you to be happy. Really!

4. Undercuts can be your friendĀ  Like others have mentioned, an undercut on someone with a ton of hair is invisible when your hair is down. If someone is afraid to give you an undercut, they clearly do not understand your hair or your personal relationship with your hair. If you work in a conservative space, you can still have this look without causing an issue. It definitely helps your hair sit better, but if you are like me, I still need shaping and texturizing to get my hair from poofing. Sometimes, multiple methods of taming hair are needed.

Also, check out salons where education is a big thing - one of my good friends is a stylist as well as an educator. Sites like L'oreal Professionel may be a good place for you to start in terms of looking for salons that are heavily involved in ongoing education - either their stylists are educators themselves, or they invest heavily in their stylists in terms of advanced technique, cut, and style.

If you are around NYC or NoVa/DC, memail me and I'll make specific recommendations for stylists that can rock your texture.
posted by carmenghia at 12:23 PM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

This used to happen to me when I was a kid, and my mom would just take me back and have them fix it.
posted by aniola at 1:18 PM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Coming in to nnth the main advice here: find the good stylist by asking people with similar hair, and then create a long term relationship with them.
What I have said to my stylist is that I hate looking like a poodle, and that I very easily look like a poodle; what I am aiming for is a professional, easy to maintain bob. I like the mushroom image someone used above as well. I don't tell her how I want it cut, because I assume she is a professional at her job, and I know I am not (a professional at her job). At this point, she does it very well. Last time I went, I had been on holidays, and thus away for 8 weeks. She literally LOL'ed when she saw my full-on poodle hair, but then she made an even better cut than usual.
I rarely dry my hair or use products, and I have told her so, so she always cuts it to dry naturally.

One thing I have thought about is: many of my previous stylists seemed to want to enhance the curly, thick appearance of my hair, rather than tone it down, regardless of what I say. My current stylist understands completely why the poodle look is not appropriate for all lifestyles, maybe because she has similar hair.
posted by mumimor at 1:19 PM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'ce had the best luck with Japanese/Korean salons with staff trained to debulk heavy thick Japanese/Korean hair. Best haircut was in Japan, next best is anywhere with a bilingual website and staff trained in Japan/Korea getting overseas work experience. They are trained for straight hair and will stop halfway through to comb my hair straight so they can keep cutting, but if I go home and squish to condish it works fine (ringlets!). Next best is finding a hairdresser who also has *hair*. I thought I'd throw this out there in case you're in or near a big city and want to give it a try.

Worst haircuts are always from drop-in places, or older white ladies who assume I want volume (hahaha...).
posted by jrobin276 at 3:29 PM on September 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Different issue, but I get the same kind of flack for wanting my hair cut very short. It has helped to say "Yes, I have had it cut this way before. I know what it will look like." Also Nthing go to the same stylist repeatedly.
posted by Michele in California at 5:15 PM on September 4, 2016

Depends on what your hair texture is, besides thick. Is it straight, or wavy/curly?

I have thick, quite wavy, long hair, but wore it in an angled bob for a few years. It straightens or curls easily. I go to hair stylists who have hair of similar texture (natural wave/curl) and style - otherwise they don't "get" it. I also "do" my hair naturally the day of the haircut, so they can see the wave/texture I want them to work with, and point out the areas that need shaping/thinning/working with the natural curl. I have pictures on my phone of the good hair-days to show them. And I don't let them stop with the thinning until it feels right.

I had my long hair cut/thinned one summer in Japan, that was one of the most amazing haircuts I've ever had - they thinned it to extreme proportions, giving me awesome shape at the crown and taking out the bulk/heat trapping qualities but still kept the length, and it didn't look stringy at all. No thinning shears, no razors used, just the regular shears with special haircutting techniques. I would definitely recommend this if you have straighter hair.
posted by lizbunny at 7:33 AM on September 5, 2016

Yes yes yes, go to an Asian salon. (Doesn't have to be Japanese; I think the same hair texture is endemic to a broader area.) No one has ever questioned my request for thinning. As long as you don't get some newb who tries to thin the outermost layer of your hair, you'll be fine.
posted by batter_my_heart at 7:28 PM on September 5, 2016

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