"For the first time ever, I was assertive at the hairdressers. It paid off."

What is it about the hairdresser’s chair that sends even the most confident women into submissive silence? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat down in an unflattering black robe completely tongue-tied and too afraid to tell the hairdresser that, “No, actually I genuinely did just want a trim”.

Apart from meekly showing them a photograph that I had envisioned would look good, I let the various hairdressers I’ve visited take the lead, doubting my own knowledge of what I wanted and agreeing with whatever they said.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never left with a purple mohawk or anything, but it was never quite what I was after – because I hadn’t successfully communicated to them what I wanted.

Other times I’d get a nasty surprise when I went to pay after discovering that what I thought could cost no more than $300, was actually more like $500. I had myself to blame because I was too afraid to ask them for a quote at the start. Watch: Mia Freedman asks her hairdresser how to get the perfect cut every time. Post continues after video.

This time I decided to do something different.

It helped that I was at my wit’s end with my hair. Over six months since I’d had a bad DIY hair dye decision fixed, my hair was still not where I wanted it. The highlights had turned brassy and my regrowth made the top half of my hair look dull, dull, dull. With an important event on that weekend, I booked in at my local hairdressers to get it sorted out.


Before I went, I sat down in front of the mirror for a good t10 minutes to work out exactly what it is that I wanted, and I wrote a list. I wanted the regrowth sorted out but not using an all-over colour as I wanted to eventually grow out my natural colour.

I also wanted the top of my head lightened with some highlights that would look naturally sunkissed and the previous highlights toned down to look fresh again. Not much, right?


Dull at the top, brassy at the bottom. Halp! Image: Supplied.

I could do this!

Gowned and in the chair, my palms were sweating. As my hairdresser sat me down for the consultation and asked what I'd like, I felt the compulsion to just say "What do you think I need"?  But I thought of the time the colour wasn't quite what I wanted or the bill nearly gave me a heart attack. I wasn't going to let that happen again so I got out my list and reeled it off.

Turns out hairdressers are experts for a reason. With a clear idea of what I did and didn't like about my current hair, my lovely hairdresser Laura was able to offer for some better advice on how to lighten the top of my hair without a full set of highlights that would also ensure I wasn't left with bad regrowth again.

She recommended adding layers to my hair to help with the shape (which I hadn't thought of) and gave me a number of options to brighten the colour. (Post continues after gallery.)

All that was left was just the small matter of money.

"That sounds great and how much would it cost?" I stammered.

"We'll get some quotes for you for those three different options right away," she replied without missing a beat.

With a maximum figure I was willing to spend in my head already, I settled for the second option which involved a few less highlights at the bottom (which I could do next time if I really thought I needed them) which sat bang on my budget. I'd taken the lead and I felt like Beyoncé.


Monique Bowley, Mia Freedman and Kate DeBrito talk about the ridiculous costs of haircuts. Post continues after audio:

There were still nerves as I settled into my trashy mags getting my colour done, but at least I knew I'd done my part.

Almost three hours later (that's a lot of is she/isn't she pregnant stories and at least three bridal magazines, people) it was time for the reveal. It didn't really look any different, so I prepared my facial muscles to feign a fake smile. Was I really going to have to tackle complaining about a haircut (another scary task) on the same day as the rest?

But as my hair dried, and Laura completed the finishing touches to my cut and style, my smile became genuine. It was exactly what I had asked for.. The top was lighter and more natural looking, the ends much blonder and healthier and my hair just looked happier. No, it wasn't a drastic change in terms of length or colour, but it made a big difference.

Even better, I was told I wouldn't need to return for at least 12 weeks as thanks to Laura's advice, regrowth would be minimal. Score.

For the first time, I went home completely overjoyed without wishing I'd done said this or asked about that.


Obligatory immediately post-haircut selfie. Image: Supplied.

It may seem trivial, but talking among friends revealed that the hairdressers is one place many of us are still afraid to speak up and say what we really want.

Not only are you doing yourself a disservice if you don't, you're also not being fair on your hairdresser. They want you to love their work and feel good about your hair, but they can't help you reach that if you're not clear on what you want.

A good consultation should be a two-way street of communication, taking both requests and suggestions on board. And yes, it's sometimes fun to go and say "Do whatever you want" but at least be firm on what you don't want. You'll have more great hair days to show for it, I promise.

What's the best or worst haircut you've ever received?