Avoiding horror haircuts

Scarlett Johansson - The reliably flawless Scar-Jo made a rare beauty blunder with this hairstyle that can only be described as a mullet.
Scarlett Johansson - The reliably flawless Scar-Jo made a rare beauty blunder with this hairstyle that can only be described as a mullet.
Tilda Swinton - This quirky actress does her best David Bowie impersonation on the red carpet at the 2012 Golden Globe awards.
Tilda Swinton - This quirky actress does her best David Bowie impersonation on the red carpet at the 2012 Golden Globe awards.
Sarah Jessica Parker - It's rare for SJP to put a Manolo-clad foot wrong when it comes to fashion. But this is one example of when Big is not always better.
Sarah Jessica Parker - It's rare for SJP to put a Manolo-clad foot wrong when it comes to fashion. But this is one example of when Big is not always better.
Nicole Richie - With a look more fitting for a retirement home, Nicole Ritchie thought the red carpet was the perfect place to show off some premature greys.
Nicole Richie - With a look more fitting for a retirement home, Nicole Ritchie thought the red carpet was the perfect place to show off some premature greys.
Nicky Minaj - Known for experimenting with crazy looks, this questionable colour job is a little wild even for Ms Minaj.
Nicky Minaj - Known for experimenting with crazy looks, this questionable colour job is a little wild even for Ms Minaj.
Mel B - It takes a big shot of courage to rock the red carpet with half your hair missing. Luckily Scary Spice has this covered.
Mel B - It takes a big shot of courage to rock the red carpet with half your hair missing. Luckily Scary Spice has this covered.
Kesha - The new wild child of pop loves a crazy do, and this Mohawk is no exception.
Kesha - The new wild child of pop loves a crazy do, and this Mohawk is no exception.
Kelly Osbourne - If anyone can get away with a novelty hairstyle it's Kelly Osbourne, who here is sporting the mother of all bowl-cuts.
Kelly Osbourne - If anyone can get away with a novelty hairstyle it's Kelly Osbourne, who here is sporting the mother of all bowl-cuts.
Katy Perry - While she currently sports a more demure look, Katy Perry has been known to turn heads with a series of crazy colouring jobs.
Katy Perry - While she currently sports a more demure look, Katy Perry has been known to turn heads with a series of crazy colouring jobs.
Jennifer Lopez - J-Lo there's something on your head! Oh, it's a hair nest.
Jennifer Lopez - J-Lo there's something on your head! Oh, it's a hair nest.
Gwen Stefani - She may rock on stage, but the jury is out on whether she rocked these pink cornrows.
Gwen Stefani - She may rock on stage, but the jury is out on whether she rocked these pink cornrows.
Fergie - She may have great guns, but this is taking sporty to the extreme in proof that sometimes a fringe isn't for everyone.
Fergie - She may have great guns, but this is taking sporty to the extreme in proof that sometimes a fringe isn't for everyone.
Christina Aguilera - Known for hitting the high notes, this afro-braided shocker from X-Tina could possibly be her biggest flop.
Christina Aguilera - Known for hitting the high notes, this afro-braided shocker from X-Tina could possibly be her biggest flop.
Natalie Portman - Natalie shaved off her locks on screen for her role in V is for Vendetta. While it's not a look for everyone, somehow she seems to manage to pull this off.
Natalie Portman - Natalie shaved off her locks on screen for her role in V is for Vendetta. While it's not a look for everyone, somehow she seems to manage to pull this off.
Justin Timberlake - Even the smoothest guys in the business get it wrong occasionally. Here's JT with his cute little curls from his 'N-Sync days.
Justin Timberlake - Even the smoothest guys in the business get it wrong occasionally. Here's JT with his cute little curls from his 'N-Sync days.
Pink - We love a little crazy from this bleached blonde rock chick, but when she goes back to her roots the results are a little flat.
Pink - We love a little crazy from this bleached blonde rock chick, but when she goes back to her roots the results are a little flat.
Juliette Lewis - This one from the archives finds Juliette Lewis on the red carpet at the 1992 Academy Awards. While she may have won for worst hair, she made up for it by bringing Brad Pitt as her date
Juliette Lewis - This one from the archives finds Juliette Lewis on the red carpet at the 1992 Academy Awards. While she may have won for worst hair, she made up for it by bringing Brad Pitt as her date
Justin Bieber - Fortunately Biebs has grown out of the hair helmet of his youth and moved on to a more mature look.
Justin Bieber - Fortunately Biebs has grown out of the hair helmet of his youth and moved on to a more mature look.
Lady Gaga - No stranger to shock, Lady Gaga's hairstyle is often the tamest aspect of her ensemble.
Lady Gaga - No stranger to shock, Lady Gaga's hairstyle is often the tamest aspect of her ensemble.

Most of us have been there. Sitting in one of those wide chairs, hoping it's just the bad lighting. Or that it's delirium setting in after all the incessant chatter while holding your head at weird angles. While you bounced into the hair salon with a vision of shiny loveliness, you left with a very different reality. Where did it all go wrong? A bad hairdresser? Your own follicular misfortune? Perhaps. But, often the problem comes down to communication.

Joey Scandizzo, ELEVEN Australia Co-Creative Director and three-time Australian Hairdresser of the Year, says clients "often have something in their head and it's really hard to give them the look they're after unless this is communicated properly."

So, to avoid trouble with our tresses, perhaps it's time for us clients to get a little proactive. Here are some things we can do to make sure our message doesn't get tangled when visiting the hair salon. 

BE SPECIFIC

Scott Sloan, who was recently named Emerging Hairdresser of the Year, says "the main communication problems come from one side trying to explain their vision verbally and the other side imagining that vision slightly differently. 'Long layers', 'blonde tones' or 'just a trim' can mean very different things to people."

Where possible, quantify your request. "Two centimeters off the length" leaves less room for error than "just a trim". If your request for "long layers" means "layers no shorter than shoulder-length", say it.

But sometimes, of course, words just aren't enough. 

PICTURE IT

The experts agree that it can be useful for clients to bring along pictures of the look they are after. Scandizzo says it helps to bring a few different pictures so that you can "work with your hairdresser to come up with something based on these images that will work for you."

But he has a cautionary tale for those who favour the hairstyles of celebrities and models: "I asked my hairdresser years ago to give me the same style as Tom Cruise from Top Gun and left disappointed that I didn't leave looking like him."  

BE THE MOST CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU DON'T WANT

If you've had plenty of hair disasters, one upside is that you will have plenty of ideas about what you DON'T want. Sometimes the best way to avoid disappointment is by emphasising your dislikes. If you're after some cool, creamy blonde highlights, don't just ask for what you want. Tell your hairdresser gold hues are on your banned list.

LISTEN UP

When communicating, listening can be just as useful as talking. And sometimes you may need to read between the lines.

If a hairdresser is suggesting "more suitable" or "more flattering" options, listen up. Your face shape, hair type and lifestyle will sometimes mean your preferred hairstyle is not practical or just won't work.

DECODE HAIRDRESSER-SPEAK

Like all professionals, hairdressers can get carried away with industry jargon. Make sure you know what you are agreeing to before you give your hairdresser the green light.

Scandizzo gives us an insight into some of the terms he often has to explain to blank-faced clients: 

Block colouring - a full head of colour (as opposed to foils), often using two or more shades to colour large sections.

Seamless layers - a cutting technique referring to soft layers that blend into one another, not as choppy as other layering techniques.  

Solid form or blunt cut - this is when hair is cut to one length (no layers) for a solid, uniform flow of hair.

Texturise - cutting layers into the hair to create texture and natural body. 

EVALUATE YOUR RELATIONSHIP

The best communication happens when you can talk easily to someone, expressing your thoughts and feelings with confidence. Sloan says, "You should feel completely comfortable having an open discussion with your hairdresser... If you don't have this open line of communication, it might be a good time to have a think why and to really question if the hairdresser is right for you."

Sydney Morning Herald