The Ultimate Hair Guide
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The Ultimate Hair Guide

Experts tell you how.

The Ultimate Hair Guide

Before you hit the salon  to clip your curls or color your locks, check out the must-know tips we culled from top experts.

Number-one tip for all hair types: Don't fight the natural texture of your hair. A good stylist will suggest a hundred ways to work beautifully with what you've got.

Curly Hair

What curly-haired women must know...

  • Think about shrinkage before getting your locks chopped: Subtract a half inch from the measurement you think you want your stylist to cut.
  • Layers should be cut in randomly, not in large chunks, to avoid a bowl-cut look.
  • Be wary of a scissors-happy stylist: Thinning shears should be used only to reduce bulk, not to cut length all over.

The Long and Short of It

Trimming long hair may seem like you're defeating the purpose of growing it out, but remember, those ends have been around for quite some time, so chop off 1/2 inch to an inch every six weeks or so to keep hair looking healthy.

When it comes to talking to your stylist about going short, consider these questions: Do you want your ears to show or stay covered? What about bangs? Do you want the overall shape to be soft and round, or highly textured and piecey (best cut with a razor rather than scissors)?

And even if you go for a no-daily-maintenance short do, you're not completely off the hook--frequent trims are a must.

Perfectly Blunt

There are many variations of this basic straight cut. Here's how to salon-speak your way to the bob you want.

Here's what you'll get if you ask for:

  • Beveling: An angled edge that helps hair roll under.
  • Undercutting: Short pieces under longer ones to create fullness.
  • Point-cutting: Wisps cut at the bottom and around the face to add softness.

Coloring Your Hair

Whether you want to go blond, red or brunette, your colorist should assess your skin tone, eye color and natural hair color to mix up the best shade for you.

Want to find out first-hand if blonds really have more fun? When selecting a shade, take your skin tone into account. Olive-skinned? Stick with warm, golden shades. Ruddy complexion? Then opt for a mix of a golden blond with a pale blond.

When you want to add highlights to your hair, partial highlights (just the top and front) impart a natural, sun-kissed look; full head highlights (includes underneath for when you pull your hair back) give an even, uniform appearance.

If your stylist uses foils to highlight, it's inevitable that as your ends grow, they will become a different shade from the new highlights. A simple way to keep each strand well blended: Ask your stylist to apply lowlights every other visit. Or ask about baliage, a freehand painting technique that won't give you the root regrowth line that results from highlighting with foils.

No haircolor fades faster than red, so along with the fabulous, fun shade comes a fair amount of upkeep. The Rx for red locks? Choose a hue with a hint of brown (which penetrates hair better), and use a color-extending shampoo between visits.

If you're a natural brunette who wants to go darker, choose an allover rich brown shade; to go lighter, caramel or honey-colored highlights do the trick best. If you're covering first grays with a dark haircolor, have your stylist add a bit of highlighting at the roots to mask regrowth.