Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My experience at an Ulta salon.

And it was an experience...  I will warn you though, this has turned out to be a long post!

I've been blonde since the beginning of last year.  It feels a lot longer than that though.  I've always dabbled in highlights since college and my hair consistently bleached out in the summer rays as well.  Light ash brown with some natural blonde highlights...  I had my first gray hair at 21, my sister actually pulled it out during an afternoon tea at a Bed & Breakfast in Ireland.  I remember it vividly.

I didn't start permanently dying my hair on the regular until I believe 2002.  I had strands of gray, but I would ignore them for a while, then they would bother me, etc, etc...  So for about 10 years now, I have been dying my hair, sometimes consistently, most times not however.  I received my first "dramatic" hair cut when I moved to VA in 2001.  My hair was past the middle of my back and I got the works, highlights, low lights, and a super short bob.  In fact the stylist had to shave the back of my head ever so slightly to even out my hair line.

That cut eventually grew out and a year after that I dyed it pretty dark, then red, then back to brown.  Back to a longer bob, shorter bob, layers, you name it, I did it.  About 2 years ago I got some highlights and eventually just went lighter and lighter until I was blonde.  The crazy hot sun in NC definitely helped it along as well as John Frieda, my box color of choice.  I never really worried too much about my hair cuts and color because there is one thing certain about hair, it grows and mine grows fast.

For a while now, close to a year, I have had this urge to go bright red.  Like Poppy Montgomery in tv show "Unforgettable."  Link!  I've gone red before and when I look at pictures, my face is also ruddy/red, complementing my hair.  Not a look a want to repeat so finding the right shade of red was paramount.  Earlier last week, I changed my mind suddenly and wanted to go dark, a deep chocolate brown.  I had 2 boxes of John Frieda foam in my cart at Walmart.  I eventually re-shelved them before checking out.

Then last Thursday night, my husband drove me to Sally's.   Perfectly capable of driving on my own, he just knew I needed some encouragement.  So there I was, walking down the hair color aisle of Sally's grabbing my supplies.  2 bottles of L'OREAL Professional Mega Browns in BR7 Chocolate, bottle of 20 volume developer, mixing bowl, gloves, brush, comb and a protein conditioner pack later, I was ready to dye my hair!



The color was fantastic.  It covers amazingly well.  It also is a very dark color!  It has a red/violet base and came out nearly black but with all dark colors and red, I knew that this would eventually rinse out.  In the above picture, my bathroom lights highlight the red in the dye. One thing I love about dark hair is how it brings out the blue in my eyes.  They glow.  The color also pales out my fair skin... dramatically.  Think Snow White.  I look a bit red in the picture after blow drying it here though.

What this color needed was a fantastic cut!  I envisioned Megan Fox, long wavy layers, angles in the front.    Usually when it comes to fantastic haircuts and color I would find myself in an Ulta for a consultation.  I made an appointment Saturday morning and off to Ulta I went!

Sat down to be shampooed...  "Is your hair color treated?" she asks.  "Well yes of course, I just went from bleach blonde to this the other night.  The color is still rinsing out, " I quip.  She stops what she is doing and asks me more questions about my history with hair dying, how I got to blonde, etc, etc.  She then says that I really should break up the color with some caramel highlights.  The dark color washes me out.  I agree that the dark color washes me out but when I do get highlights, I pull red when my hair is dark. I tell her that I don't want to end up with orange hair.  She is confident that this will not happen.

Instinctively I knew not to get highlights.  I sat down almost panicking in her chair in front of the mirror telling myself not to get highlights.  My instincts were saying Danger! Danger! Danger!  Stop her from mixing the color!  Did I listen? No. The foils came out, I still never said anything.  I took a deep breath and the process started.  "Be careful, I pull red." She did see that I was uncomfortable.  "Don't worry!" she says.

The conversation was bizarre to say the least.  Religion, "getting saved," kids, relationships...  I was trying to figure out if she was trying to recruit me to her church.  She checked a foil and I knew immediately that my hair processed very quickly.  She says, "You weren't kidding when you said your hair pulls red."  Now I'm freaking out.  "Don't worry, we will tone it out."  Then her panic sets in.  She starts spraying off my hair with water and wiping off the bleach with a towel.  I had enough of that technique so I get up and head towards a sink.  They are all being used.  Sit back down for her to continue spraying off my hair and I notice a woman leave a sink and I run back.

Thankfully she did less then 10 foils, I was supposed to get 10 because it was 10 for $45 but since my color processed so quickly, she only got to 6 or 7.  She then hands me a magazine and tells me to pick out a color glaze.  I'm confused at this point, I thought we were doing caramel.  But then I realize, caramel isn't the correct color for me, I pick out a picture of Selena Gomez on my phone.  She has darker reddish brown highlights.  That will go better with the red/violet base of the hair dye.

She brings me back over the sink and starts the spraying this light brown glaze on my hair, at the sink, standing over me and rubbing it in for maybe 10 minutes.  My husband, who had been walking around the mall with the kids was checking in since it has been and hour and a half at this point.  He sits at a dryer in front of me and says, "Are you going lighter?"  I reply with, "I have no idea what is going on right now."  And I truly didn't and I was starting to get upset at myself for agreeing to highlights.

The hair cut starts. "Your ends really got blonde because your hair is so porous and damaged from the box dyes.  But you want layers anyway, so they will be cut out. What were you thinking again for the cut?"  "I want long layers in the back, keep the length and some angles in the front starting below my chin."   Its my standard haircut, I ask for it every time I get my hair cut.  She gets to the front of my head and asks me to show her where I want the front angles to start.  I point the hair below my chin.

Her style of cutting was... different...  She had me turned from the mirror so I really wasn't watching.  Bigger mistake than agreeing to highlights.  Always watch your hair cut.  She then thought a side bang would look nice and I agreed.  For the hair cut, my daughter sat in a chair next to me.  The entire time, she was just staring at me and then down to the  floor.  She didn't really like the fact that I dyed my hair in the first place.  At some point, I followed her gaze to the floor.  Piles and piles of black hair... Panic sets in again.  "What are you cutting off back there?" I say.  "You have a lot of bulk back here and I don't think I took anything off the length."  I say, "You don't think?"

I am having a full blown panic attack at this point.  I'm trying to tell myself to calm down.  It's just hair, it will grow back.  She starts drying my hair.  "Do you want a flat iron?"  I say no.  I want to get the hell out of that chair.  She spins me around to face the mirror.  I am horrified by my reflection.  Streaks of orange at the top of my head.  Crispy pieces of bleach blonde hair at the sides.  Choppy layers all over my head.  My long layers in the back start at the middle of the back of my head.  A non-existent side bang that is not layered properly, it just hangs there.  Layers on the side of my face that start up at my eyebrows.  I am visibly shaking and upset.

Now she says, "What?  What's wrong?"  A woman with her hands folded across her chest suddenly appears in the background.  At this point I can't really see or hear anything around me, I was trying my hardest not to cry.  "Point out what is wrong with your hair.  This is my manager."  I tell her everything.  "My hair is orange, we talked about this.  I didn't want orange hair.  My layers start way up here.  I wanted them to start past my chin."

She says, "I think you need some hair treatments, your hair is really damaged.  I will fix it at a discount the next time you come in.  Let me give you my card."

"Why do my layers start at my eyebrows on this side?"

"Those are face framing layers, those aren't your angles."  I repeat, "Face framing layers..."  I shake my head no.

I'm angry.  I want out of there.  She prints out the bill.  $80.  It really stung.  I just spent $80 for a mess that I will have to turn around and spend another $100 to fix.  My husband meets me in line at the register.  He says,  "Here are the keys to the car.  I will pay for this."  I burst in to tears and literally run out of Ulta.   I'm crying in front of my daughter who is also upset because I am so upset.  I couldn't believe what just happened.  I keep looking at my hair in the car mirror, torturing myself, hoping it will change suddenly and not be as bad as I think it was.  However, it just gets worse.

The color for one was awful.  Thankfully its was just a few foils.  The above picture of course is in poor lighting at night but you can see that the cut was an uneven choppy mess.  My right side was longer than my left and I had this weird sharp v almost like a short cattail at the end of my hair in the middle of my back.  I resolve to keep it in a ponytail or sock bun for the next month.  My ponytail doesn't even lay right.  My neighbor pointed that out to me.  "What's going on in the back of your head?" I am a mess.  I realize that she was trying to cut out the blonde.

I call Ulta that evening when I feel calm and ask to speak to a manager.  "I think you came over to her chair while I was pointing out all the things that were wrong or another manager did.  You didn't say anything.  Do you remember? "  I get what I considered  to be an attitude. "Do I remember you specifically?  No.  We had over 100 clients today. I don't remember it looking bad.  What is it that you want me to do?"

She wants me to come in on Tuesday (yesterday) and she will take a look at it.  "And do me a favor.  Don't touch or do anything to your hair until Tuesday."  Now I am fuming mad.  I am not going to let anyone talk to me like that.  I call Ulta Guest Services and speak to a representative, tell her my story.  She apologizes.  I tell her that I don't feel comfortable stepping foot into that Ulta.  I will drive an hour to go to the next nearest store. She tells me that she will refer this to the district manager and someone will be contacting me in a couple of days.  I apologize for being so emotional, I just wished they had handled the situation better and stopped me from leaving Ulta in tears.

The manager from Ulta calls me Monday afternoon.  "I got an email from Guest Services.  I know that you are upset.  Please come in and let me make the situation right.  I know your hair is really damaged from the box dyes that you have used."  I tell her that's not the issue.  The haircut is terrible, the color is equally terrible.  She continues with, "I have some ideas and I know you will leave the salon happy.  Ulta rarely receives complaints, I opened this salon, been here since day one and I take complaints very seriously.  Give me a chance to make it right."

I reluctantly agree to come in and have her look at it.  I don't really have a choice.  Since spending $115 (my husband left a $35 tip), I don't have anything left to go someplace else.  She also informs me that the stylist will also be present so she can learn what to do and what not to do in future situations, but she doesn't want that to make me uncomfortable.  Yeah, that won't be all.

So I go to my appointment and check in with of course the previous stylist.  I sit down and happen to be the only one in the salon at the time.  The manager comes over and starts with, "So tell me what's going on."  I point out all the things I had mentioned before I left on Saturday and I also pointed out more things that I found later like the color, sections on the side of my head that were longer than pieces under neath, etc, etc, etc.  She runs her fingers through my hair not saying a word.

She thought the real issue is that I went from blonde to dark brown in one shot.  "I think that is what this is really about.  You should never go lighter or darker more than 2 shades at a time.  And if you are going to do a dramatic color, you need to come into a salon."   She then talks about how pregnancy, medication, and how our menstrual cycle affect the texture of our hair and how the color takes.

I tell her that I do not take any medications, I am not ovulating, PMSing, menstruating, and I am definitely not pregnant.  She continues with what I have done for the past 6-7 years to my hair will affect the outcome of the highlights as well since that length of my hair is about that many years of growth.  We talk more about the cut.

After we were done with our hair heart to heart I asked her, "After looking at my hair, do you feel that my concerns are validated?"  She says, very carefully, "I think the color is not what you were looking for.  I see a difference in color at the top of your head which is new growth and the bottom of the hair strands which is old growth.  They will take to the color differently.  I feel that the placement of the color looks really good.  I have a vegetable based glaze that will take care of that concern for you that won't be damaging.  The hair is more resilient than we think.  I can clean up the cut for you so that it lays better and fix the side bangs so they flip out more."

Okay, sounds good.  I feel like I'm in good hands.  Going into the appointment, I pictured myself needing to chop off my hair to my shoulders.  This I can deal with.  Glaze was then applied and she brought me over to a dryer.  I sat under the dryer for 30 minutes...  The stylist then shampooed the glaze out of my hair.  Awkward.  Lots of squeezing the water out of my hair.  I get it.

Back in the manager's chair and after her tools were laid out on the table in front of her by an assistant, she gets started.  "I'm not going to take anymore off your length, it's just going to seem like I am.  I'm going to first cut your hair wet and then again dry."  An hour later she is done.  That's how long it took to fix all of the mistakes.  While she cut, she did point out some techniques to the stylist who stood in front of me,  not behind me where the cutting was happening.  Lots of checking and cross checking and pulling.  She was meticulous.

Then she took a section from the top of my head, pulled it up and it was discovered that an entire section was not cut.  She looks at me and says, "What's this?"  I look up at her and say, "What?"  She looks at the stylist, and she stammers, "She told me not to take any off the length."  The manager explains to me that this section of hair needs to be cut so that the angles in the front lay correctly.  "This piece here will lay just underneath your chin."  I told her that I had asked for chin length layers to start with.

Wet hair cut is done, stylist walks away to retrieve something.  I tell the manager, "The way you just cut my hair now, the technique that you used, is how I have gotten my hair cut in the past. That is not how my hair was cut on Saturday."  Silence.  She doesn't even respond.

The blow out begins.  My first real blowout I might add.  It's painful!  Lots of pulling.  My neck is a little sore trying to keep my head straight.  lol  However the results were fantastic.  She then dry cut my hair, again, very meticulous.  So thankful for her precision, her expertise!  All the pulling and blowing and hair spraying...  I looked like a model.  I truly did.  I felt amazing as well.

The color is perfect.  I'm assuming the glaze will fade but hopefully not to the bleached blonde that it is covering up.  I do use sulfate free shampoos so I will try to preserve the color as long as I can.  The manager also wants me to come back every 6 weeks.  I really can't afford that schedule but I do need to go into a salon more than my usual 2 times a year.  lol

She also mixed up a sample in a little cup that my son promptly dumped out all over the kitchen table.  It was a serum to run through my ends when my hair is wet.  Oh well...  I will continue using my coconut and argan oils.

If you made it this far...  :)

Lessons learned from this experience:

Big #1:  Don't let yourself get talked into highlights!!!  If you don't want them, don't get them!!!
#2:  Be very specific about your hair cuts.  Never say long layers and assume they will actually be long.  Long is a relative term.
#3:  Don't leave the salon unless you are perfectly happy with the cut.

Am I happy with the outcome?

Yes and no.  The manager saved the length of my hair and fixed an absolute disastrous mess.  My hair had been processed 3 times in 6 days.  Very damaging.   The distress it caused me and my family was just ridiculous.  It sounds dramatic but I've learned how important a hair cut is to your well being.  I've never experienced a butchering before.  It was horrible.

Additionally, I am left with a very high maintenance, layered haircut.  First of all, I do not have the tools or products to recreate the manager's magic nor do I have the 30 minutes to blowout my hair every morning for it to look decent.

Will I try?  Yes of course.

Will I ever step foot in an Ulta again.  I'm not sure to be honest.  I know I won't be ready in 6 weeks...

Have you ever had a bad hair cut?  Do share!  I can certainly emphasize now that I have experienced it!