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How can I avoid a bad haircut?

Answer: There’s a reason the contestants on America’s Next Top Model burst into tears when Tyra springs a drastic hair makeover on them: they simply aren’t prepared for such a major change (although after 20 cycles, you’d think they would see it coming). Research is one of the most important things you can do prior to changing up your hairstyle.

Research what you want (and don’t want)

Whether you’re chopping off your locks into a pixie cut or opting for a new hue, it’s so important to research exactly what you want. You may want a pixie, but what style? You may not want to go as short as Emma Watson, but rather stay a bit on the longer side like Jennifer Lawrence.

There’s even more variety when it comes to hair color and combinations. You could go as red as Florence Welch or ombre like Khloe Kardashian. An easy way to keep track of all of this information is to save photos of your hair inspiration to your mobile device or print them out and bring them to the salon with you.

Consult your stylist

Consulting with your stylist is a must. Before you even make your way to the sinks, tell him or her what you want; this is a great time to bust out those photos of hair inspiration. Discuss everything down to the smallest detail. This may include where you want your shortest layer to fall, how you prefer to part your hair and what your hair’s natural textures and tendencies are.

If you’re meeting your stylist for the first time, don’t be afraid to get to know them. Ask how long they’ve been styling hair, and if they’ve worked for any notable salons. If you don’t think they’re a good fit for your needs, simply tell them (politely of course) that you’ve changed your mind. After all, once that hair hits the floor it can’t go anywhere else but the trashcan.

Don’t underestimate the power of patch testing

This final tip may not apply to the masses, but it’s certainly something to keep in the back of your mind. If this is going to be your first dye job, ask your stylist to test some of the dye on a small area of skin before putting it on your hair. It’s better to have an allergic reaction on one inch of skin rather than your entire scalp (I’ll spare you the gruesome details—just take it from someone who has been there).

So here’s to wishing you a successful hair transformation! Let us know how it goes!