Hot on the heels of finding school and childcare places in Sydney, is the surprisingly challenging task of finding a decent hairdresser.
When we lodged our Australian visa application in 2004, we recall being told that “hairdressing” was on the list of professions in the Australian skilled migration program. In 2010 the Australian government removed hairdressing from the skills list for independent permanent migration; regional or state sponsored migration for hairdressers may still be possible (see current SOL). This implies that there are now adequate numbers of hairdressers in Australia, including in large cities like Sydney; we beg to differ….
Mum’s worst hairdressing experience
Many years ago, when we were backpacking in Thailand, Mum had a haircut in Chang Mai, a popular tourist city in Northern Thailand. It was an interesting experience and probably the most expensive haircut I’ve ever had, in a cost per benefit analysis.
The Thai hairdresser took my money and did absolutely nothing to my hair. They didn’t even wash it. I recall reclining in a very comfortable chair and having a head massage (I assumed this was the norm in Thailand), then the hairdresser sat me up and teased my split ends with a pair of scissors. She barely removed 1mm. Of course, the language barrier and my British politeness meant I didn’t complain and walked away feeling conned.
For a long time my Thai haircut took the prize for being the worst haircut I’d ever had…I didn’t expect that finding a hairdresser in Sydney would challenge this.
Ironically we’d just left Thailand when I had my first terrible Aussie haircut. I thought I’d chosen an established salon and presumed I was in safe hands.
In my first Sydney salon, hair WAS removed and we even had a discussion about my hair type and the products I needed to avoid frizz in the Sydney humidity.
When I left the salon my hair seemed OK, it had been blown dry straight and looked a little fresher. However, because we talked at length about the kinks and curls in my hair I felt particularly put out when I got home and realised the hairdresser had cut my hair in exactly the wrong place for my curls, all over. A few of the shorter layers took ages to grow out and were the bane of my life for months.
Finally, a decent salon
After my first negative experience in Sydney I had a few satisfactory hair cuts in salons based in a local shopping mall. The experience was okay but I still felt I hadn’t found a stylist who really understood my hair type. I got the impression that the hairdressers weren’t really styling my hair; they were tidying the ends and doing a good job with the blow dry.
Fortunately by the time I got desperate for a decent hairdresser I knew plenty of local mums and had ample opportunity to ask for hair salon recommendations. Eventually a friend recommended a Toni & Guy salon. It is more expensive than the salons I’d been trying but I was desperate. My friend explained that hairdressers working at Toni & Guy (an international brand) meet strict training requirements so you are more likely to find a good stylist.
I have become a Toni & Guy regular and feel it is worth the money for a decent hair cut. Interestingly the staff turnover at the salon I use is high; it seems to be staffed by hairdressers from all over the world on temporary working visas, so I haven’t used the same stylist more than once. However, I’ve always had a good, professional cut that grows out well.
Top tips on finding a hairdresser in Australia
If you’ve just arrived in Australia or are planning your move, you may be faced with the same challenges Mum had when searching for a new hairdresser. Here are our top four tips on finding a hairdresser in Australia;
1. Get a recommendation – for any product or service nothing beats a direct recommendation from a friend or acquaintance. When it comes to hairdressing the best recommendation would be from someone who has a similar hair type or style to your own. We recently wrote about Sydneyism, Melbournism and Brisbanism, websites that help you find the best and worst of anything and everything in these cities – we’ve seen hairdressing threads on these sites. If you don’t have anyone to ask face to face, online forums and communities would be a good place to go to ask for a hairdresser recommendation.
2. Use an international brand – like Mum, you might find that choosing an internationally recognised brand or salon is a safer option than visiting independently owned and run salons.
3. Be prepared to spend a little more – we know, as if things weren’t expensive enough down under…we have ended up paying $98 per haircut to use a “Style Director” at Toni & Guy but it beats all the wasted money we’ve spent getting haircuts we weren’t happy with. In many salons the cost of the haircut depends on the skills level of the stylist, unless you have a very simple style we’d recommend using a mid to top end stylist.
4. Be clear about what you need \ want – Mum had been using the same stylist in London for a long time. When I started the search for a hairdresser here I found I was tongue tied when I tried to explain what I wanted. It’s taken a while to pick up on the lingo and be clear about what I want. If you haven’t left your country of origin yet, you could ask your current stylist to explain what you should ask for at a new salon.
We hope our tips help you avoid some of the mistakes Mum made. If you’re already in Australia, how did you find a decent hairdresser? What’s your worst hairdressing experience? If you’re a hairdresser who has relocated to Australia we’d love to hear your tips on getting a good cut down under. Thank you.
P.S. We’re talking about ladies haircuts, getting a haircut is usually much easier for men relocating to Aus. If you’re interested, Mr Mum’s gone 2 Aus tends to spend $20 – $40 for a haircut at a barbers in Sydney.
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