For most people, hair isn’t just hair. It’s something significant and complex and rooted in many layers of personal and cultural meaning. As stylists, we should never underestimate the unique attachment a client may have with his or her hair, and we should always be as sensitive to our clients’ distinct needs as possible. In order to do that, we need to be informed! So here are some questions you can ask your client to start a more in-depth conversation about their #hair goals.

What do you like about your hair?
This question is practical in that it gives you some criteria for your performance as a stylist. If there’s something that a client likes about their hair, you’ll want to play that up in the final look! But, beyond that, this question can give you some insight into how your client values their hair. Oftentimes, they’ll see their hair as an extension or symbol of their identity, since we all like to express ourselves through our physical appearance. Some people will feel more attached to their hair than others, so pay attention to the tone that they use when answering this question.

When does your hair look its best?
Again, this question gives you a clear view of your end goal. You want to recreate, or even improve upon, your client’s best hair scenario, so it helps to find out what that entails. Interestingly though, while some clients will answer in hair-specific terms, like “My hair looks best when it’s not-frizzy, and when the waves at the bottom move in the same direction,” some people will answer this question in a more situational way, as in, “My hair looks best after a day at the beach,” or, “My hair looks best when I’ve just woken up.” That doesn’t really give you a specific description of the hair itself so much as an image of when your client feels most confident about their hair, which may suggest that the client’s relationship with their hair is more symbolic than technical.

What are some problems you usually face with your hair?
Take a look into the darker side of your client’s relationship with their hair. What qualities do they dislike about their hair, or in what ways do they struggle to keep it under control? In addition to giving you clear guidelines for your performance (as in, avoid haircuts or products that exacerbate such and such problem), this question can hint at the emotional turmoil a client may experience with their hair. Perhaps your client suffers from post-chemotherapy hair thinness, or struggles with trichotillomania. Their hair struggles are not just hair struggles, but psychological and emotional ones that are often expressed through the hair. As such, you’ll need to treat these clients with particular care.

What was the worst situation your hair has been in?
As with the last question, this one can be telling for people with unique hair-related struggles. How does your client classify their worst hair experience? Was it a bad color job just before a big event? A haircut gone wrong after a big breakup? Some clients might even get emotional over this question, especially if they experienced something traumatic relating to their hair or body, so it’s best not to demand an answer. But take note of how they react to get a better sense of the value of their hair.

What or who does your hair remind you of?
Hair isn’t just about personal identity. It can be a family trait, a marker of group identity, and provide the client with a feeling of comfort or belonging. Maybe your client is religious and associates their hair with their faith. Maybe your client’s hair reminds them of their role model. Or maybe their hair reminds them of a style they wore in their childhood. All of these factors go into the value that your client sees in their hair, and the integrity that you want to uphold in your treatment of it.

How would you classify your personal style?
Group identity isn’t always so formal. Some clients may define themselves by a particular style or genre, like “punk,” “preppy,” “goth,” etc. Keep in mind, too, that foreign clients may involve themselves in styles that are totally unknown to you, such as “Mori Girl” in Japan or “funk” in Brazil. Ask them what their favorite hair looks are related to their preferred style. Chances are they’ll have plenty to say on the matter.

Where do you work? Does your workplace have a dress code?
As with anything, there may be certain limitations in your client’s hair world. Maybe they can’t dye their hair some crazy color because they work in a swanky-but-traditional office setting. Maybe they can’t grow their hair long because they work with young kids. Find out what determinations go into your client’s hair decisions! You’ll be in a better place to help them out if you know where they’re coming from.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Lifestyle considerations are important when determining a good haircut or procedure, and they’re important for determining the kind of relationship your client has with their hair. If your client loves her long hair but hates how it gets in the way of her exercise regimen, her overall relationship with her locks may not be so simple. Or, conversely, maybe your client likes her short bob during work hours, but resents it somewhat during her weekly dress-up occasions since her hairstyle options are limited. Your professional advice could be helpful in situations like these.

What is the most important thing when it comes to your hair and overall appearance?
This is perhaps the most important question of all, as it clues you in to your client’s priorities. Since hair can represent personal, group, and even religious identity, as well as lifestyle and fashion preferences, chances are that there are some conflicting goals or interests relating to your client’s hair. Help your client unparse all of that by inviting them to choose the most important considerations for their hair. Some clients may value comfort over anything else, others flexibility, or confidence, or any number of other things. Some clients may value someone else’s opinion of their hair, like their partner’s or their mother’s, etc. Occasionally, a client may value your professional opinion first. Always ask.

Finally, we want to know what hair means to you! Share your hair and hair extension stories in the comments below, or post them to social media! We look forward to reading your responses. :)