Ulta Salon Visit

We interrupt this Wednesday’s regularly scheduled programming in favor of a review of my recent Ulta Salon visit experience. Monthly Favorites will run next Wednesday.

A couple years ago, a stylist did a shoddy job with some layering work – they were way too short in comparison to my overall length, placed awkwardly, and not at all the cut I sought despite showing pictures. I spent two years growing them out, ending up with hair past my waist for my wedding, getting trims here and there (surely not the recommended 6-8 weeks) to even it up. Shortly after the wedding, I hacked about four inches off (it was heavy and more hassle than I cared to deal with) but it was still veeeeeeeery long (middle of my ribcage). Although I like my hair long, I still found myself at odds with it at this length – drying took forever, styling was a joke, etc.

I had been wanting another cut for a while and decided to take advantage of a 30% off offer from the nearby Ulta Salon – I set an appointment for after work and scurried  right over over. I was greeted by an Ulta employee who let my stylist know I was there; the same woman offered to take my coat and get me a coffee. While I waited, I checked out the Spa Ritual polish display that sat in front of the salon area.

Ulta Salon Visit - Haircut Inspiration

My stylist led me back to a chair and asked what I was looking for. I presented her with the above photo and explained that I was looking to:

  • Stay long
  • Reduce some weight
  • Add some movement via LONG layers
  • Taper into a slight V shape (like the picture shows).

I showed her on my back where it should fall, with the longest lengths hitting the bottom of my shoulder blades. She confirmed, “Okay, so bottom of your shoulder blades?” I agreed. We didn’t talk about my hair type, though, or if what she was currently seeing had been styled (it hadn’t, but still).

We went to shampoo – the shampoo stations and dryers are sectioned off in a comfortable back room (at least in my Ulta Salon), at which time I asked for a protein-free shampoo and conditioner. Looking skeptical, she told me that she didn’t think any of the ones they had there (my Ulta Salon was stocked with Redken) had it. Sounding curious, she asked why – at which point I summarized my trials with TIGI Moisture Maniac (which I loved until my hair couldn’t handle the protein), a Suave offering, and most recently Neutrogena Triple Repair. She dismissed my experience and declared that it, “probably had nothing to do with your haircare products,” and more with the fact that I tend to go much longer than, “recommended,” between cuts. I’m not sure which of the Redken shampoos and conditioners she chose, but I do know that some of the products in Redken’s line do contain protein.

For the duration of the cut, I couldn’t actually tell how much she was cutting and there was little communication for the duration – my fault partially, I should have asked to see progress. I noticed it was lighter than I expected. One thing she did ask is about the tapered back – did I want it gradual like the photo I showed her, or exaggerated and coming to a harsh point; I indicated the former.

After the cut, the stylist applied a product to my hair; she told me it was a heat protectant. I didn’t catch the product’s name, but looking it up after the fact indicates that it was very likely Redken Align or, less likely, Redken Velvet Gelatine. Grabbing a CHI dryer and paddle brush, she dried my hair concentrating first at the roots and then down the mid-shaft and to the ends. I was surprised that she did not section it out for this portion, instead just grabbing sections with the brush. Though the service was never interrupted by her needing to go attend to another customer or answer a phone, I did get the impression that she was not very, “present,” for the duration; a few times the nozzle of the dryer lingered close to my scalp too long…those were uncomfortable moments. I was also surprised by the fact that she did not ask if I wanted the blowdry done any specific way – my hair tends to fall flat so when I DIY I try to prevent that from happening.

After I was dry, she made some vertical snips into my ends to give it additional movement. When I was declared done, she handed me a mirror and spun me around. The cut I wound up with is unfortunately not what we agreed upon; the longest lengths were a whole 2 inches (or more!) shorter than what we discussed and confirmed with each other. This is what I ended up with:

Ulta Salon Haircut


Aside from the very center there that hits low (but not the bottom) on my shoulderblades, the rest of it is quite short for me. Instead of taking two inches from the bottom, nearly four were taken – and that doesn’t count the side layers. Instead of being a very gradual, subtle taper, it is exaggerated to a center point, with the sides being much shorter than the center. I was really hoping for what was depicted above.

Here are my thoughts:

  • If a client (especially a new client) tells you of a sensitivity to an ingredient, you shouldn’t dismiss them. I have lived with my hair my entire life; whereas you have seen it for five minutes. I have never gone 6-8 weeks between haircuts, and have in fact gone far longer (try 2+ years) without any such hair, “symptoms,” presenting.
    • Even if you don’t think they are correct, there are other ways to present other options like, “Oh X could contribute, too,” not just, “No, that’s not it, it’s this,” when you have yet to build a relationship or rapport. Dismissing a client that way can really hinder that growing relationship.
  • I was told that the product applied to my hair was a heat protectant. Recalling what the tube looked like but not the name, I took to the ‘tubes to find out. Though they are both styling products, neither Redken Align nor Redken Velvet Gelatine are designed to protect your hair from heat. Redken does have heat protecting sprays and cremes.
    • Furthermore, if the Velvet Gelatine product was used, I would be very disappointed given my protein concerns.
  • I’ve never had a blowout where my hair wasn’t sectioned. I section at home, even, except when I’m being lazy and want a rough-dry.
  • Dryers on max heat should always be moving and never focused on the scalp.
  • The biggest factor in a, “bad,” haircut is miscommunication. That’s why I brought a photo, described length in terms of inches and physically on my body where I wanted it to fall. If you verbalize to me, “Okay, the longest lengths should fall at the bottom of your shoulder blades,” and we both confirm where, specifically, that is, then that is where it should fall…after all, I don’t have weird migratory shoulder blades.
    • What gets me about this is that understanding was expressed – I had no way of knowing that I needed to clarify further because it seemed that we were on the same page.

I have mixed feelings. The cut is not a bad cut by any means, but it is not what I asked for. My hair isn’t, “ruined,” or anything; it doesn’t look dumb on me or anything and it will grow out, but I am uncomfortable with how short it is at the moment. Looking at the positives, it will dry much faster and will be easier to style (try blow drying your own waist-length hair with a round-brush, alright? Your arms will want to fall off) but I’m hoping I come to like it more than I do at the moment.

The cut I received during this visit to the Ulta Salon wasn’t bad… but for me, it is definitely short, and definitely not what I was looking for. Despite this experience during this Ulta Salon visit, I’m not writing off my local Ulta Salon. I know that one scissor-happy stylist does not indicate the overall experience. I will just opt for another stylist if I go there in the future.

4 thoughts on “Ulta Salon Visit”

  1. I’m glad you wrote this… I had a terrible cut, in fact the same ‘V’ style you got here, a few months ago and I’ve been hiding from the salons since… I REALLY need a touch up and trim. Despite the problems, the cut looks great in my estimation though it is much shorter than I’m accustomed to seeing you with. I’ve never even stepped into an Ulta yet, though I have had plans to, i just never get around to it, and had no idea they even had salons within. Perhaps I’ll roll the dice and see how it goes with them… can’t be worse than my last cut >.<;;

    • Yeah – it is hard to not get discouraged. If only finding a good stylist to build a relationship with wasn’t so damn hard.

      And yes – the cut itself is not a bad cut. It doesn’t look bad, I don’t hate it – but it is very different. I’m not ticking off days on a calendar, but I already look forward to the return of my length. I just don’t feel like me without it!

      I don’t know if all Ultas have salons, but the two closest to us do. They also feature different levels of stylists – like a standard, advanced, and master stylist. Fee is commensurate with experience; mine was a standard but YMMV.

      Also, see what you did there, Miss DM. With…y’know…the dice reference. :P

  2. It has ALWAYS been my experience that the stylist cuts shorter than you ask no matter how specific you are. I don’t think they realize that when they cut it wet and then blow dry it the hair shortens when it is dry so they over estimate how much to cut.

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