This is meant to be more of an informational expose than a rant. But, ladies, ultimately, this will turn into a long whiny piece about how frustrating the process of finding a hairdresser, let alone visiting the hairdresser, can be.

I spent almost twelve months avoiding the hairdresser for fear of the unknown. So I’m going to break it down step-by-step.

1. Do your research.

I spent months online trying to review (1) prices and then within my budget, and (2) the best blonde color. I also took notes of the number of times individual stylists were mentioned in good reviews so I could choose my very carefully.

2. Take a test run.

Before diving in whole heartedly, I went to get a cut (no color).  It gave me the opportunity to suss out the vibe of the place, it’s location—which was as far away from my apartment as I could get)—the prices and the stylist. Luckily for me, this worked out and I stayed with my stylist for two years until she left.

3. Book your appointments as far out as possible.

Seriously. This is New York. Hundreds and thousands of people are battlingyou’re your seat in the chair and your stylist could be booked out weeks in advance.  I don’t like to lock things in until I have to, so I would always have to wait just that little bit longer to get in, but if you need to be super organized, make your next appointment as you leave the salon.

4. Come with a full wallet.

Everyone involved in every stage of your appointment needs to be tipped. For the one who washes your hair, $3-$5 is appropriate depending on the salon.  For the person coloring your hair and the person cutting your hair, an amount of at least 20% of the cost of the service to each of them is appropriate if you ever want to return.

Hint: I try to work out the prices before the appointment and put the amounts in small white envelopes that I can hand over before leaving the salon. Often they will give you these envelopes but even that can be an awkward experience.  Otherwise, I’d spend the whole time in my chair freaking out about whether or not I had enough dollar bills and who might need to be shortchanged in the event I don’t.