Without a doubt, the most daunting task in France to date has been getting my haircut.
I’ve battled with my hair for over 20 years. It’s naturally curly, thick, and hard to cut and style. It cannot be treated or cut or styled like straight hair. I cannot use a hair dryer on my hair, nor can I use normal shampoo, conditioner, or leave-in cream. Throughout my years I was always trying and changing hair products as well as styling my hair in various different ways. I have also seen and changed both stylists and salons countless times, until I finally found my savior, aka my current hair stylist, back in early 2012. She helped me make my hair what it is today, with both the cut and the right products. In 2013, after landing a full time job, I also started professionally coloring and highlighting my hair blonde. After 21 years of tears, frustration, and connecting with other culy-haired people on Twitter, I am finally happy and more accepting of my hair.
As I said, my hair is special and complicated. When I was packing for France, I brought along enough of my preferred brand of conditioner and shampoo (the conditioner lasted until January, the shampoo until March), as well as leave in cream (3 bottles and then I bought a 4th bottle in Wales!) products to last me awhile. For the meantime, I have found a decent (but not perfect) conditioner substitute, but if I were staying in France long-term I would buy and import my products from Amazon.
I was very nervous about cutting and dying my hair in France. I asked various colleagues about places they could recommend, and then made sure to subtly interview the stylist at each salon in regards to their experience with curly hair. My first haircut back in December was a slight disaster, not so much because of the cut but because of the color- French stylists have the reputation of just doing what they want instead of what the customer asks for. My second time to the coiffure, I changed locations. Although the cut and color were more successful, the highlights were still nonexistent.
My advice for you is this: Before going to the coiffure, be sure to research your vocabulary ahead of time. I did not know how to say “roots” (les racines), “highlights” (les reflets, les mèches), “hair color” (la teinture), “trim” (rafraîchir), “split ends” (les fourches), or “layers” (Les couches), much less describe what I wanted done. However, having all of these words in front of me helped me to somewhat communicate my needs. One other specific thing I did was have my American stylist, write down my highlights and hair dye formula in the United States, and then I brought and kept this piece of paper with me here in France, and was able to bring it with me to the coiffure (after converting the ounces to grams, of course, with a nifty iPhone app.) Although my colors and highlights are still not perfect, having the formula helped immensely! Finally, it may help to bring in a headshot of yourself or what you want in order to demonstrate the colors, highlights, or cut you desire. Just go in with an open mind and be proactive– and in any case, it is just hair; it will grow back!
Do you have any other piece of advice, or haircut horror stories in other countries? I’d love to hear about it below!