Smoothing over a bad hair day: The importance of finding a good stylist in a new city

A citywide trawl for a someone who understood my hair type resulted in mismatched roots and plenty of heat damage – and then I found The One

Beauty offer of frizz-free hair from The White Room. Courtesy The White Room *** Local Caption ***  al30ma-Top 10-9.jpg

I’ve coined my own collective noun: a confidence of hairstylists.

You know the types. There are the convenience counsellors who'll insist L'Oreal hair colour is better one week and Wella the next (depending on the brand their salon's stocking at any given time). There are the sales gurus who get you to tack on service after unrequired service when all you wanted was a quick wash and dry (sans the conditioning ampoule, head massage and Brazilian blowout).

There are the soothsayers who convince you that multiple layers will not cause your mane to resemble a pufferfish in the humidity (despite your many monsoons of living with said creature). And there are the self-­assured critics who, instead of looking shamefaced when you tell them you cut those “dead ends” just last week, will nod their heads sadly at the slipshod strands in front of them.

Anyone who knows me – and now those of you who don’t – will be ­unblissfully aware of how obsessed I am with my hair. This mania comes not from, nor results in, tumbling tresses that would make Jennifer “Rachel” Aniston jealous. Rather, I’m one of those unfortunate women who has neither straight nor wavy nor curly hair, but a mutant combination of the three. Frizz follows me around like a nervous chihuahua that’s immune to any and all unguents; I’m talking pre-wash oils, the best conditioners money can buy and industrial-strength leave-ins – your product is no good here.

Oh, the tales I could tell you about my tress trials. I once had an "invisible" cut from a celebrity Italian hairdresser, which alarmingly led my hair to look longer and more voluminous. Another time I braved an odorous concoction of neem oil, egg yolks and stale beer, applied in the false hope that it would get my locks to look flat, if not outright fabulous. And then there was a tryst with bangs that caused me to miss my regular mop more than I imagined possible.

The key to managing my hair type and texture is finding the right stylist – and then never letting them go. If they don't work Thursdays, you see them on Wednesday, and if they move salon, you move salon. What happens when you're hundreds of kilometres apart, though?

The angst I experienced after moving from Mumbai to Dubai seven years ago was replicated when I shifted from Dubai to Abu Dhabi earlier this year. More than the convenient charms of JLT – and being a stone’s throw away from my husband’s entire family (ahem) – I rued the loss of Sonia, a Pakistani hairstylist at Queens Beauty Lounge and my personal superwoman. Sonia knew exactly how to tame my unmanageable mane – how to cut it, colour it and care for it. She even judiciously applied (and removed) shampoo and conditioner from the oft-ignored nape during a wash, without my having to passive-aggressively crane my neck to the end of its ability.

Then I moved to the capital to be closer to work. It was glorious at first: nine-minute commute, a 24-hour mini-market close by, friendly neighbours and laid-back weekends. And then my roots grew out. I saw Sonia once, twice, a third time – and scored brownie points from the in-laws for visiting so often. Eventually, though, I bit the bullet and began the hunt for the perfect hair maestro all over again. Half a dozen salons and much heat damage later, I stumbled upon ­Colorista – at the Novotel bang opposite my house.

FRIENDS -- "The One Where Ross Meets Elizabeth's Dad" Episode 21 -- Aired 4/27/2000 -- Pictured: (l-r) Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green -- Photo by: Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank

Ihab, the Syrian stylist, looked appalled when he saw my mismatched roots – thanks to my citywide expeditions – but agreed to take on my case. So far, he’s proven to be an expert colourist and master tamer. Importantly, he knows the difference when I say “quick dry”, “blow dry” and “out-turn”.

Having worked in Abu Dhabi for close to 22 years, he’s also familiar with the weather-water combination that antagonises hair such as mine. While we’re yet to stumble upon a frizz-free product that actually works, his solution is simple: “You need to do away with layers this season.” My protests about how one length is boring and childlike fall on deaf ears, as he deftly snips away any semblance of “steps”.

Fortunately, for me – and Ihab – my head no longer resembles Medusa’s every time I step out of the shower, and I can actually venture outdoors without the use of a single gadget. Confidence, after all, is key in the haircare business.

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