Ok, so I'm finally back to update, and the verdict is all good. Sorry about the book length of this but I didn't want to miss anything for those of you who might be on the fence.
Jen is super sweet and the detailed directions she gave me for finding the place were spot on. The salon is one of many booths taking up a large suite on the first floor of an office building. Kind of unorthodox, but as she explained it's just like when you go to a salon and the stylists are independent and renting a chair from the salon. Except this way they're renting an entire tiny little booth with all their own equipment. She shares it with the same two people she was working with in Hillcrest, which is where their business (E Factor) was located before they moved it to this setup. I'm not usually fond of the independent contractor booth/chair rental thing with stylists but in this case, probably because she turned out to be very skilled and very professional (things many stylists aren't), I ended up liking it.
When I sat down she played with my hair a little, asked me questions about it, and actually listened(!) when I described all its little quirks. She asked me about my styling products and if I'd heard of the Curly Girl book and when was my last cut. When I mentioned the aloe/water spritz I've been making up to refresh with she said one of her other clients tried that from a web site she visits for curly hair but didn't have much success with it. Hmmm, I wonder which website? She was amazed when I told her it'd been about 7 months since my last cut and she said it didn't look like it and that my hair is extremely healthy. Yay! Then she asked me what I wanted to achieve with the cut and we discussed my desire to reshape it and encourage the curl but still continue to grow it longer. Then she got down to work.
When she was cutting she would choose certain clumps and twist them before cutting, which I found interesting. She would fluff and observe and cut repeatedly, but just tiny little amounts each time. She also had me lean over at one point to get the angle and evenness on the face-framing layers right. When it was time to wash and condition it already looked much better. The entire time she was cutting we were chatting about hair, and curls, and products, and styling techniques. It was so cool to find a stylist who isn't intimidated by a knowledgeable client! (I even stole one of SBB's catch phrases when she commented on how knowledgeable *cough*PJ*cough* I am. I told her it's my hobby. Hee! I hope SBB doesn't mind!)
She asked me if it was ok if she used Deva products in my hair and I told her that it had been ages since I'd first tried them and that though they weren't my favorites I wasn't opposed to them or anything. That turned out to not be right, but it was my fault not Jen's. I ended up hating how they felt after I left, and when I looked up the ingredients online I realized why I hadn't been impressed with them the first time I tried them before I became knowledgeable about which ingredients do what. There's bunches of stuff in there that my hair hates. Blech. In any case, before she even started rinsing me she said if I turned out to not like the Deva stuff I should bring my own products in next time so we could use those instead. She said it without any prompting on my part, much less a question. WOW.
Though she initially wanted to use the No Poo on me, when she got my hair wet she was shocked at just how baby-fine it really is. Her exact words were, "OMG I can't believe this, it's like silk!! That's amazing that it's so fine and you have so much of it!!" This was after she'd had her hands in it for half an hour cutting. Heh. Anyway, since she didn't want to weigh it down too much she chose Low Poo instead. After she as done washing and conditioning she had me flip my hair over while it was still sopping wet. She loosened up my hair at the roots so it wouldn't fall wierd and then spritzed it with even more water to help it reclump. Then she scrunched in some Angell. A nice big puddle was developing by that point, and she used a bunch of paper towels to scrunch excess water and excess Angell out.
After I flipped right-side up again she clipped me and diffused a bit since she was having trouble with her hood dryer. When one of the other two stylists she shares her booth with came in he fixed it, though, so I got diffused and the Deva set. I have to say that though the Deva set is a nice concept I just really need the volumizing effect of the diffusing, so I don't think I'll bother with that next time - especially since it adds $25 to the $50 cut.
And now the verdict: HUGE improvement! I was surprised she even managed to get it to curl as much as she did while I was there, because stylists never do, so that was a really good indication that the cut was good. And especially since it was full of amodimethicone and polyquats, which usually weigh the curl right out of my hair! After I got home and managed to wash the a'cone and those damn polyquats out and use my own products and techniques there was a lot more curl in the parts that needed encouraging and it was really nicely shaped all over.
It'll probably be another few months before I go back since I am still trying to grow it out to at least BSL, but I will definitely go back. I think I've finally found my stylist! Woohoo!!