The life of a curly is fraught with trials, triumphs and many tribulations. Yes, some hair mistakes are inevitable, no matter how savvy you are at styling curly hair — but you may be surprised how many common faux pas are avoidable. And, you don’t need years of experience to figure it out if you’re willing to learn from those stylists who spent decades creating a brave (and curly) new world.

Here, we turn to leading curl experts, and asked: If they knew then what they know now, what secrets would they share with their curly clientele?

1. Set Realistic Expectations

When Ouidad, the “Queen of Curls,” first started styling curly hair, she acknowledges that her idealism took over. “I wanted to change the world with the haircut that I gave them. I wanted to fix it all and change it all,” Ouidad says. “But it’s impossible to take a head of hair and change it all completely at once. What I learned is to really look at the hair, study all the curl patterns, and learn exactly how much curls shrink, each section, and how they fit within each other when you cut. It’s not like cutting straight hair, you can’t just change it all at once.” So, instead of having an image of what you think you’re going to get from the salon, like change your curls' lives, examine your different hair textures, really study and understand them first, before you insist a stylist make a drastic cut.

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2. Get a Consultation

Curl experts say you cannot treat curls the same way you treat straight hair. “Most of the time, people with straight hair will let you do whatever you want,” Christo says. “But with curly clients, we have to take into consideration that you have already tried many things and ended up in our chair because we claim we specialize in styling curly hair. So, we have to live up to those expectations.” And that can mean a much longer consultation for new clients. For example, Christo blocks out an hour for new clients. “We want to make sure that you are going to stay with us, because we know we have all the solutions for you,” he says. He suggests clients ask their stylists if they really know how to deal with curly hair. “Anyone can say they do curly hair, but can they really? Or, are they making disasters out there for us to fix?” Christo asks.

3. Don't Fear the Curl

Although you may feel fear when first approaching going natural, don’t give in to it. Talk to your stylist about what you want, and why, and find ground that will make your curls look good and make you happy. If you want tons of color, opt for more color in more obvious places, but overall less. “If you say ‘I want a lot of blonde highlights,’ I’ll put the blonde strategically in places where you’ll see more blonde, but not necessarily doing more blonde,” DaSilva explains. “If you say I want a little red, I may know that warm brown, for you, is red.” DaSilva says it’s all about understanding your wants and needs, and a lot of that comes form your understanding of your own hair, and you being able to explain what you really want. Which leads us to...

4. Communicate

Curl experts say your words matter — a lot — when talking to your stylists. “It’s essential to talk about how you want your hair worked with, what kind of movement you want to put in the hair.” Ouidad says. “You want to be able to verbalize and explain how you want it to look when it is dry, how easy you want it to be when you style.” You really want to make sure your curly stylist knows that they are not going to give you ledges, a pyramid or some other shape you dread — and that they do understand about styling curly hair.

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Final Thoughts

Walking out of your salon with your best curls yet is totally possible, but the relationship and communication between you and your stylist, even a professional curl stylist, is of utmost importance. Learn how to communicate what you want, and you'll never be afraid of a curly cut again.