38 Secrets Your Hair Stylist Won’t Tell You

Hair salons share their secrets for saving money, getting a great hair cut, and more.

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The clients I dread the most are those who say things like “Do whatever you want”

The clients I dread the most are those who say things like “Do whatever you want” iStock/Voyagerix
Or: "I’m pretty easy to work with." Nine times out of ten, it’s not true.

We know you hate the word bleach

We know you hate the word bleachiStock/MiloStankovic
So we use words like lightener and decolorizer. But no matter how we prettify the language, if we’re lifting a dark color out of your hair, we’re using bleach.

Yes, I keep notes about you on your client card, and they can get pretty personal

Yes, I keep notes about you on your client card, and they can get pretty personaliStock/sasiistock
I may note that you don’t tip well or that you talked loudly about how drunk you were last night. I may also write down that you’re going through a divorce or that you’re into tennis so I can remember to ask you about those things next time.

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After you’ve been late a few times, I ask our receptionist to say your appointment is at 2.

After you’ve been late a few times, I ask our receptionist to say your appointment is at 2.iStock/Michal Krakowiak
But really it's 2:30.

If there’s one rule to live by, it’s this.

If there’s one rule to live by, it’s this.iStock/Wavebreakmedia
Don’t make your first appointment with me on a Saturday. That’s our busiest day, and I won’t be able to give you the time and attention you want and deserve.

Find out whether your salon offers a discount if you get a cut and a color together

Find out whether your salon offers a discount if you get a cut and a color togetheriStock/petek arici
Ask for one if it doesn’t. Doing both together eliminates some steps and should save you about 20 percent.

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It’s fine to use Groupon or another social media site to save money on your hairstyling

It’s fine to use Groupon or another social media site to save money on your hairstylingiStock/sdominick
But be wary of salons that offer deals all the time. That’s not a good sign.

Thin hair doesn’t have to be worn short

Thin hair doesn’t have to be worn shortiStock/AleksandarNakic
I had a client who wore her super-thin hair short for years because she thought she had to. I finally talked her into growing it out into a stacked bob, and everyone now says she looks incredible.

Always dry your hair completely before using a hot tool like a curling iron or a flat iron

Always dry your hair completely before using a hot tool like a curling iron or a flat iron iStock/Milan Markovic
If your hair still contains moisture, the iron will damage it.

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Sometimes when I don’t have a client’s color—either because we’re out of it or because I forgot to write it down last time—I don’t say anything and just mix something new.

Sometimes when I don’t have a client’s color—either because we’re out of it or because I forgot to write it down last time—I don’t say anything and just mix something new.iStock/GoodLifeStudio
If you think I’m applying what you had before, you’re much less likely to complain.

I know you’ve heard you shouldn’t wash your hair before getting an updo, because a little grit can help maintain the style

I know you’ve heard you shouldn’t wash your hair before getting an updo, because a little grit can help maintain the styleiStock/wundervisuals
But please don’t show up with hair that’s greasy, tangled, or smelly. Wash it the night before, and don’t put any styling products in it. That way, we can start fresh and create our own texture.

Every year after school starts, at least one mom brings in her daughter with hair down to her waist and tells us to give her a pixie cut.

Every year after school starts, at least one mom brings in her daughter with hair down to her waist and tells us to give her a pixie cut. iStock/stock_colors
We know what’s going on: a lice infestation. But when we point out the nits and tell the mom we can’t do the cut, she always acts surprised and says, “I didn’t know.” We’re thinking, Yeah, right. To save the embarrassment for all involved, get the situation under control before your appointment.

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We don’t “wash” your hair—we “shampoo” it

We don’t “wash” your hair—we “shampoo” itiStock/Wavebreakmedia
When we’re trying to make you feel pampered, we can’t use the same word you use for doing dishes.

I’m a beautician, not a magician

I’m a beautician, not a magicianiStock/skynesher
I can give you Gisele Bündchen’s haircut, but I can’t give you her face.

Come at least five minutes early

Come at least five minutes earlyiStock/jrwasserman
If you’re running late, please call ahead. Show me some basic respect. This is a business, not fun and games.

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Don’t ask me to squeeze you in

Don’t ask me to squeeze you iniStock/monkeybusinessimages
My work takes time. When a client says she's in a rush, I tell her she needs to schedule her time better. If I’m already booked, I’d be taking time and effort away from other clients. You wouldn’t like being treated that way.

I’m not a psychologist

I’m not a psychologistiStock/Susan Chiang
Hairdresser school does not teach about counter transference, projection, negative reinforcement, or personality disorders. If you’re looking for a therapist, all I have is a tail comb and an opinion.

Layers are the magic remedy

Layers are the magic remedyiStock/stock_colors
Some women think that if they keep their hair all one length the way it was in high school, everyone will think they’re still in high school. Guess what? You’re not. As you get older, you need to soften the lines around your face.

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Bodies and hair change as hormones change

Bodies and hair change as hormones changeiStock/kzenon
If your hair is dry, listless, or brittle, or if it’s not holding your color or style the way it used to, see a doctor. If your hair isn’t overprocessed, you could be pregnant (surprise!) or menopausal (yes, I can tell).

A trim is not "just a trim"

A trim is not "just a trim"iStock/leaf
It requires my expertise, skill, knowledge, and time. Would you say to your dentist, “It’s just a tooth,” or to your doctor, "It’s just a leg"?

A dollar bill doesn’t buy anything anymore

A dollar bill doesn’t buy anything anymoreiStock/southerlycourse
That single bill you stuff into the shampoo person’s hands isn’t doing her any favors. You should tip her at least $3 (more if your hair is long).

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Let me do my job

Let me do my jobiStock/kot2626
If you want to buy a bottle of color and do your own hair to save a buck, you can live with the consequences.

Take a picture

Take a pictureiStock/skynesher
Some clients will say, "Cut my hair just like you did last time." That always baffles me. The average time between appointments is six to eight weeks. I have hundreds of clients. How am I supposed to remember exactly how I did your hair the last time? If you want a carbon copy of a cut and style you loved, take a picture and show me.

Kids' haircuts aren't child's play

Kids' haircuts aren't child's playiStock/BrantLeeMedia
Why do you think a child’s haircut should cost less than yours? Kids don’t sit still. Kids kick. It’s an intense experience.

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Standing all day and using scissors and a blow-dryer takes its toll

Standing all day and using scissors and a blow-dryer takes its tolliStock/Milan Markovic
I have arthritis in my fingers, calcium deposits in my wrist, and 10 percent less hearing than I used to. I am a physical wreck.

We see women at their worst

We see women at their worstiStock/Berc
Their hair is wet, they have foils on their hair, they have no makeup on. There’s nothing for them to hide behind. So they tell us everything. The truth is, I really don’t care about their personal lives. I’m only interested in their hair.

I'll work hard to make you happy and I'll want you to like it

I'll work hard to make you happy and I'll want you to like itiStock/ArtisticCaptures
After you leave my salon, I'll worry about what you think. (I work on people, not on cars on an assembly line.) And if you feel like calling to tell me how happy you are with my work, you will make me smile.

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For stylists, tips should be 15 to 20 percent of the total cost of your bill.

For stylists, tips should be 15 to 20 percent of the total cost of your bill.iStock/Steve Debenport
They are a significant portion of my pay. If you still me, I'll remember. And yes, salon owners who style hair do appreciate tips and want them.

Sure, you can bring your child or your dog in

Sure, you can bring your child or your dog iniStock/nemirkovic
As long as you control them. One of my clients used to bring her Great Dane in to all her appointments. He would curl up in the corner and sleep the entire time, so I don't mind. But if your baby or your dog starts bothering me or the other people in the salon, I won't be so easygoing.

I need to charge you for my time

I need to charge you for my timeiStock/leaf
No matter what you're having done. I am a trained professional.

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You represent me

You represent meiStock/ArtisticCaptures
So it's in my best interest for you to look good.

I am not all things to all people

I am not all things to all peopleiStock/AleksandarNakic
I don't have manicurists or masseuses in my salon because I'm a hairstylist.

I'm not in this business to make hundreds of thousands of dollars

I'm not in this business to make hundreds of thousands of dollarsiStock/webking
I just want to make a decent, comfortable living, and at the end of the day, go home.

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Men will tell you things they won't tell their wives

Men will tell you things they won't tell their wivesiStock/mediaphotos
"My throat hurts." "My back aches." They want a little sympathy, which maybe they can't get at home because their wives have heard it all before, or they're not listening. So they tell us. It's the only place they can unload.

Spend a little money on the right products

Spend a little money on the right productsiStock/kupicoo
Hot water removes color. The sun can dry your hair. So protect it as you would your skin. Cover it when you're outside in the sun. Wash and condition it properly.

If you cancel at the very last minute

If you cancel at the very last minuteiStock/Milan_Zokic
That's lost money to me. I can't fill that appointment with little or no notice.

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Putting too much junk in your hair will almost always kill a look

Putting too much junk in your hair will almost always kill a lookiStock/skynesher
The market is saturated with every possible product to make thin hair thick, dull hair shiny, and curly hair straight. But more is not more. Your hair wants to be healthy. That doesn’t mean trying to totally recreate it every day. Just help it a little. Let it do its thing.

Do not attempt hairstylist-speak

Do not attempt hairstylist-speakiStock/skynesher
Do you really know what "thinning" or "graduation" mean? Leave the terminology to the professionals.   Sources: Hairstylists Dawn Trudden in Wellington, Florida; Ericka Sandstrom in Aurora, Illinois; Megan Moore in Salt Lake City, Utah, who blogs at thebeautysnoop.com; and Jenny Strebe in Scottsdale, Arizona, who blogs at theconfessionsofahairstylist.com.

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10 thoughts on “38 Secrets Your Hair Stylist Won’t Tell You

  1. I have difficult hair…thick and coarse…I’ve worn my hair in an angled, stacked bob for years. Have had to recently switch to new stylists…whenever I mention how I like my hair, I get the, “you don’t want to do that” … and when it comes to bangs, I cannot make them understand that the way I want them is not the way they are cutting them…they tell me I don’t want to do that either…I never had this problem before…I don’t get it and am getting frustrated! I even take in pics of my hair how I would like it and they don’t even look or just barely glance…

  2. Just a word to the salon workers…..bear in mind there are literally thousands of you to choose from……..

  3. Reading this makes me even more thankful for my stylist! I’ve been going to the same women for 24 of my 28 years of life and she’s the most professional, humble and down to earth woman you could ask for, not to mention highly-skilled. She owns her own small 3 chair shop with her barber hubby…doesn’t get any better!

  4. While some of these are accurate (*for example, using the word ‘lightener’ instead of ‘bleach’), some of these aren’t so much. For example, I never note anything too personal in my client records; I’ll put your color formula and haircut shape and maybe a note about a vacation you’re taking so I can make sure your hair will look good through the trip. Also, right now a lot of salons run at least one special per month, especially brand-new salons. And for a first appointment, you should always get extra time and actually the best time is usually the first appointment of the day when the salon is a bit quieter and your stylist isn’t exhausted. Oh, and applying a random color when you don’t have what the client wants is just wrong, especially if she had an appointment; if you don’t have the right products for either the exact color or a formula that will match, PLEASE be honest and tell her that you’re sorry and you thought you had the right products but you’re out right now. Then, reschedule her but treat her to a glossing treatment or deep conditioner or something that will provide her with excellent customer service.

  5. I think most stylists have become full of themselves. I have been doing promotions for salons and spas for 25 years and during that time the stylists have gone from normal people doing their job well (most of the time) to arrogant “artists” thinking they’re doing me a favor.
    I’ve got my haircut down by this time and ironically I cut my own hair. I say ‘ironic’ because I deal with owners of salons/spas and stylists all week long, every week day of the year.
    Just goes to show you how bad it has become.

  6. As a former salon customer, I wish stylists wouldn’t get too personal. Some people don’t want you to pry. That’s why I stopped going because so many go to far with it. I went to a salon only recently on my birthday only because my mom was paying. I was so relieved the stylist asked no personal questions.

  7. There are plenty of high end salons that do discounts for multiple services. All professional hair products are just as high quality as each other, every cosmetologist BY LAW has to have continuing eduction and it isn’t rude to ask for a discount. Most (99%) of stylist are more than happy to give you one (even at high end salons). Because most likely you will become a repeat customer and give a better tip. I hope I NEVER step foot in your salon “Salon Fringe” it sounds like you and your employees are uptight and money hungry.

  8. I am so glad I’m loyal to my hairdresser so there’s no chance that I’d ever have to have whoever wrote this for my hairdresser. My current hairdresser is nothing like and does nothing like what this person wrote. I’m sure there are people out there who run their shop’s as previously mentioned in the post but that does certainly not mean all are so terrible.

  9. As a salon owner and stylist #5,6 & 7 are not true. #5 If your going to a high end salon your first appointment will have more time booked for it even if it is a Saturday. #6 If your going to a high end salon there are no muti service discount, you pay for the higher quality products, continued education and our artistic expertise and it’s just rude to ask us to cheapen our work so just don’t. #7 Good luck getting a quality service from any daily deals website, any business willing to discount their services by 40 – 50% and then pay the website 50% of that is sold really needs you in their establishment and there is a reason why, reasons most people wish they had never experienced. If it sounds to good it most likely is.

    1. Ive been to “high end” salons and and when I got home and brushed it out found out my hair one side was longer than the other! Turns out the b:tch was drunk. Education, high end product dont make up for the people. You can call yourself what you want but still really just a barber but go ahead and call yourself an “artist” if it makes you feel better. Its not like you went to L’ecole du Louvre of hair. Probably local hair school. Nothing wrong with using a groupon to bring in new customers. You are way to pretentious for someone who just went to beauty school, which by the way, anyone can get into. Some of the best hair cuts I’ve received where from descent priced, down to earth hairdressers. Not “artists”. They just want to be hairdressers and are dang good at it.

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