13 Things Hair Stylists Won’t Tell You

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

By Michelle Crouch
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine December 2013
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    The clients I dread the most are those who say things like “Do whatever you want” or “I’m pretty easy to work with."

    Nine times out of ten, it’s not true.



    We know you hate the word bleach, 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

    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.



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

    But really it's 2:30.


    If there’s one rule to live by, it’s this: 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, and ask for one if it doesn’t.

    Doing both together eliminates some steps and should save you about 20 percent.


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

    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.

    If your hair still contains moisture, the iron will damage it.


    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 the previous time—I don’t say anything and just mix something new.

    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, 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.

    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.


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

    When we’re trying to make you feel pampered, we can’t use the same word you use for doing dishes. 

    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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    Your Comments

    • MyHairMakesOrBreaksMyDay

      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…

    • Steph

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

    • Erin

      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!

    • The Snow Rose

      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.

    • Jack Madison

      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.

    • terririmmer

      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.

    • MNCosmetologist

      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.

    • luna

      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.

    • Salon Fringe

      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.

      • Lily

        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.