38 Secrets Your Hair Stylist Won’t Tell You

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

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. If you're not sure exactly how much lighter your hair should be, here's how to find the best hair color for your skin tone.

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

iStock/Michal Krakowiak

But really it's at 2:30.

Content continues below ad

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. And definitely make sure you're familiar with these hairstyle terms everyone should know before their next appointment.

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

iStock/petek arici

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. These are the 8 rules to keep thin hair healthy.

Content continues below ad

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. These are the safest ways to use heat on your hair.

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


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, don't ignore these clear signs of head lice and get the situation under control before your appointment.

Content continues below ad

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.

I’m a beautician, not a magician


I can give you Gisele Bündchen’s haircut, but I can’t give you her face. If you're after the shiny locks all models seem to possess, your best bet is these 13 stylist-approved tricks for shiny hair.

Come at least five minutes early


If you’re running late, please call ahead. Show me some basic respect. This is a business, not fun and games.

Don’t ask me to squeeze you in


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.

Content continues below ad

I’m not a psychologist

iStock/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. Instead, try focusing on these questions your hair stylist wants you to start asking.

Layers are the magic remedy


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. Don't fall for these hairstyle mistakes that age your face.

Bodies and hair change as hormones change


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). In the meantime, try out these home remedies for dry and damaged hair.

A trim is not “just a trim”


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"?

Content continues below ad

A dollar bill doesn’t buy anything anymore


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).

Let me do my job


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


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. I already know which are the best haircuts for every face shape, but 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


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.

Content continues below ad

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

iStock/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


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


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.

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.

Content continues below ad

Sure, you can bring your child or your dog in


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. (These are the craziest things hairdressers have seen at work.)

I need to charge you for my time


No matter what you're having done. I am a trained professional.

You represent me


So it's in my best interest for you to look good.

I am not all things to all people


I don't have manicurists or masseuses in my salon because I'm a hairstylist.

Content continues below ad

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


I just want to make a decent, comfortable living, and at the end of the day, go home.

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


"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


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. Try out these 11 tricks to have healthy hair all summer long.

If you cancel at the very last minute


That's lost money to me. I can't fill that appointment with little or no notice.

Content continues below ad

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


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. Don't miss these ways to have gorgeous hair without expensive products.

Do not attempt hairstylist-speak


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.

View as Slideshow

Want to stay smart and healthy?

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.