You've finally made it to the salon and are ready to get a new look when your hairdresser inspects your strands and asks the big question: "So what are we thinking today?"
But have you ever wondered what your stylist is actually thinking?
Well, wonder no more — we went behind the salon chair to find out what's really going through your hairdresser's mind during your appointment and what they wish more clients knew.
1. Have realistic expectations for your service.
While social media is great for inspiration, those Instagram videos showing a drastic hair makeover in 60 seconds can give people a false sense of how long those processes take from start to finish. Research your service and be prepared if your stylist says your revamp will take a few appointments.
“Much like Rome wasn’t built in a day, a complete transformation can take multiple sessions,” says Tiffany Daniels, a hairstylist at Studio B in Olympia, Washington, and hair care educator with the hair-treatment company Olaplex. “We’re not telling you it’s going to take that long because we’re incapable of doing it faster or we’re lazy or we’re trying to get more money out of you. It’s because we want to do it correctly and safely.”
Emphasis on the “safely” part: “We don’t want to shock your hair. We want to protect your hair. We want to make sure that it’s healthy. It could be a great color, but if it doesn’t look healthy, it’s going to look terrible and feel terrible, and you’re not going to be satisfied.”
So have some patience and a bit of faith in the process. By the end, you won’t regret it.
2. Home care is crucial.
Home care is equally as important as care in a salon, according to Daniels, so that means being mindful of the products you’re using regularly.
“A comparison that a lot of us like to give when it comes to proper home care is: Would you wash a brand new Mercedes with Dawn dish detergent? No,” Daniels says. “You’re going to want to use something that’s salon-quality and something that’s actually been referred to you by a hairstylist.”
Some of those products may have higher price tags than those of drugstore brands, but hair care is not something to skimp on. “A lot of people worry about the cost,” Daniels says, “but if you’re spending $200 on your hair (in the salon), why don’t you spend $25 on your home care? You’re protecting your investment.”
Ask your stylist to recommend shampoos, conditioners and other products based on your hair texture, care habits and styling routines. Also, Daniels says to beware of bottles labeled “salon-quality” but purchased outside a salon — they’re likely deceiving you.
3. Get to your appointment on time. Really.
“One late appointment can throw our entire day off,” Daniels says. “If our first appointment of the day is 10 minutes late, it’s only going to snowball. ... Not only does that make us look bad, but it’s also inconveniencing every single client for the rest of the day.”
But they get it — sometimes traffic’s bad or you left your wallet behind or the universe just wasn't on your side that day. They just ask that if you’re going to be late, respect the stylist’s and fellow clients’ time by calling the salon so they can plan accordingly.
And be considerate! "If you’re going to show up late with a coffee in your hand," Daniels adds, "there better be one for us, too!”
4. Get specific about your hair history.
Communication between the client and the stylist is key, Daniels says. Not only should you come prepared with photos of the look you’re trying to achieve, but also provide details about your hair history.
What does that mean exactly? “Mention you’ve been box-dyeing your hair or that you’ve been using a certain type of shampoo that can cause buildup or that you use well water or that you flat-iron every day,” she says. This is especially important if you’ve used chemicals on your hair, such as dye, perms or relaxers.
“All of these things factor into how we’re going to conduct the service. No detail is too mundane.”
5. Speak up if you’re unhappy with the results.
Stylists want you to leave the salon happy just as much as you do.
“Hair is the crown you never take off. It is the ultimate accessory,” Daniels says. So don’t be afraid to let your stylist know if your service didn’t turn out the way you wanted. Most of the time, “it really does just come down to a few minor adjustments,” Daniels says. It's worth speaking up so the stylist can make some tweaks: “Something that could take 15 to 20 minutes, and then you’re in love with your hair.”
Daniels adds that hairdressers truly do appreciate your feedback: “That’s how we grow as stylists.”
6. Don’t negotiate pricing.
“It happens more often than you would think,” Daniels says of clients who try to bargain down the price of a service. “We don’t pull these prices out of the air. It’s a fun job, and we’re having a good time, but at the end of the day, this is how we make our living. There are a lot of factors we have to consider when we list our prices.”
Some of those factors include paying for supplies, insurance, and classes to stay up to date on trends and techniques, all of which is reflected in pricing. “Most of what we’re charging, we’re not taking home," she says. "We’re putting it directly back into our business so we can serve you as best we can.”
7. Stylists really, truly value their relationships with you.
To your stylist, you’re not just somebody whose hair they cut. You’re a person with whom they form a real bond and they’re invested in that relationship as much as you are.
“Who else, besides your mother when you were a little kid, washes your hair?” Daniels says. “That’s such an intimate experience. We’re in your personal bubble.
“I think that that can make a person feel vulnerable and allow them to open up in ways they wouldn’t open up to somebody else. They say a hairstylist appointment is the best therapy session you’ll ever have.”