As a hairstylist and colorist, I get asked a lot of questions. The majority are garden-variety about styling techniques, hair trends, and product recommendations. These inquiries are not the subject of this post. Instead, I’m going to share some of the other questions I’m frequently asked – the ones I can tell people are hesitant to ask. These are the topics that come up when I’m at a party or event after people learn I’m a hairstylist. Some are about hair and scalp issues and others are more about stylists themselves and the business of being a beauty professional.
Maybe there are a few things you are curious about but don’t feel comfortable asking? Below, I address some of the less openly discussed questions I hear. Of course, these are only my opinions. I can’t speak for all stylists but I’m fairly confident that these are solid, albeit generalized, answers.
1. Will my stylist get mad if I “cheat” on him/her?
Doubtful. There are many relationships in life that demand faithfulness; in my humble opinion, the one you have with your stylist isn’t one of them. It’s a big world of options out there. Maybe you got curious, maybe you got desperate and your stylist was booked, maybe someone gave you a gift certificate, or maybe you were on vacation. Whatever the reason, you strayed, you came back — and that should make your stylist happy, not angry.
2. I have psoriasis/eczema/dandruff. Will my stylist get grossed out?
No, of course not. Any experienced hairstylist or colorist has seen these issues time and time again. We are professionals who are trained to recognize these and other scalp problems. Unless you have a contagious condition like lice or ringworm or open sores (due to bloodborne pathogens) you are fine to visit the salon.
3. Can I ask my hairstylist to trim my facial hair?
Yes! Most stylists and barbers are happy to trim eyebrows, mustaches, or beards. If it’s a small request, like evening out sideburns or buzzing off a few errant ear hairs, feel free to ask at your appointment. For more detailed requests, mention it while booking your appointment so that the stylist or receptionist can build in extra time if necessary. FYI, you are on your own when it comes to nose hair and inner ear hair.
4. What can I do about thinning hair?
Thinning hair can be a touchy subject for both men and women but I’d encourage everyone experiencing hair loss to talk to both their stylist and their doctor. Your doctor can help you rule out any medical conditions or vitamin deficiencies that can contribute to excessive shedding and discuss treatment options with you. Minoxidil (Rogaine), which is now available over the counter, is FDA approved to treat thinning hair for both men and women. Men can also talk to their primary care physician or dermatologist about adding finasteride (Propecia), an oral medication that inhibits the conversion of testosterone into hair follicle-shrinking androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
If you aren’t ready for the pharmaceutical route, laser treatments, vitamin and mineral formulas, and other topical treatments may be helpful and your hairstylist can suggest haircuts, hair color services, products, and styling techniques to make hair appear fuller.
5. Why does my stylist always take off more length than I wanted?
For clients who are growing their hair, it can be really frustrating to lose length. This used to drive me batty myself, but at some point during beauty school, I got it.
If your ends are damaged, it starts to split and break. They unfortunately split and break at different rates. For many, hair grows unevenly as well. (I had a client whose hair always grew longer on the left side.) So, if it’s been a while since your last cut, chances are that your ends are pretty uneven. Stylists will always try to correct this even if you desire a thin and choppy perimeter. Why? Because hair that is breaking will not get longer. Sure, it’s still growing from the follicle but it’s snapping off at the ends. And it looks awful.
6. Why do I have to tip when services are already so expensive?
Oh, the elephant in the room! No worries, it’s a valid question. Most stylists only receive a percentage of what you pay for a service. At my last salon, my commission was 30-40 percent. Hours spent in the salon during downtime, no shows, cancellations, and meetings are unpaid. It’s extremely rare to have any paid vacation time or sick days and evenings, weekends, and holidays are the hardest days to miss, financially. (Can’t anyone just get married on a Monday?) Additionally, hairstylists are typically responsible for all their own tools (shears, razors, clippers, trimmers, brushes, combs, clips, curling irons, flat irons, etc) as well as license fees including the education needed to renew said license. Some salons even charge their stylists a product fee per client to cover the cost of hair color and styling products.
Yes, it can cost a lot to have your hair professionally done and you should do what you feel is right. I simply hope this explains why tipping salon professionals is a societal norm and why your tip is so well appreciated by your stylist and/or colorist.
7. What about tipping the owner or an assistant that gives me a shampoo or blowout?
In the past, it was not customary to tip a salon owner but times have changed. The majority of salon owners will accept tips and they are appreciated.
You do not have to tip an assistant, but I can tell you from having been there that even very small tips ($1-2) are greatly appreciated. It’s a nice token of appreciation for a job well done. In my humble opinion, you don’t have to tip an assistant on top of a 15-20 percent tip for the stylist. It’s fine to divvy up this percentage.
8. Why does my stylist always try to sell me products at the salon?
Most stylists do get a commission on products sold, but believe it or not, that’s not typically the primary motivation. Recommending products is a natural extension of the job and an important part of the service. People come to hair professionals with problems, issues, and complaints about their hair and we are in the business of resolving them. Often a product (or products) is part of the “treatment.” Can you imagine going to a dermatologist or aesthetician with a skin issue and leaving without a product recommendation to address it?
No one wants you to buy a product that you don’t want. Believe me, it’s not worth losing a client’s trust. What we do want is for you to have the tools to have the healthiest possible hair and to be able to style it in a way that makes you feel beautiful. We also know that the products on our shelves have come direct from the manufacturer. Because of this, they are guaranteed to be fresh and are typically less expensive than at a third party distributor like a drug store.
9. One hairstylist told me X and another told me Y. What gives?
One generalization I can make about hair professionals is that we are an opinionated lot. The truth is hairstyling and hair-coloring are a combination of art and science and there are a lot of ways to get from point A to point B. Many stylists disagree on a number of subjects from haircutting techniques to how often you should wash your hair. The best advice I can give is to choose a stylist you trust and stick with their advice.
10. Is it hard to deal with people?
Well, sure. Sometimes.
I’m a pretty social person and I particularly enjoy one-on-one time with others. I have very genuine affection for my clients and many have become friends. People have an attachment to their hair and it certainly has an effect on their self-esteem. This is equally true of men and women. While it can be challenging, this intimacy is also the greatest reward. I’m privy to insecurities and have the opportunity to make people feel great about themselves. When a client leaves happy and smiling, it leaves me happy and smiling.
On the flip side, when someone is unhappy, it can really be crushing. This was much more difficult when I was starting out. Over time, you learn that some clients need time to warm up to a new look and others are simply having a really bad day. Sometimes you just aren’t a good fit style-wise. No one stylist is the right stylist for every person and that’s ok.
If you are unhappy with a salon service, it’s important to let the stylist know — without berating or belittling them. (Anyone who works in a salon has seen full-grown adults have the most massive tantrums!) Give them a chance to remedy the situation … you may be surprised!
Is there something I missed? Please leave your question in the comments below or contact me via email.More On