10 Things Your Hairstylist Secretly Wishes You Knew

We clear up your big questions, from cell phone use to why your stylist doesn’t think platinum blond is a great idea.

July 21, 2017
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I used to worry what my hairstylist thought of me each time I paid him a visit. Honestly, I was terrible at keeping up with my hair and would show up with split ends and a brassy red color I had randomly selected from the drugstore. 

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I would sit in the chair and wonder if he was judging me and my damaged hair or if he simply didn’t care what I did with my locks as long as paid him.

As it turns out, your stylist probably isn’t concerned with judging your past hair choices but they do care a lot about helping you take better care of your hair. There are a lot of other things you hairstylist wishes you knew, but they can’t quite get themselves to spit out the words and risk offending or losing a client.

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So we did the digging around for you. We cleared up a few myths and got to the bottom of some those nagging questions we know you’ve been dying to ask.

1. The Truth About Your Cell Phone

Think twice before you pick up your phone. Although most stylists won’t care all that much if you respond to a text, a phone call is different story, according to one colorist from San Diego, who urged clients not to pick up their phone during their session. Another stylist said she didn’t have a hard and fast rule about cell phones, but she did care if it kept her from her work.

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“As long as they aren’t in my way or delaying my work, then I don’t care,” Amanda Gratto, master stylist and owner of Salon Gratto in Kansas City told me. “But the truth is, most of the time they do delay my work. Usually a client walks in on their phone and it delays my consultation. So in reality, they are late for their appointment.”

Leave your phone in your bag if possible, and if you have to check your phone or return a call, let it wait until your color is processing so you aren’t using up your stylist’s time.

2. All color jobs are not created equal.

When you call to set up your appointment, you really need to be up front about what you are expecting. This is especially true if you plan to have your hair colored, since more complicated jobs can take hours to complete.

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“Don’t schedule a new-growth touch up and then ask for an ombre,” Gratto said. “We don’t have time scheduled for that!”

3. The Difference Between Friends and Friendly

If you get the sense that your stylist likes you, they probably do! Still, that doesn’t mean they don’t have boundaries set up to balance their work and life. So don’t be offended if they don’t respond to your midnight hair questions or if they don’t have time in their schedule to listen to you chat after your appointment is through.

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One stylist told me she secretly wishes her clients knew that as much as she loves her job, it is still a job. No one wants to be on call 24/7, and maintaining boundaries in her relationships with clients is just one way she keeps a healthy work/life balance.

4. About That Free Therapy Session

Do you ever find yourself trying to keep the conversation going with your stylist during your appointment? Even though your stylist is happy to chat, don’t feel like you have to keep up the conversation to entertain them or avoid awkwardness.

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“Most stylists are social, but we don’t need to talk,” a colorist based in San Diego told me. “It is not awkward. Quiet clients can be a special treat and you might get a better result.”

5. Platinum blonde isn’t in your future.

A good stylist won’t sacrifice the health of your hair to give you your dream color, according to Gratto. She told me that she wishes her clients knew how to set realistic expectations based on their hair and its unique characteristics.

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It’s important to understand that doing too much to your hair too quickly can cause significant damage. This knowledge will also keep you from being disappointed if your stylist isn’t willing to take your hair to platinum blonde in one sitting. She isn’t trying to be a buzzkill, she’s trying to saving your hair from irreversible damage.

6. Empty chairs equal empty bank accounts.

“I don’t think most people understand how we actually make money,” Gratto told me. “I think most people assume we get paid by a boss or something, but if we don’t have a client in our chair we are actually not making any money.”

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Why is this so important for you to know? Because last-minute cancellations are a huge stressor for hairstylists. When you don’t show up for your appointment or if you call the day of to cancel, your stylist probably won’t have time to rebook your appointment.

This means they won’t be making any money during the hour or two they set aside for you.

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“We understand when a circumstance comes up, and unplanned emergencies happen,” Kansas City stylist Joanna Freisner told me. “If you don’t show up to your appointment we don’t get paid! And it also took that appointment away from someone else who would have liked to come in.”

7. Here’s a tip on tipping your stylist.

“We have a preset tipping amount that our clients can choose from,” explained Gratto. “It is entirely based on what they want to do, but usually we tell them that tipping is for exceptional service.”

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That said, tipping is definitely appreciated by your stylist. How much is expected? You can tip whatever you like, but the average falls somewhere between 15 and 25 percent of the cost of your service.

There also seems to be a misconception that salon owners shouldn’t be tipped for a color or cut, according to Gratto, who said some clients seem to believe that tipping an owner is either against a rule or simply unneeded. That couldn’t be further from the truth; salon owners always appreciate a good tip.

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Here’s the real secret about tipping: It pays to take care of your stylist.

“People who tip you and people who tip you well, who take care of you financially, are going to get a lot more perks,” one stylist told me. “If they need to move their appointment at the last minute or need me to help them out with something, of course I am going to go above and beyond for them. It’s that way the world works.”

8. You get what you pay for.

Of course, the cost of getting your hair done can vary greatly depending on your expectations, but you really do get what you pay for when it comes to the quality of your hairstyle.

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“I can’t speak for all hairstylists, but there is a reason things cost as much as they do,” Gratto explained. “Because of our education and our time. Especially specialty services or corrective color. It takes a lot of time, and my time is what costs the most money.”

9. They know how you feel about your shampoo.

Most people love getting their hair shampooed by their stylist, so you probably don’t need to make a point to express how amazing it feels. In fact, people who are super into it make stylists a little uncomfortable. Close your eyes and enjoy your scalp massage in silence, keep the sighs and moans to yourself, please!

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“We make fun of the clients who make upside-down eye contact with us at the shampoo bowl and the moaners!”

10. The Dirty Secret About Washing Your Hair

So, what about those hair products your stylist is always trying to sell you after she colors your hair? She’s probably just trying to make extra money, right?

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Wrong. Hairstylists make very little from their product sales, so you can believe that they really do love the products they recommend. Even more importantly, they want to see you take good care of your new cut and color.

“It is hard for me to understand why so many women will spend so much on coloring their hair but they won’t take my product recommendations,” said Gratto. “I’m really suggesting what I think is best for your hair. I want your color to last and your hair to stay healthy, I’m not making enough off the products I sell for it to be about the money!”

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When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask your hairstylist exactly what they think about something you’re unsure about. Remember, they’re on your side and their ultimate goal is that you leave their salon with healthy hair that makes you feel confident and comfortable.

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