There’s no denying that a visit to the hair salon—however liberating or life-changing it may be—can also lead to some potential awkwardness. For example, what do you do when you’re less than crazy about your new cut and style? Or, what if you come in knowing exactly what you want, but your hairstylist has other ideas? We’ve all been there, which is why we decided it was about time we put together a definitive guide on salon etiquette. And to make sure we weren’t being one-sided, we spoke with Neil Weisberg, celeb hairstylist and co-owner of Mèche Salon, and asked him to school us from a stylist’s perspective. Welcome to Salon Etiquette 101: class is now in session.
Your hairdresser spins you around, you look at the bombshell staring back at you in the mirror, and cry tears of happiness—in other words, you’re obsessed with your new cut. What next? “The average tip [satisfied] clients leave their stylist is 20 to 25% of the service amount,” Weisberg says. One thing he says to remember: assistant gratuities aren’t usually included with the tip you leave your stylist, so leave something for them separately, usually $2 to $8, if they did an outstanding job.
“If a client leaves the salon, gets home, and decides they are unhappy, the first thing they should do is call and let the salon know,” Weisberg. In other words, now is not the time to be coy. He says that in most cases, the stylist will arrange to have their client come back in as soon as possible. “[We want to] fulfill the client’s needs and take care of any problems they may be seeing with their hair!” he says.
So you come in with a picture of Emma Watson’s pixie, but your stylist warns that it won’t flatter your face shape. Awkwardness ensues. “A lot of time, clients [will] bring in pictures of celebrities with completely different hair, or a different skin tone,” Weisberg says. “As stylists, we can recommend and alternative color or style that may better suit the client’s face shape or hair texture.” Key word: recommend. Your stylist should be able to suggest alternatives that may be more flattering, but in the end, you are in charge of your own fate—er, hair. If you’re 100% sure about a certain cut or style, don’t be afraid to stick to your conviction. “Hopefully, you and your stylist can come to a compromise that you are both happy with,” Weisberg says.
How late is too late? “A good rule of thumb is [no more than] 15 minutes,” Weisberg says. “Depending on how busy your stylist or colorist is, they will have different policies on how late you can show up before you have to reschedule.” If you’re stuck in traffic and the clock is ticking, call your salon immediately—Weisberg says they will be able to tell you right away how much time you have until they give up your spot.
In general, if you’re unsure about policies, it’s always best to call the salon before your appointment and ask. Every place will have different rules regarding cancellations, first-time customers, discounts, and more—there’s no shame in wanting to be clear before you commit.
Oh, and one last word of advice from Weisberg: “If you see your stylist or colorist with another client, wait until they’ve finished to go over and start a conversation or consultation,” he says. “While your stylist might not mind, his or her client might feel as though you’re taking attention away from their appointment.” In other words, follow the hair version of the Golden Rule.