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Hairstylists are so much more than just “that person who cuts my hair.” Case in point: that time you used your appointment as your personal therapy session and vented about your roommate issues for the entire duration of your cut (no judgment). In the end, we want to make our hairstylists happy, because they, in turn, make us very, very happy.
But beyond standard tipping rules, there’s a lot of gray area—which is exactly why we asked four celeb hairstylists all the questions you might feel too awkward to ask on your own. Hairstylists Anh Co Tran, Tanya Abriol, Nick Stenson, and Matthew Monzon give us the scoop on what you should really do if you’re running late or unsatisfied with your cut, how much to tip your hairdresser, and more. Keep scrolling to read what they want clients to know about hair salon etiquette.
Running Late to an Appointment
Sure, we all want to be on time, but the reality is that, well, things come up. Your hairdresser will understand, won't they? I mean, there has to be a grace period for hair appointment tardiness, right? Tran says, "Typically, 15 minutes is too late because we work in 15-minute intervals here at the salon. If a client shows up super late, it causes me to run late the rest of my day." Abrio agrees: "Showing up 15 minutes late really is the limit, taking in consideration that typically each service takes an hour. Consulting what you want to change about your look, getting washed, and settled in takes another 15 minutes… At that point, it has run into 30 minutes of your appointment time."
So in case you find yourself running a bit behind for your hair appointment, Monzon recommends "you should really call the salon and let them know. It’s a courtesy that really helps all people involved: the stylist, the receptionist, the next client, and yourself." As to when you should call, Abrio says, "at least 30 minutes before [your] appointment time. Stylists will, at that point, need to adjust the rest of their day so clients after them aren’t waiting." And if you happen to know earlier in the day that you're going to be late to your appointment, it's better to give the salon a heads up then or "ASAP," says Tran.
When to Consider Rescheduling
Based on how late you expect to be, Stenson recommends "Clients should give the salon a courtesy call and be given the option of rescheduling." If you find yourself creeping over the 15 to 20-minute grace period, well, "don’t always expect your stylist or the receptionist to be able to sort it out," says Monzon. He adds, "If you’re running more than 30 minutes late, you should plan on either rescheduling your appointment or know that you may have to wait some time. Know that your hairdresser wants to make you happy and help make you beautiful. But by being late, you’re cutting into everybody else’s time."
Know that your hairdresser wants to make you happy and help make you beautiful. But by being late, you’re cutting into everybody else’s time.
What to Do While in the Chair
Today, with technology on overdrive, so much of our lives can be spent without any real human interaction (think: online shopping, food delivery apps, and the list goes on). And while we are proponents of convenience, there's something satisfying about in-person experiences—sometimes a visit to the salon is just what the doctor ordered. For many of us, our hairdressers are more than just stylists, they can serve as soundboards for our pent-up frustrations or even act as great sources of sage advice. But how do stylists feel about their client's chit-chat?
Stenson says, "Listening is part of the business of a hairdresser. We expect to know things about our clients, and frankly, we’re here to listen." But, when it comes to oversharing, Monzon says, "Depending on your relationship with your stylist, it can be a bit awkward when you share intimate or personal information. As relationships continue and you get to know someone better, maybe then a bit more information is acceptable. But if you think it may be a bit too risqué or politically charged, it probably is."
Overall, "The salon experience is different for everybody. Some prefer to just take the time for themselves and not chat; some may want to chat about the latest gossip. The most important thing is to start a conversation with your stylist about the service that you want done with your hair," says Monzon.
Bring pictures and references to show what is inspiring you so that you and your stylist are clear on what the finished result should be. That should always be the first conversation.
Stenson believes in making the most of your salon visit, especially when it comes to getting your stylist's professional advice. He says, "I especially enjoy when clients are interested in making sure to take the best precautions to take care of their hair and ask me for recommendations. Right now I’m loving Matrix Biolage ExquisiteOil Protective Treatment ($18). It provides a lightweight replenishment and is great for all hair types. I recommend it to all of my clients!"
The Rules of Using Your Cell Phone
Nowadays, our cell phones have become extensions of ourselves. We take them everywhere we go, including the salon. Abrio acknowledges the trend and says, "Being on the phone texting during an appointment is such a common thing now. I think if you’re in the middle of a conversation, it’s rude, but if it’s not affecting the stylist and their work, it’s fine."
As for phone calls, however, Tran takes a firmer position: "It’s not okay. It gets in the way almost 100% of the time." Stenson adds, "Talking on the phone makes it difficult for a hairdresser to work and is very rude. The stylist and client need to have a mutual respect."
If you are expecting an important phone call, it's best to tell your hairstylist. They might not have a problem with it as long as you you're courteous and let them know beforehand.
Monzon adds, "Texting and cell phone usage have changed the way hairdressers work." He goes on to offer us his advice when he says, "Timing is important. For example, if you’re getting color applied, most likely it’s fine. If you're getting a sharp, one-length haircut where the balance is important, it’s definitely not a good time to be chatting or texting. But being in the salon, you should use the time to unplug, relax, and enjoy the experience of being taken care of."
How Much to Tip Your Stylist
When it comes to tipping, "the standard practice among satisfied clients tends to be 20%" according to Tran and Stenson. Abrio adds, "Tips are a funny thing. I personally always tip according to my experience. I hate the percentage rule. It’s a good guideline, but a tip is a gift, and it’s such a personal situation."
Typically, it's not just your stylist who is serving you, but their assistants, as well. Whether you should be tipping the person shampooing your hair, Trans responds, "Absolutely. My assistants work very hard to keep my day running smoothly and help the client have a satisfactory experience at the salon. Anywhere from $10 to $40."
Monzon explains, "When it comes to the assistants, know that these people are training to become better and more knowledgeable hairdressers. They’re living on the tips that they’re making. When someone knows how to rinse all that color out of your hair and gives you an amazing shampoo and scalp massage, all while keeping you dry, that’s when you can decide how much it’s worth. I know many clients think of the shampoo and scalp massage as their favorite part of the salon experience."
But what about if you're unsatisfied? Should you still tip then? And if so, how much? Our four celeb stylists all agreed that they don't expect clients to tip if they are not satisfied. "If a client is still unhappy after I’ve tried fixing their haircut, I wouldn’t expect them to tip. I would expect little or no tip until you redeem yourself the next time," says Abrio.
What If You Don’t Like Your Hair
Unfortunately, not all salon visits meet your expectations. Sometimes your new 'do can leave you feeling underwhelmed, if not, disappointed. Just know this: If you find yourself unhappy with your cut or style, all is not lost. Our hairstylists all agree that if you're not satisfied with your hair, you should definitely speak up immediately so the issue can be resolved. "Clients should never leave the salon unhappy," says Stenson. And while the earlier you say something the better, Abrio adds, "Even if a client calls up two weeks later, they should feel comfortable calling and speaking up. Trust me, we’d rather make you happy than lose you as a client… most of the time."
So let's say that a client does decide to come back to the salon to fix a haircut or color they were unsatisfied with, should they still tip? Stenson believes, "If it’s a return visit, tipping is again a personal preference based on the circumstances. It’s always appreciated but not expected."
Monzon elaborates, "If a client wants to change their long hair to a more modern length and then decides two days later they don’t like it, I think expecting any sort of compensation or refund would be completely inappropriate. But if they’re returning to fix or modify a haircut and the outcome is positive, I think the tip is at the client’s discretion."
While hairstylists are happy to oblige unsatisfied clients on a return visit, this is not ideal for them nor the client. Ideally, clients would be happy after their original appointment. "A client being unhappy is an unfortunate situation," says Monzon. So to ensure clients leave satisfied, he emphasizes "this is why references and inspiration pictures are important. Also, being upfront about the past history of your hair is very, very important, especially when it comes to chemical services."