12 Questions About Salon Etiquette, Answered

There are certain life lessons they should teach in school, although they never will. I'm talking about stuff like how to file your taxes (seriously, why don't they teach this?), how to act during a job interview, and how much you should tip your hairdresser when you visit the salon. (Well, really, how much you should tip anyone ever, but let's do one thing at a time.) No one gets a basic crash course on salon etiquette (except maybe professionals), and so we're left to trade advice with random people, go with our instinct, and hope for the best.

But if you're someone who visits the salon quite often, you really should know basic manners for how to act when getting your hair done. Treating your hair stylist, shampoo girl, and the salon secretary the right way can only benefit you. If they like you, they're more likely to give you a better appointment, to hook you up with little surprises, and maybe even help you out with the price. Also, treating your stylist nicely is just the right thing to do.

You probably have at least one question about how to act in a salon that you're too embarrassed to ask your hairdresser or any of your friends. After all, do you really want to admit to someone that you haven't been tipping people you should be tipping for the last few years? This will solve your problems. Here are 12 salon etiquette questions you've been too embarrassed to ask, answered:

1. Should you tip the stylist assistant, and if so, how much?

Short answer: yes. Long answer: If the assistant is only washing your hair, you really only need to tip about $1 - $3. If the assistant is doing more, like washing your hair, brushing it out, and then drying it, you should leave about $5 - $7. Assistants need tips just like the stylists do, so don’t forget about them completely. If you’re really broke and they’re just washing your hair, $2 is sufficient.

2. How do you tell your stylist you don't like what they just did to your hair?

If your stylist does something you really don't like, you should absolutely tell him/her. Acting like you like it isn't doing you any favors. However, even if you really hate it, don't freak out. Making a dramatic scene is going to make your stylist defensive, hurt, and angry, and you don't want that. Instead, be as calm as possible. Firmly but politely tell your stylist exactly what you don't like.

If you feel really uncomfortable about telling your stylist, tell the owner or the manager of the salon privately. Another note: If you're familiar with this stylist and normally like their work, you can give them a chance to try to fix things. If this is a new stylist you don't know very well, don't give them a second chance. Go to someone you're more comfortable with.

3. Is it acceptable to ask for a refund or a free service if they don't offer after messing up?

In most cases, a salon owner or stylist will offer you a refund or a free service if you're really unhappy with what they did. But if they don't offer and you feel really angry or upset about what happened, you can ask. Make it clear that you're very unhappy and you don't feel like you got your money's worth. If you don't make a scene, they should oblige.

4. What should you do if you decide you want to go to a different stylist in that salon?

It's awkward enough to break up with your stylist, but it's even more awkward if you want to break up with them to go to another stylist in the same salon. But it happens, and it's not the end of the world. If this is what's going on, talk to the manager or owner of the salon and let them handle it. Explain why you want to switch, and let them with your old stylist.

5. How much of a tip should you leave your stylist?

Your stylist lives off tips, so you should obviously always tip him/her. If you're pleased with the result, leave a 15-20 percent tip — 15 percent for good service, 20 percent for exceptional service. If you've been going to the same stylist for a long time and they always go above and beyond, you should try leaving at least 20 percent every time.

6. Is it rude to get annoyed if your stylist is running behind on appointment time?

Although waiting is annoying, it's also understandable. Things happen, clients show up late, and it can end up backing up your stylists' whole day. If it only happens once in a while and you're only waiting about 15-20 minutes, then try to be patient. If you're waiting a very long time every time you go, speak up. Maybe they need to fix the way they're scheduling appointments.

7. What should you do if you need to cancel your appointment at the last minute?

It's common courtesy to give at least 24 hours notice before you cancel an appointment. But, you know, shit happens, and sometimes there's nothing you can do about it. In general, don't cancel at the last minute unless you absolutely have to — your stylist should be more understanding in that case. And if you have to, just call and explain the situation, and be really apologetic.

8. Is it rude to tell a stylist exactly what you want in a lot of detail?

It's totally fine and acceptable to tell your stylist exactly what you want, and to bring in photos of the hairstyle you want. The only time it gets rude is when you start to tell them how to cut your hair, or what you think they're doing wrong. Think of it as being a backseat driver.

9. Do you always have to tip a salon owner?

It's not really customary to tip the salon owner. Unless they go out of their way to do something special or helpful for you, you don't have to leave them a tip.

10. Is it ever okay to be on your cell phone during an appointment?

Not unless it's an emergency. It's really hard for your stylist to cut, color or style your hair when you have a cell phone against your ear. It's also rude to sit there talking when someone is performing a service for you. Plus, if you're distracted by your phone call, you're not paying attention to what's happening around you.

11. What if your stylist wants to talk, but you want peace and quiet?

You're not obligated to be best friends with your stylist. It's nice to make polite small talk, but if you just want silence, don't talk. If your stylist won't stop talking, give short answers to questions and don't ask follow-up ones — they should get the hint. Or you can drop hints about how you're exhausted or stressed and need to relax.

12. What should you do if you love the way your stylist does one thing to your hair, but hate the way she does something else?

Maybe you love the way your stylist cuts your hair, but you hate how she dries it. If that's the case, speak up politely. Say something like, "I loved the cut you gave me last time, but I'd like to try something different with the drying this time." Another idea is to bring in a photo of what you want her to do so she can have a better idea of how you want the final style to look.

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