Real Talk

“I’m Not ‘Your Girl’”: 4 Things Hairdressers Wish You’d Stop Doing

Hint: Quit begging to be featured in their stories.

Hairdressers reveal the client behavior that annoys them the most.
Andreas Kuehn, Jason_V, Archive Holdings, Daniel Grizelj, Lisa Romerein, Yevgen Romanenko/Getty Images

Want to know what your hairdresser really thinks? Head to social media. Hair pros like viral TikToker Theresa Van Dam have been dishing about what they can’t stand from their customers, from Karen-like parents ignoring their children’s identity to full-on short hair meltdowns. Over on Instagram or Twitter, meanwhile, a scroll through the #badclient or #hairstylistlife hashtags will yield hairstylists, nail technicians, and others recounting their own pet peeves, WTFs, and other observations of bad behavior. And the popular podcast Destroy the Hairdresser even devoted an entire episode to the topic and offers classes and coaching to hairdressers on topics that include dealing with unruly people. “They’re entitled, they’re angry, they’re frustrated,” shares David Bosscher, one of the Destroy the Hairdresser hosts, at one point. “I had a student tell me that a client said, ‘Do you think you should be charging what you’re charging without a college degree?’”

Bad clients have always been a downside of the business, but stylists say the disruptions and lockdowns from the past two years have exacerbated matters. “Our industry as a whole has been breaking for a long time. ... Gone are the days of an actual hair tutorial. Now it’s all videos on how to be a better client,” says New-York-based stylist Nathalie Kalae. “Hairstylists are some of the hardest-working people on all fronts. We work physically and are required to hold an incredible amount of emotional weight.”

Being a great client doesn’t take a ton of work, though, and it really just starts with being a good person. Here, stylists share their pet peeves — and what makes a dream customer — so you’re not the next one to wind up on a just-gone-viral TikTok.

What *Not* To Do

“I’m not your girl.”

“For the most part, I love my clients. But one thing I really can’t stand is when they call me ‘their girl.’ I know that it’s not personal, but when I run into a client and she’s like, ‘Oh, this is Jenna, she’s my hair girl, she’s so good to me,’ it makes me feel like I’m a pet, not a professional. Like, would you call your accountant ‘your girl’? I’m also a professional, I work really hard, and I value my work. Next time, just introduce me as ‘Jenna, an amazing stylist who works at XYZ Salon’ or whatever.” — Jenna, stylist outside Atlanta, Georgia

“Please don’t ask me to be in my stories.”

“I have some clients who think it’s an insult if I don’t put their look in my Instagram stories. They think it means I don’t think they’re pretty or I’m embarrassed to have them as clients. And that’s not true. My Instagram is how I brand myself, so I like showing certain looks based on my career goals as well as what hashtags are trending. It really has nothing to do with the person and everything to do with the hair. Of course, let me know if you’re OK taking photos and potentially posting — I never post without permission — but if I don’t, please don’t think that I think less of you or your look.” — K., stylist in New York City

“It makes me feel like I’m a pet, not a professional. Like, would you call your accountant ‘your girl’?”

“Talk to us first, not Yelp.”

“I hate when everything seems great during an appointment, and then I get trashed on social media. If you have a problem, please tell us so we can make it better for you. And that goes for telling us how you would like us to run the appointment. I had one client who kept the conversation going the whole time, then went on social media and complained about how ‘chatty’ I was and how she just wanted to zone out. Tell me! I only kept talking because I thought that was what she wanted. You’re paying for the service, so please help us make it what you need it to be. I promise I won’t get offended if you just want to zone out.” — Kara, hairstylist in suburban New Jersey

“Show up on time.”

“I love a client who is on time. I run my day on a schedule, with other people on my book. Being late for your appointment not only affects the person after you, but it limits the success we can have for your own service.” — Nathalie Kalae, stylist in New York City

What *To* Do

“Collaborate with me.”

“My favorite client is someone who knows what they want but is also open-minded. What I mean by that is a client who comes into the salon with an idea of what they want their hair to look like but also trusts in me enough to have an honest conversation. We discuss what it is going to take to get them to their vision and what type of upkeep it will take to maintain the color/style once they have it. When it comes to doing hair, the sky’s the limit, but awesome hair can take several visits to achieve, and following your stylist’s recommendations can make the process easier for all. Trusting in your stylist, taking home the professional products they suggest, and understanding how pre-booking appointments can keep hair looking and feeling beautiful is just part of it.” — Kelly Harrison, hairstylist and brand manager for Biotop Professional

“Tell me if something doesn’t look right.”

“The great clients are the ones who complain. I don’t mean moaning incessantly for the sake of it. But the clients who care enough about our relationship to tell us when things aren’t right — or could be better — are best. We have about 100 clients who have been coming to our salon for 40-plus years now. They can scare the apprentices and younger stylists, but I tell them that they’ll learn the most from these clients — because they know what they’re talking about and aren’t afraid to tell you.” — Michael Van Clarke, London hairstylist and founder of 3’” More Inches

“Talk us up.”

“I love a client who refers. Referrals are the kindest thing a client can do for a stylist. You’re single-handedly helping me grow my business because you like my work! Love!” — Kalae

“Tip us well.”

“We depend on tips as part of our budget. We’ll be professional no matter what you tip, but we will always squeeze in clients who tip well and will go the extra mile. I accept Venmo, and most stylists I know do or will give you their PayPal handle if you ask — so not having enough cash isn’t an excuse!” — Sharon, color specialist, Brooklyn, New York