Beauty Salon Etiquette 101: Dealing with Nosy Stylists, Botched Haircuts and More

Woman on the phone at the salon

Your mom’s always taught you to say “please” and “thank you.” And by now, you’re more than well acquainted with the ins and outs of office etiquette. Like, don’t try and sleep your way to the top or tell all your coworkers to screw off (horrible idea, btw). But when it comes to being on your best behavior at the beauty salon, how do your manners fare? Are you a stylist’s best friend or her total worst nightmare? Check out these 9 sticky salon situations women often find themselves in and learn how to tackle them like a pro.  

Beauty salon etiquette

How much should I tip?

“Your stylist always appreciates a tip,” says hair extension maven/stylist Tiffany Lahn. “This is what they live off of—don’t just assume they work on commission. 15% is customary and 20% for exceptional service. Leave $1 for the shampoo assistant or $2 and up if they took the time to give a great scalp massage and/or make you coffee. If you’re a high maintenance client, spend hours at the salon, rack up a large bill, and then only leave a couple of bucks, you will be talked about in the break room,” says Tiffany. Yikes, now that’s embarrassing!

Ugh, my stylist is just way too nosy.

Dealing with a meddlesome stylist can be a total drag, but you can always take this opportunity and use it to your advantage, notes Kelli Joelle Bartlett, Product Specialist at MAC Times Square. “Change the subject!! Ask your stylist (or makeup artist) about his or her work and how they got into the business. You may just discover some cool resume credits or neat experience that their job has facilitated. Another great trick is to ask them for tips about how you would articulate the same look at home,” says Kelli. “Have them narrate what they are doing on you and pay close attention. Every interaction is a chance to grow in your own skill set and learn about new trends.” Plus it keeps the attention focused off your personal life and on something actually beneficial.

If that doesn’t work, bury your nose in a book!

Woman on the phone at the salonIs it cool if I take this call?

Sorry, unless it’s an emergency, no. “Let the call go to voicemail,” says Sarah Kelly, owner and stylist at P3 Hair Design in Minnetonka, Minnesota. “I can’t cut/color your hair if you have a cell phone attached to your ear. If children or school might be calling, feel free to check who it is, and excuse yourself to take the call if necessary. Loud cell phones in the reception area are also unacceptable,” she adds. “Customers come to the shop to unplug and relax, not listen to your lengthy conversations.”

Help, I absolutely hate my new hair!

If you walk out of the salon absolutely hating your new look, honesty is truly the best policy, says Joanna Elkayam, manager and co-owner of an upscale salon in Boston, Avanti Salon South. “Ask the desk if you could speak to the manager or call the salon from home to schedule a re-do.” Make sure to convey your thoughts, questions, or concerns with the kind of respect that you would give any other professional, adds Dan Sharp, Lead Stylist for T3 and owner of Danka Panka Salon in Brooklyn. “If you really don’t know the stylist and have gotten a service that is so bad it defies belief, run, pay, get out. Whatever you do, don’t let that person have a second shot at ruining your hair,” says Dan. LOL, we totes have to agree!

What if I need to cancel my appointment?

“If you need to cancel an appointment, try to do so within 24 hours of your scheduled time,” says Adam Ramos, celebrity stylist and owner of Virile Barber & Shop in New Jersey. “This will show you have consideration for your stylist, whose time is valuable, so they can give your slot to another client and allow you to feel guilt free about canceling. Let's face it though,” says Adam, “life happens. So if you must cancel an appointment last minute, your stylist should be more than understanding.” True, true—just don’t make it a habit!

Oops, I missed my appointment!

“If you space out and miss an appointment, offer to pay,” says licensed esthetician and makeup artist Stacya Silverman. “It’s just the right thing to do.”

Do I have to talk? 

“Don't feel obligated to make small talk with your stylist,” says Mike Petrizzi, a celebrity colorist at De Berardinis Salon in Chelsea, NY. “Typically, we have been talking all day so we enjoy just getting immersed in our work while you sit back and relax.”

Woman in curlers at the salon

How do I politely say no?

Just be honest, says Petrizzi. “Whether a product is simply out of your budget or you’re happy with what you’re using now, just say it. Don’t sit there and smile and nod and then not go home with the products. A simple ‘those look great, but I have no space in my shower/medicine cabinet. I’ll let you know when I run out’ is a gentle way out. Just know we are recommending products because if you are investing in $500 of hair color you should want to maintain it at home,” explains Mike.

Argh, I’ve been waiting forever… 

If you have a long wait time, ask yourself does this happen every appointment or only every once in awhile, notes Betsy Briggs Cathcart, owner of Studio BBC Salon in Nashville, Tennessee. “Sometimes our first client is running 20 minutes late, which will put our whole day behind schedule,” says Betsy. “But if this is a continual problem, you have the right to ask how your stylist or salon schedules their appointments—do they double book? If so, ask if they would mind scheduling you separately,” says Cathcart. “Express the wait time has become inconvenient for you, and if you are at the Salon, politely ask ‘how much longer?’ It’s the stylist’s job (or owner in commission salons) to run the appointment times correctly. Everyone's time is valuable!” Just don’t be rude.