The Modern Girls Guide to Salon Etiquette

Part of the reason I wanted to start this blog was to change the public view of the beauty industry. I feel like hairstylists get a bad rep compared to other professional services. Unfortunately, there is a reason many clients look at us this way, and it’s most likely because of bad experiences in unprofessional salons. I have heard horror stories from clients that went to previous salons, which helps me understand why a lot of clients are so nervous when they come in! I’m here to tell you not all salons are created equal, and your salon should be your happy place...a place that makes you feel comfortable, warm, welcomed, and important. 

With this being said…I want to answer some questions that I can tell many clients are hesitant to ask. I also want to share with you how to be THAT client, the one that gets your stylist excited when they see your name on the schedule. Trust me, I know this relationship is not a one way street, I’m sure you have a dream stylist, or criteria you would like your stylist to follow…But I’ll save that for another post!


What should I tip?
-I like to look at tipping as a gift to my service, I don’t expect a tip, however 99% of my clients do tip me every time. A standard tip is 20% of the service total. If you feel like your stylist went above and beyond, or your service was more complicated, you may think about tipping more as an added gesture. If you were running late, missed your last appointment, or got “squeezed in” at the last minute, you may think of leaving a little extra something as a thank you.

Should I tip the assistant?
-Just like tipping your stylist, assistants think of leaving a tip as a gift. You are not expected to leave the assistant a tip, but it is certainly welcomed. When I was assisting I normally received anywhere from $5 to all the way up to $20 just for a shampoo! Most assistants are making anywhere from minimum wage to $10 an hour as a salon employee, so leaving a tip is a nice way to say thank you for that wonderful head massage! If the assistant did your blowout, or any part of your coloring service, consider tipping $10 and up.

Do I tip more around the Holidays?
-You should never feel obligated to give something extra for the holidays, but I do have several clients that bring me goodies around Christmas. Even something like a hand written note makes me so happy! Some clients bring small gifts, bottles of wine, cookies, handmade gifts, or tip a little extra around this time. I also have clients who bring me their family Christmas cards and I love that, I always put them up on my fridge at home. Anything is a meaningful expression of your gratitude, greatly appreciated and remembered. I also always give each client something around the holidays.

Should I still tip if I was unhappy with my service?
- Trust me, your stylist always wants you to leave happy, so if something went wrong, take other factors like miscommunication into consideration instead of just forgoing the tip altogether. If you are unhappy your service, consider tipping as a courtesy, but less. A 10% tip would be a recommendation. ALWAYS talk with the stylist, owner, or manager if you are unhappy with your service and they should offer you a complimentary redo or refund. Of course, if your experience was completely awful or unprofessional, no tip is required.

Should I tip for a complimentary redo?
-Tipping is not required for a complimentary redo since you have most likely already tipped your stylist. However, if your stylist is kind, and happy to accommodate this for you you could consider leaving a small tip as a gesture. Since a lot of stylists book up weeks in advance, they are most likely coming in early or staying late for you.

Do I tip the owner if she’s the one doing my hair?
-The modern rule for tipping the owner is…yes! I honestly don’t know how the owner of my salon has time to have a thought of her own, let alone take clients! Her day is spent tackling her business, kids, pets, husband, managing employees, her employee’s clients, salon reps, and… her own clients?! If the salon owner is doing your hair and can still carry on a rational conversation with you…that’s impressive! So with this being said, it is always a kind gesture to tip up to 20% of your service as a thank you...they are still hairstylists after all!

Should I tip for my complimentary bang trim?
-Your stylist is scheduling about 15 minutes out of their day to do your bang trim. Anywhere from $5 to $10 is welcomed.


What if I’m running late?
-We understand things happen, and you end up stuck at work or in traffic. If you are running late for your appointment, call your salon and give them a heads up. If know you will be more than 15 minutes late consider rescheduling your appointment so you stylist won’t feel rushed through your service. Some salons have a policy that they don’t take appointments that are more than 15 minutes late. Most color appointments are scheduled anywhere from 30 minutes for a simple touch up to 1 hour or more for a highlight. Say you are getting highlights, if you are 15 minutes late that is already 45 minutes into your 1 hour appointment. By the time the stylist consults with you and mixes the color, you will most likely be about 30 minutes or more into your scheduled time, leaving only 30 minutes to do a highlight. This is especially bad if you are a new client!! Sometimes this will work, but most of the time it won’t. Your stylist might try to accommodate you (because we truly hate to see you upset), but will definitely feel rushed, or unable to give you the best service possible! Running late also puts your stylist behind for the rest of the day, leaving a domino effect. If their first client is 15 minutes late, every appointment for the rest of the day will be about 15-20 minutes behind, leaving some clients annoyed with your stylist. My advice? Arrive a few minutes early to your appointment, if you’re running late give your salon a call and ask if you should reschedule.
If your stylist still takes you after being late, be flexible with who does your blowout, or shortening the length of your service, maybe only getting a color touch up, or a partial highlight instead of a full.

What if my stylist is running late?
-We run behind as well! As stated above, one person running late creates a domino effect. So it could just be that your stylist had one client show up late which is putting them behind for the whole day. Sometimes a client was scheduled for a color retouch and they are requesting a partial highlight. These services have different scheduling time, which can also put us behind. (See my previous post for these terms defined!) Sometimes a new client comes in and has super thick hair, or is requesting a more complicated service than expected. If your stylist is running behind, relax in the lobby, enjoy a beverage and look through a magazine or at pictures of hair. If your stylist is constantly running behind, consider talking with them or the manager about it.

Why does my stylist work on more than one person at a time
-I hear very often from new clients, “My last stylist was always working on several people at a time and I hated it” I can understand your frustration with this, especially if it means you have a lot of waiting time during your appointment. I am fortunate enough that I work at a salon with several assistants, which means my clients almost NEVER have to wait for me to finish with one client, before they can have a seat in my chair. Therefore, my clients don’t have this issue to worry about! I am sometimes overbooked, because I am in high demand and often fit several clients into one day (I do it to make you all happy!) but it never seems to be an issue because I am efficient with my time and book accordingly.

We double book clients to fit you all into the schedule! Most of my color appointments take about 2 hours give or take. I normally work about 8-10 hours a day; enabling me to take about 4-5 clients for color appointments WITHOUT double booking. That’s about 20-25 clients a week. I would have some very disappointed clients if I could only have 20-25 clients a week! (I normally see 30-40 clients a week, or about 6-9 a day depending on the service) Every client who gets color processes for about 30-45 minutes after I apply their color. So, while each client was processing, I would be sitting in the back waiting for 45 minutes until each client was done with their processing time if I didn’t double book. Most of my cuts and partial highlights take about 45 minutes anyway…so I take a client during this time.

If you are at a good salon, they shouldn’t be making you feel rushed in and out of your appointment. Yes we may seem busy, but personally, I love when I’m super busy! It gives me energy, and excites me…its inspiring and I love the fun of making 2 or 3 clients beautiful at one time! It is also a lot of fun when I have two clients who start up a conversation with each other, it’s so fun! If you feel like your stylist is not giving you enough attention during your service, consider talking with them about it. If you prefer not to be double booked, that’s totally fine! Just be willing to pay for the amount of time your stylist is not booking for you. It’s rare to find a salon that does not double book their clients

Why does my appointment take so long?
-It’s a busy world out there these days. I get it. But beautiful hair takes time! Most color appointments take at least 2 hours, if not more. If you’re concerned with the time of your service, ask how long it will take before the day of your appointment. There’s nothing worse than having a client on a time crunch while you’re trying to recreate their pinterest board. Usually the consultation with a new client takes about 10 minutes, we mix up the color, get a game plan, another 10 minutes, apply the color for about an hour (more or less), you process for 30-45 minutes (or more) we shampoo, maybe glaze, condition, head massage, another 15-20 minutes, cut for 15 minutes and blow dry/style for about 45 minutes! That’s about 3 hours give or take. We’re not just taking our sweet time; most stylists are just trying their best to give you the best service possible. Once you get into a routine with your stylist, it will probably take you less time. The first appointment is always the longest.

Do I need to have a plan before I arrive for my appointment?
-Having a plan in mind before you arrive is always a good idea. Not only does it save time during your consultation, but it gives your stylist examples of what you’re looking for! I sometimes have clients say, "what do you think I should do", which is fine…if I’ve been doing your hair for at least 3 or more visits. Yes, I am the professional and am here to make recommendations or tell you what will look best but, I personally like to get a sense of your style by pulling up a Pinterest board and asking what you like or don’t like. Since I don’t know my clients on the first visit, I don’t know that they hated their hair that one time they did lowlights, or hates having gold tones in their hair, therefore it’s hard for me to do what I think is best without some guidance as to what a client likes.

Is it okay to cancel my appointment?
-If you need to cancel your appointment do it ASAP. 48 hours is the policy at my salon, but the sooner the better. I normally book up a few weeks out, so if you know you will need to cancel, call as soon as possible so I can fill that spot with other clients! If you cancel your appointment last minute, it is not uncommon for a salon to require a credit card to reserve your next appointment, and it will be charged. One last minute cancellation is acceptable if something came up, but still leaves your stylist with an unpaid, unfillable spot in their schedule that other clients could have taken. We understand things come up, but unfortunately in this industry we have too many clients who just no show, or cancel last minute for no reason! Imagine your boss telling you to clock out or take 2 hours of unpaid time, but to still continue working. A stylist’s income is based on clients setting up appointments and keeping them. If you do have to cancel last minute, ask to speak to the stylist so you can personally apologize, explain your reason, and offer to pay for the time you took off of their schedule. I usually won't accept, unless it becomes habitual.

Do I have to book in advance?
Busy stylists often book up weeks in advance and have waiting lists. Don’t call last minute, before an event or vacation and ask to be “squeezed in.” I will squeeze clients in if I can, but often when I do, I am not able to provide the excellent service I would like to because I am rushed! It is always best to plan ahead to ensure the time and date that you want. I often have clients who call last minute to get in, and I can tell they are frustrated when they can’t schedule for 2 weeks. Prebooking your appointment will help ensure the time and date you are wanting before its too late. Trust me; it is a good sign if your stylist is this busy!

Call ahead before your preset appointment if you know you want to switch up the color.
This is a big one that most clients don’t realize! Sometimes I have clients prebook their appointments for just a touch up, or partial highlight. When they come in they have decided they want a more extensive service such as switching from a touch up to a highlight or switching to a balayage which requires much more time than allotted! I am always excited to change it up, but when I have only scheduled a 30 minute color touch up and a client is requesting a balayage which takes about an hour or more, there just isn’t enough time! In between appointments, if you think you want to switch it up, just give your stylist a call in advance so they can adjust or rearrange their time for you! We just want to ensure that we have enough time to give you the color you’re looking for! It will never bother us if you want to try something new!

Why does it cost so much?
-Time, product, education and expertise all play a factor in my prices. It takes hours to perfect your color into the hair your wanting, part of your cost is paying for the time taken. Another factor is product! It is more expensive than you think! A good stylist uses high end products (that will last longer), and we mix different tubes of color to provide a signature shade created just for you. One tube of color is anywhere from $10-12. We have hundreds of different tubes at my salon, and some clients use one whole tube just for one service. Not to mention the products we use to style your hair, cut your hair, and blow dry your hair are costly too! My scissors cost more than $500! At Blonde Faith, we use the best of the best, and that comes with a higher price. When you are paying more for a service, you are paying for expertise as well. Last year alone I attended over $4,000 worth of educational classes to further my career and provide the best and most modern services for my clients. Not to mention most stylists, don’t get paid vacation time, never take sick days, work holidays, and aren’t provided with a 401k. We work hard to make our clients happy and because we love what we do. Don’t be afraid to ask your stylist how long they’ve been a stylist, or what type of continuing education they attend. After all…that’s part of what you’re paying for.
It is very insulting when clients try to negotiate prices, or complain about your prices during their service. However, nicely talk with your stylist if you simply just can’t afford them (there’s a different between complaining and nicely discussing budgets) I can usually recommend different types of coloring services that are more cost effective or another stylist in the salon such as a junior stylist!


What if I want to try a new stylist?
-Most clients think, I will just cancel my appointment and never see them again. That is not the correct way to handle a break up. Think of it as breaking up with a partner! When I have a client mysteriously vanish I would rather know the honest truth as to why they will no longer be coming to me, that’s what helps me grow in my career. I often think of a client I have not seen in a while and wonder how they're doing. Just tell your stylist if you are unhappy with something their doing, and give them a chance to fix it. If it’s not fixed, consider telling them why you will no longer be coming to them without belittling them. You don’t have to do it in person, consider sending a text, email or leaving the message with a receptionist. Even if you think it’s harsh, they will appreciate you for it in the long run.

What if I want to try a new stylist in the same salon?
-It happens, you see another stylist and think, they seem like a better fit. Or, your friend went to them and loved their experience. Either way, it’s not the end of the world. A good stylist would rather you be happy, continue coming to their salon, and maybe even be relieved that you are able to find someone that fits with you better. I know it’s awkward enough to break up with your stylist, let alone continue to see them every 6 weeks…in another chair. Talk with the owner or manager about making the switch and they will handle it from there. It is your service, and overall happiness that matters and your stylist should handle it with grace and professionalism each time they see you.

How do I break up with my stylist and salon?
-Consider sending a thank you letter, email or calling. Explain why you will be leaving and thank them for their service. If you have tried everything you can to make it work, let them know, and give them your honest opinion as to why you will no longer be a client. If you have had a bad experience with the salon, think very clearly before trashing them online, or leaving a bad review, especially for small businesses. We sometimes do things out of anger, when a problem could be handled much differently.

Do I have to tell my stylist when I cheated? Or if I did my color at home?
-YES. If you went to someone else or did your own color at home tell your stylist. Box coloring affects the way our products work on the hair, so we need to know your hair history. If you went to another stylist, I personally wouldn’t be offended, because you are sitting back in my chair for a reason.  Just be honest with your stylist and let them know what you have done to your hair since you last saw them in order to ensure the best results.

What if I don’t like my hair?
-If you don’t like your hair call the salon ASAP! Don’t be afraid to be honest with your stylist if you don’t like the way it turned out. I would rather a client let me know if there are issues than leave unhappy. Sure, it can be upsetting to hear you aren’t happy, but I am happy if a client gives me a chance to fix the situation. If your stylist has already started on another client and you are being styled out by someone else, tell the person blow drying you, or tell the front desk when you check out. They will most likely pull the stylist away from their current client and let them know what’s going on. You may ask to come back in for a complimentary appointment with your same stylist or with another stylist. It is always best to give your stylist another chance to make things right before giving up, you may be surprised!

Do I have to make small talk with my stylist?
-Don’t ever feel like you have to chat during the whole service! If you’ve had a busy day and just want to relax, reply with one word answers for a while and your stylist will get the hint. Or, just simply say “I’m so tired! Don’t mind me if I just relax” It is nice for us to just work in quiet sometimes, especially after a busy day, so I promise your stylist won't mind. At the same time, don’t be offended if your stylist is quiet while doing an intensive service or highlights, they are probably just concentrating.

Is it okay to come with dirty hair? What about wet hair?
-Yes it is okay to come with dirty hair, although I personally believe it is better to do a color service on fresh clean hair. I think the color has a better opportunity to work on a clean palate of hair. Dirty hair has product build up, and oils on it which could prevent the color from working properly. You don’t have to wash your hair right before your appointment; 2 days of unwashed hair shouldn’t be a problem.

Don’t come to any appointment with wet hair. For a haircut it is always best to come with dry hair so your stylist can see what your hair looks like dry. Coming to a color appointment with wet hair means your stylist will have to blow dry your hair before you begin your service, which could put your stylist a little bit behind before getting started.

Why does my stylist always recommend products?
-Your stylist shouldn’t be coming off as too pushy when selling products. I tell my clients what I’m using so they're knowledgeable about how to recreate the look at home. Yes, I make a small commission off of products, but that is certainly not my motivation when informing clients about products. For me it is just a natural routine and I look at it as an important part of your service. My clients come to me with a primary, and secondary concern about their hair and it is my job to resolve that for them. I never try to “sell” products. I am always very honest in recommending what I think a client would benefit from using! We also get shipments of products in almost weekly that we guarantee to be fresh, unlike a third party, like a drugstore.

Can I bring my kids?
-No. Unless they are getting a service done, it is respectful of other salon guests, who have gotten child care, to leave your children at home. Some clients are in the salon to relax and get away from their kids for a couple hours. It is a courtesy to others to not bring your children to the salon.

Can I use my cell phone?
-It doesn’t bother me when a client is on their phone while we’re doing color. I have some clients who come while they're working from home, so they take calls, and put their phone up to the ear that I am not working near, then switch when I get to that side. It personally doesn’t bother me. It is an issue however during the cut, and at the shampoo bowl. Avoid taking a call while your stylist is cutting or shampooing your hair.

Keep your head still!
-It is extremely important to leave your head where your stylist puts it and try to be still during a haircut. It can throw off a whole cut if your balance is off or if you’re looking a different way. If you’re getting color done, try to keep your head still as well. No one is expecting you to sit like a statue, but it is very difficult to put color on someone’s hair, or cut a straight line if your head is all over the place!

Why do stylists all have different opinions?
-I hear different stories about things “the last stylist” did or told my clients. Doing hair is a science, and art. There are many different ways to do things, and many different ways to achieve a certain result. We all have our own opinions and many stylists disagree on different techniques. There is not always a right or wrong way, just a preference.

Should I follow my stylist if she leaves?
-If you like your stylist and they are moving somewhere convenient that you wouldn’t mind following them to, then yes! It is not uncommon for a stylist to take a new job at a new salon. It is a great feeling for your stylist to be in a salon that they are happy in not to mention, your stylist is probably more motivated too! After I made my move to Blonde Faith, my clients that followed me were always telling me how much happier I seemed, and it was so sweet to hear that from them. 

I hope this helped answer any questions you've had during your visits to the salon. As always please comment or e-mail with any other questions or advice!    

Ally Feezel1 Comment