Wanted: A Hairstylist

My hair needs are not complex. I don’t change my mind every twenty minutes. I don’t want to go blue-black one day and then be lifted to platinum blonde two months later. I don’t abuse my hair with heat, and when I do use heat, I use protectants. I don’t subject my hair to a gauntlet of DIY chemical voodoo (with the exception of my DIY hair glaze treatment, which hasn’t been done in a year – but I’ll be doing it soon!).

At Home DIY Hair Glaze Before and AfterMy fabulous hair, circa Spring 2014.
I miss the length, but contending with it was intense!

I am not one of those people who walks into a salon for a haircut and goes, “Well I want a trim, but also a change but don’t want to sacrifice length!” This, I’m sure, is an obnoxious thing to hear from clients. Most of the time, I DO just want a trim – and can demonstrate both verbally (ie, “two inches!”) and physically (with my hands) what I want. I bring pictures, but not 200. I don’t, “fight,” my hairstylist in the chair by moving when she needs me to be still, or tilting my head when she needs it straight. I don’t creepily keep my eyes open during shampoos. I never use my phone in the chair (that might change if I had a lengthy service like color or perming).

I try to be a good client, or, at least, as good as I can be based on my general knowledge of what annoys stylists.

Ulta Salon Haircut

And yet it is so unbelievably hard to find a stylist worth a damn! It’s been six months since my last cut, and the disappointing cut I got at Ulta has grown out a bit. I didn’t want to return there yet (and definitely not to that hairstylist), so I went elsewhere.

What I wanted from the service:

  • Approximately an inch off the longest lengths.
  • General tidying of everything else (don’t cut old layers back in); nip the ends to clean them up.
  • Even out anything that is uneven.
  • At the very front, add subtle layers with the shortest at the shoulder.

This is not an involved haircut whatsoever. Although she asked what I wanted, she did not confirm her understanding or do any kind of thorough consultation. She didn’t ask what I normally do with my hair, if it has been chemically treated, etc. nor did she give me the opportunity to speak up about it – and she didn’t touch it, either, to get a feel for its texture. But you better believe she didn’t fail to ask me if I wanted to buy product!

She leads me over to shampoo me, that was fine. She conditions me then walks away without a word, without rinsing. She reappears a few moments later and remarks that she want(s)(ed) to leave the conditioner in for a bit and disappeared again. I sat for over seven minutes reclined in a shampoo bowl before she returned. Would have been nice if she mentioned wanting to leave it in before leaving the first time.

Somehow, the haircut itself took 40 minutes. She asked the usual trying-to-be-chatty questions, “Are you in college?” “No… I work full time in IT at a nearby company.” (Do I actually look like I’m in college? Absolutely not.) “Do you have a boyfriend?” “I’ve been married for about a year.” I don’t mind talking in the chair, but I don’t really love gabbing about my relationship to some girl I just met. I tried to ask other questions, like about the product she was using or a hot tool nearby – but she seemed even less interested in talking about those things than I was talking about my relationship.

Eventually, we moved onto drying and styling. At this point, she tried to sell me product even further…even though I had already said I wasn’t interested in making additional purchases. I’m not sure if using too much product is a sales tactic, but what do I know? I’m not a hairstylist, after all. Maybe emulsifying three pumps of Paul Mitchell Super Skinny (which I do own and do love) with a tennis-ball-sized dollop of mousse is a legitimate strategy?


Drying then took 45 minutes. The combination of three gallons of product plus inadequately towel-dried hair plus low-heat, low-speed did the trick, I guess. She yanked and tugged with the round brush, shredding baby hairs from my nape. It was uncomfortable. Honestly, if I can blowdry my hair in twenty minutes or less with my $30 Conair dryer, there is no good reason a basic blowdry at a salon (with professional-quality tools) should take longer. It wasn’t a blowout (understandably takes longer than a simple dry), I didn’t leave looking or feeling stunning.

No one wants to feel like their service was rushed, but I should’ve been there no more than an hour for what I was having done, not almost two. It was, honestly, a waste of time. I could get the same results at a freaking GreatClips for a third of the price. You shouldn’t have to pay more than $35 for a simple shampoo, cut, and blowdry just to get someone who is competent. I’m not sure if she’s new to the profession (then fine, she has my sympathies, but… still).

Obviously, I did not rebook. I really wish it were easier to find a hairstylist with whom I could forge a relationship. I’d love to be a, “regular.”

What I want:

  • We do a consult to talk about what I want, please confirm you understand what I want. Run through it with me. I might have explained something, “wrong,” so I want to be sure we’re on the same page before getting snippy with it.
  • If I relay a concern about my hair (like my protein sensitivity) – don’t immediately dismiss it. I’ve spent a lot of time with my hair! Even if you think that isn’t the case, don’t treat me like an idiot… I didn’t come to this conclusion like so many WebMD self-diagnosers do before a trip to the doctor’s office crying that it must be Lupus.
  • Don’t try to hard-sell me products. I understand that in some cases you are commissioned, and selling product is an important part of your income – and even if it doesn’t hit your paycheck directly, it does support the salon, which keeps you in a job. I dig that! I’m way more likely to bite when you make suggestions, use the suggested product during the service, and explain the best way(s) for me to use it. Some people fall for hard-sell tactics, but to quote The Lonely Island, “that ain’t me.”
    Furthermore, hard-sell tactics don’t make clients feel great about returning. Instead of developing a trusting, loyal hairstylist-client relationship, you feel like you’re only numbers on a register.
  • I think super-personal questions are a little uncomfortable during the the first visit, especially SUPER EARLY in the service. If you ask, “Do you have a boyfriend or husband?” and I say, “Yes!” where does that even go, anyway? What’s the follow-up? Are you going to ask me how we met? I just met you!
  • You will never see me in four weeks. Never. You won’t see me in six. You will probably not see me for three months (at least). Accept it now.
    …Unless I go all Sam from Batalash and get badass silver hair that I will need help maintaining.
  • If I can’t commit to the next appointment, don’t harass me about it. I don’t schedule my next checkup at my just-completed one.

Is this so much to ask? What do you want from your stylist? Any stylists out there – can you weigh in on this?

2 thoughts on “Wanted: A Hairstylist”

  1. I loved your story (not what you had to go through) …you are very good at putting your thoughts down. I have been in the same situation more than once. I finally found the best stylist in the world but simply asking people where they got their hair down until I was finally answered with Carla’s info. I wish you luck as you have gorgeous hair!

  2. First, you sound like my dream client. If you are currently residing in or visiting the Los Angeles area, come see me.

    The stylist you had is, unfortunately, the norm. I’ve worked with too many stylists who put so little into the quality of their work and have such apathy when it comes to customer service. Including one who habitually walked away from clients mid service (!!!) to take personal phone calls. wtf. There is a reason my salon consists of exactly one stylist, one colorist and one part time assistant. It’s been as hard for me to find worthy stylists/assistants to hire as it’s been for you to find a worthy stylist to do your hair. But they do exist!

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