8 Common Phrases You Say To Your Hair Stylist That Are Actually Rude

Hair stylists went off about some of the least considerate things we say while in the chair.
Andersen Ross Photography Inc via Getty Images

When you go to the hair salon, you’re probably aware of common etiquette best practices, like tipping your hairstylist and being on time. But what you probably haven’t thought about as much is how you talk to your stylist. The types of phrases you’re using can have a lasting impression and make or break your relationship with them.

We talked to hair stylists and etiquette experts about common things clients say at the hair salon that they may not realize are coming off as rude — and how to better handle those situations in the future.

“My previous stylist messed up my hair.”

“Don’t leave your appointment hating your hair only to go to a competitor salon and trash talk your previous stylist,” said Melissa Goudeau, author of “So You Wanna be a Hairstylist … That’s Cute” and co-owner at The Cut House Salon in Louisiana. “That not only puts a bad taste in the stylist’s mouth because you might do the same to them, but you’ve ruined the previous stylist’s reputation without even letting [them] know what you didn’t like.”

Instead, if you’re unhappy with your hair, tell your stylist and give them a chance to fix it. Goudeau said it’s important to remember that while most stylists try to do exactly what you want on the first visit, sometimes it takes a few tries to adjust and get it right.

“Sorry, I didn’t come prepared today.”

When you sit down in the salon chair and your stylist or barber asks you what you want, saying you didn’t come prepared or didn’t think about it can come off like the appointment isn’t important to you, according to J. Clark Walker, owner and barber at Major Studios in Utah.

“It feels rude in a job if you log in to a Zoom meeting and you start with, ‘I’m super sorry. I didn’t come prepared.’ Nobody would do that, right?” he explained. Well, the same goes for when you’re getting your hair done.

If you don’t know what you want, Walker said it’s perfectly acceptable to say that and ask if the stylist or barber has any ideas. You could say something like, “I’ve been looking at pictures, and none of them are resonating. Could you help me decide?”

Most stylists and barbers are happy to help you figure out your options. It’s just about asking in a way that shows you care about your appointment.

“My haircut looks fine.”

At the end of the haircut when your stylist or barber asks, “How do you like it?” people commonly respond with just, “It’s fine,” Walker said.

“Those [types of comments] can definitely live in our heads rent-free for a while,” he explained. It can come off that “you’re not a satisfied customer if you’re saying ‘it’s fine.’”

He said a lot of stylists and barbers consider themselves artists and giving them a compliment goes a long way.

“You shouldn’t have to coddle your barber, but [saying something like], ‘You crushed it. This is great. It’s perfect.’ Then we get excited and the next time you come, we don’t have any stress about making you happy,” Walker said.

“Can I have a discount?”

Unless you’re at a chain salon that offers specials, Goudeau said it can be insulting if a client asks for a discount.

“This is not a flea market,” she said. “We’ve paid tens of thousands of hard-earned money to establish this education, license and expertise, so, ‘No, I’m not taking $50 off because it’s your birthday.’”

She recommends discussing your budget in an initial consultation with your stylist. If the service is more than you can spend, ask what adjustments can be made that would fit your budget and look similar to what you want. (For example, try a partial highlight instead of a full highlight.)

Are you sure you don't care how your care comes out?
Paper Boat Creative via Getty Images
Are you sure you don't care how your care comes out?

“I don’t care what you do with my hair.”

This phrase is OK to say if you actually mean it. But when people have a vision for their hair and don’t express it, that can be frustrating, Walker said.

“People sit down and say, ‘Oh, I don’t care. What do you think? I’m not picky.’ … And then at the very end, it’s incredibly common for people to then voice their opinions,” he explained.

It’s one thing if they’re asking for tweaks at the end, but if clients have strong opinions for the overall haircut, he prefers they tell him at the beginning.

“It’s very easy at the start to [say], ‘I really love this about my hair. Or ‘I don’t want to go too short here.’”

Goudeau suggests bringing in lots of pictures and showing your stylist what you like — and even dislike — about them.

A good barber or hairstylist should also ask a lot of questions, but it’s up to the client to be clear and honest about what they want.

Let me tell you all about [insert deeply personal issue here].”

“It’s very easy for folks to sit down in that chair and immediately feel like they’re in that safe I-can-share-anything space,” said Lizzie Post, co-author of “Emily Post’s Etiquette, The Centennial Edition.” “Stylists aren’t therapists. They are there to help consult on your appearance, not so much how things are going in your life.”

While Post said she has built close relationships with her stylists where they can talk about their personal lives, it’s important to make sure it’s a balanced conversation not a therapy session.

“Ask, ‘How are you doing? How are things in your world?’ That helps keep it a conversation and not like you’re just abusing the system,” she said.

You also want to be careful not to gossip about other people to your stylist, Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas, pointed out.

“When you’re sitting next to somebody … it could be a community member, a neighbor. You never know who is listening,” she said. And who knows? They could be friends or acquaintances with the person you’re talking about.

“What is that person getting done to their hair?”

If you are receiving a service or waiting to see your stylist, it can be rude to stare or start asking questions about what other clients are getting done.

“If you walk up to the chair and start questioning the stylist or making comments … the client in the chair may feel uncomfortable if not embarrassed,” explained Shantella Rios, owner of Tame Ur Mane Studio in New Jersey.

Talking to the hairstylist while they are doing someone else’s hair can also distract them and delay the service, Gottsman added.

If you would like more information about a service, wait to speak to the stylist or salon manager when they are finished with the other client.

“Sorry I’m late for my appointment and didn’t tell you.”

“If you have a 12:30 p.m. appointment, calling at the time of your already-late appointment is not sufficient,” Rios said. “Late clients disrupt the flow of services and may affect the clients scheduled after you.”

If you are running late, it’s best to call or text ahead of time to let the stylist know and see if they can still accommodate you.

The bottom line: Be clear, honest and respectful in your communication.

This is key for building a strong relationship with your stylist. And as Goudeau said, “[That] ensures … you’ll be happy not only in the friendly/funny/sincere conversations [with your stylist], but [also] because you’ve built a safe space to genuinely share your concerns and hopes for your hair.”

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