Why are we afraid of our hair dressers?

Okay, “afraid” might be too strong of a word, but how many times have you suppressed your feelings when sitting in “the chair”? How many times did you get a bad haircut because you were too afraid to say: “Hey, I don’t like the way this is turning out.” How many times did you bite your tongue when you just wanted to say something, and then spent the next two months crying every time you looked in the mirror?

If you’re like me, you’ve done this a lot. Too many times. I’m sorry to say that in the past fifteen years, I have switched stylists after every haircut in an effort to find someone who “got” me. I could’ve tried to speak up for myself, but I found it easier to just find new salons. And yes, I’m embarrassed to admit that.

Getting a haircut can be difficult for all of us. It puts us in a vulnerable position. I don’t think any of us enjoy walking into the salon, getting our hair wet down, parted into sections, and pinned up, and then glancing up at the mirror in that state. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Especially when many of the stylists out there are young and extremely hip. (Mine is about six years younger than I am, with streaked hair and an asymmetrical cut. I love her, but I feel positively matronly whenever I see her.)  And of course, you are putting yourself in the hands of someone who, in most cases, knows more about hair than you do, which can be intimidating. And if that all isn’t enough, you will not likely find a stylist who is on the same page as you are. They have their opinions on hair care and style, and you have yours.

I have personally been struggling with this lately. A little over a year ago, I found a stylist whom I love. (The young, hip gal I mentioned.) I have never had a person cut my hair so well, so consistently. I always leave the salon feeling good about the haircut. BUT…there are a few other things I don’t like about getting a haircut.

1. I hate having to get shampooed with traditional products, when I’ve gone two years without using them in everyday life. Believe it or not, I hate the fake smooth feeling it leaves on my hair, and I hate the way it smells.

2. I hate having products put in my hair. Hate, hate, hate. I never, ever use hair spray or gel or serum on my hair, and when my stylist puts it in my hair in preparation for the post-haircut blow-day/straightening, I cringe. I can’t STAND the way it feels in my hair (sticky and heavy), and the smell makes me sick. I also can’t bear to think of what those chemicals are doing to my beautiful, toxin-free hair. Plus, it makes my scalp itch.

3. I hate having my hair styled after a cut. I don’t ever style it at home, so what’s the point of styling it once every two months? I feel that blow-drying and straightening my hair (and melting all those gross products into the hair shaft) ruins the healthy fresh ends of my haircut. And it makes me feel hyper-aware of my hair – I find myself constantly fidgeting with it to make sure the wind hasn’t blown it astray. Too much to worry about!

Every time I go in for a cut, I tell myself that I will ask for no products or styling, and every time, I crumble. I don’t know why – it just feels like I’m “making trouble.” Today, I decided I was going to do it and there’d be no wussing out. It was easy, though because I had an excuse – I was in a hurry. So I just told her that I didn’t have time for styling, and I also mentioned that I’d been having reactions to the products, and would like to avoid them. I didn’t even think about tackling the issue of shampoo, but when I mentioned my reactions to the products, she told me she has a client who brings in her own shampoo and conditioner! Hmmm….something to think about for next time.

In any case, I am partially proud of myself for walking out of the salon with clean (product-free), wet hair (no styling, or blow-drying). But I realize it is time to take it to the next level. No more products, no more styling (whether I have time or not), and I’d like to bring in my own shampoo. What am I so afraid of? I think I’m worried that she’ll think I’m a crazy granola-munching, hairy-armpitted, tree-hugger! (And I am, minus the hairy armpits.) I don’t know WHY I care what she thinks, though. (The disease of the modern woman – caring about what other people think.)

Ultimately, I don’t think she’d mind these requests. She’s very kind and accommodating. Plus, the no-styling issue has benefits for her. I have found that cutting out the styling knocks about $4 off the price of the cut. Whether I get it styled or not, I try to pay her the same every time, which means she gets a bigger tip when I don’t get the styling. I would much rather give her a big tip for being such a great stylist than endure 15 minutes of blow-drying and straightening. I think she’d be more than amenable to that, as well, if I would just honestly explain it to her.

So what are you afraid of? It’s time for us to speak up in the salon. Your concerns might be different than mine, but we have every right to say what’s on our minds. We are paying for a service, so it’s okay for us to be clear about what we want. If you aren’t happy with your stylist, don’t torture yourself – find a new one! Look for someone who asks you lots of questions about what you want, and who is open and receptive to what you tell them.

Imagine going to the salon and getting exactly what you want. I’m almost there…

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13 thoughts on “Why are we afraid of our hair dressers?

  1. most stylists are co-operative, friendly people who are more than happy for honor requests such as no shampooing, no products, no styling- it actually makes their day easier and we appreciate your honestly. most clients sit in my chair and when i ask them what they would like, the answer begins with “i dont know”. as a client, if you can’t express and communicate your desires out loud, without ‘i dont knows’ or show me a photo or say you have your own products, or you don’t like the flat iron or whatever it is, then I wont know what you want. when clients dont communicate, i will just do what i think looks nice based on my training, the salon i work for and the expectations my boss has for the completion of my services. i will use the products i think smell nice and that i think my clients will like and style your hair the way i was taught. unfortunately, however, they don’t cover mind-reading in beauty school. if i miss the mark and you dont tell me, i can’t fix it (and most stylists offer a touch-up for free if there is something you don’t like even after you leave the salon) and i will probably never see you again, and i won’t know what i did wrong or how to learn from that mistake. next time you go to your stylist- look her right in the eye, begin by saying “today i would like to try….” and fill in the blank with whatever it is that you want to say. if your stylists’ ego is too big to handle this- its time to get a new one

    • @Kris: Thank you so much for this perspective. This is EXACTLY what people need to hear! I just don’t know why we are so intimidated by hair stylists, but we do a disservice to ourselves AND to them by not saying something and helping them understand what we are looking for. Thank you!

  2. congrats! i know it’s not easy to speak up when someone is wielding scissors near your head haha! I used to be a shrinking violet when it comes to speaking up, but now since my budget is so tight I make sure I get the service/product I’ve paid for! Funny hat it takes!

  3. I find that we do this with doctors, as well. I once had to have a breast ultrasound (which is anxiety-inducing enough on its own!) and the doctor brought along some sort of intern. I felt like a gd science project. She didn’t introduce her or ask me if it was ok. I felt so flustered, but didn’t say anything. I always think back to how upset that made me and it pushes me to be frank, blunt, and clear about what I want, how I feel, and always prompts me to speak up.

    Next time you go to the salon, get your game face on beforehand. Here’s your dialogue: “I am fierce and so is my hair. I’m not letting any old ho with scissors mess with our mojo. Throat chakra … ENGAGE!” :)

    • @Y is for: Yikes! That is awful! I absolutely hate it when that happens. It really should be something where they say, “Hey, is it okay if this med student observes?” What the heck???

      As for the rest, heck yeah! “Throat chakra…engage!” Love it!

  4. oh yes, i feel the same about styling products and such. hair stylists always look at my wet, starting to curl again, hair and say: ‘ouuuu, lets curl it!!!’ and it ALWAYS looks like crap.

    So I’ve started just saying; ‘no thank you’. usually they are pretty good.

    But the product thing- ick. Andrew also hates it when the hair stylists puts load of product in his hair. but we never say anything- you’re right!

    I will say something next time. :)

  5. Wow Yancy! You must be a mind reader, because I’ve been thinking about this for several weeks. I have a FABULOUS hair stylist. She cuts hair in her home, serves everyone a frozen daiquiri or margarita and popcorn for free (how can you beat that?), and has become a great friend of mine. However, I need an appointment before my wedding, and I’ve been debating how to go through with it. “No products please, I don’t even shampoo my hair anymore.” Would she even want to touch my hair after that? HA! Actually, now that I think of it, we’d probably end up laughing and talking about it. Then I was thinking I’d just ask to fix it myself, tip my head over, and blowdry it or just leave it to air dry. When I used to work in a spa, several customers would ask to style their hair themselves.

    Anyhoo, this is such an interesting article because it brings up the question, “Whose body is this anyway?” Why should we feel bad about telling someone how we want our body treated? I’m with you Yancy!

    Melanie :)

  6. I have been side stepping this issue by having my boyfriend trim my hair. I can’t deal with the $50+ cost of getting a haircut in nyc when all i really want is a simple trim. that is nice that your place is open to bringing your own shampoo.

  7. I know exactly what you mean, Y! One of my old friends is my hairdresser. We go way back! I hadn’t had my hair cut in almost a year, and I went to her when I started my hair challenge back in March. Luckily, she knows how I feel about product and she typically doesn’t style me because I save that luxury for M (we usually go together for appointments). But, I didn’t stop her form shampooing/conditioning me and I didn’t tell her about my no-poo adventures in fear of rejection. Next time, I will bring shampoo too! I never thought of it!

  8. I have the same problem – I don’t know why its so hard to speak up – my husband is the complete opposite and if he doesn’t like something or the way the barber cut his hair he goes right back in the place and makes them redo it. I kind of get embarrassed by it, but he tells me all the time that he pays for it, and he will get what he wants, and he doesn’t care if the person doesn’t like it. If they give him a hard time he doesn’t go back. But I just can’t seem to get up the nerve. I do however opt out of the blow drying and styling because my hair is just going back up, but I never thought about bringing my own shampoo – thats a great idea! Again – wonderful article, I love it!

  9. Way to go, I’m easy I just go to the walk in places, cheap and no commitment! But it’s easy for me, my hair is just straight and long so they can’t really screw it up too much. I also go in after my shower so they don’t need to wash my hair, it’s still damp enough to cut and if it dries a bit they just spray it down with water. If you live close enough to your salon you can try that too.

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