Salon Tips: Communicating with Stylist

Communication is key!!! It’s a barrier breaker, problem solver and a matchmaker. Clients are already nervous when they sit in a stylists chair for the first time. Everyone has a story about a time they went to a salon and received a soul crushing hair cut or got their hair fried, etc. Maybe you aren’t sure how to explain what you want so you just let the stylist “do their thing”. If that hasn’t really worked out so well for you then keep reading. I’ve got some really great common sense tips for you to help you communicate better with your stylist.

1. Be friendly
I’m not saying be a chatterbox but a smile and positive attitude goes a long way. Say hello. Introduce yourself and ask the stylists name if they haven’t initiated conversation with you. We stylists are people and though the vast majority strive to be professional, nobody is perfect. Sometimes we get tired or preoccupied and forget. I might introduce myself to 9 clients and get caught up on some small detail of my station or the phone or feel drained from a needy preceding client and skip over it without realizing. So being friendly takes the edge off and sets the tone for a positive session.

C.O. Bigelow

2. Bring Pics 
One of my go to conversational phrases is “I can show you better than I can tell you”. There are several ways to use visual communication to reach mutual understanding. First, bring bring photos. You can bring multiple photos and explain that perhaps you like the balayage in one photo. The length of the cut in another photo.  Your stylist should be able to talk you through what makes sense and what may not be possible and help you understand that styling and differences in hair textures may mean that your cut won’t turn out exactly like the photos. No two haircuts are identical.

3. Use specific visual cues
Clients will say I just need a trim, but Mary’s idea of a trim is 2 inches while Emily wants only 1/2 an inch. There is no hard and fast trim length rule. It is up to you and not the stylist to decide so that you make sure you get what you want. So now when being specific   don’t tell the stylist take an inch or two. Because 1 inch is one inch and two inches is 2 inches. Depending on how much hair you are starting with, your face shape and bone structure that 1 inch can be the difference between flattering and awkward. I find most people aren’t even sure how much an inch is. If you think you want to cut 2 inches, Ask the stylist to show you exactly how much would be coming off. Getting the length right the first time is vital. If you decide after the entire head has been cut that you want to change the length the stylist may have to start from the beginning. Some salons may charge a wishy washy client for two haircuts in such a case. If the stylist is telling you that they can’t give you what you want, and they insist on doing something else  ask to see a pic. If you can’t reach a mutual understanding say thanks but no thanks and leave before they get started. It doesn’t make sense to waste either person’s time.

4. Disclose ALL issues
Perhaps you have a bump or growth, that is sensitive if grazed with the comb or clipper; you suffer from psoriasis; maybe you have a bald spot or scar that needs to be covered or even a stubborn cowlick let your stylist know to make sure extra precaution is taken during your service. Also discuss your lifestyle maybe you are a busy mom and need a low maintenance style. Do you work in a very conservative office environment and need a clean professional style for work? If you are an artist and need a look that reflects your personality, definitely share that information with your stylist.

5. Inspect the final result
When your stylist is done don’t just look at the front in the mirror and say thank you. If the stylist doesn’t hand you a mirror ask for one. Be sure to spin around in the chair so you can expect the final look from all angles.

6. Speak up
If an adjustment needs to be made let the stylist know and allow them to give you excellent service by personalizing your cut, making necessary corrections and adding other finishing touches.

7. Ask for maintenance routine
Be sure to inquire how to maintain your look at home, get product recommendations & styling tips. I suggest you that if your budget allows for it to purchase the product suggested because the stylist can vouch for the results of the products they are accustomed to using and prefer. If you think you may have a comparable product at home ask if you can reasonably substitute. If they say no ask more questions to understand why.  If the answer makes sense and is fact based then you know whether or not they are giving you a legitimate recommendation or hustling you for a sale.


Apani Smith is a professional licensed cosmetologist, avid beauty junkie, also a revered Indie Hip-Hop Icon, sleep deprived mom and foodie extraordinaire.  Get social with  @apaniclassic on Instagram, Twitter & Pinterest  to book a hair or makeup consultation/appointment, see more original work and life imitating art. 

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