Hairdressers wield a lot of power. We rely on their judgment and expertise to cut our hair, color our locks, and make us look and feel our best. More importantly, we trust them to skillfully use scissors and razors precariously close to our faces. But while their work might seem relatively straightforward, there’s a lot you may not know. Here are a few of the secrets of their tonsorial trade.
1. THEY LOVE CLIENTS WHO HAVE A CLEAR IDEA OF WHAT THEY WANT.
If you think showing up to your hair appointment with no idea what kind of cut you want makes you seem carefree and cool, think again. Hairdressers want you to be happy with the end result, so come with an idea of the kind of look you desire before you sit down in the chair. Hairstylist Brittany Molina tells Woman’s Day that having a specific length in mind is extremely helpful. “We’re not mind readers!” she says.
2. BUT FLEXIBILITY IS ALSO IMPORTANT.
Although it can be tremendously helpful to show your hairdresser a photo of a celebrity’s hair, don’t get too attached to it. “Hair is as unique as the individual … some hair textures and growth patterns will not accommodate certain cuts,” hairstylist Habib Alaei tells The Week. And your hair color and cut should match your skin tone and bone structure, so be flexible. Come with realistic expectations, and remain open to the expert advice your hairdresser gives you.
3. THEY ACCEPT THE REALITY THAT HAIR WILL BE EVERYWHERE.
The strands of freshly cut hair that get under your collar when you get a haircut are nothing compared to all the hair that hairdressers deal with on a daily basis. Hairdresser Sade Doucette tells Bustle that she finds hair in her shoes, on her clothing, and even in her food. Jennifer Thomas, a hairstylist based in Beverly Hills, California, echoes that sentiment, explaining to mental_floss that other people’s hair gets into everything. “I shower every day as soon as I get home from work, and I rarely can re-wear work clothes without washing them first,” she says.
4. INJURIES AND ACHES ARE PART OF THE JOB.
Working with heat lamps, curling irons, razors, and loud blow dryers means that hairdressers can suffer a variety of work-related injuries. And standing all day while performing repetitive motions can cause aches and pains. Jenny Strebe, who blogs at Confessions of a Hairstylist, tells mental_floss that while she’s never heard of any hairdressers losing their hearing (from blow dryers), carpal tunnel syndrome and occasional nicks and cuts are hazards of the job.
5. THEY CAN SPOT SUBTLE CHANGES IN YOUR HEALTH.
By looking at your hair, your hairdresser may be able to spot changes in your health and hormones. Women’s hair texture changes at pregnancy and menopause, and hormonal changes due to a variety of autoimmune disorders can cause hair loss. According to Thomas, hair can also become brittle and dry due to excessive weight loss or cutting too much fat from your diet.
6. TAKE THEIR PRODUCT RECOMMENDATIONS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT.
Some hairdressers sell products—shampoos, conditioners, and styling sprays—that they genuinely believe will help keep your hair healthy and stylish. But some stylists, especially ones who rent chairs in a large salon, may have to sell a certain amount of product per month to fulfill their contract. “Many salons make as much money from product sales [as] they do from services … Stylists are pressured to make sales because their income depends upon moving inventory,” explains Alaei.
7. IT’S OKAY TO SPEAK UP IF YOU’RE NOT SATISFIED.
If you don’t like your haircut, you’re not doing your hairdresser any favors by keeping quiet. Hairstylist Alli Lemon writes in Thought Catalog that being honest with your stylist is a win-win because you’ll be happy and your hairdresser can maintain a good reputation. “Most stylists are happy to fix your hair if you’re unhappy with it … Simply be polite and let us know,” she writes. “Most good salons have redo policies where you can come back and see your stylist for tweaks and fixes, for no charge.”
8. THEY FEEL PRIVILEGED TO HEAR YOUR PROBLEMS AND SECRETS.
“A big part of my job is listening to people vent,” Thomas says. Although some clients prefer to sit quietly or read while they get a haircut, most clients chat up a storm with their stylist. Hairdressers act like therapists, listening to people complain about their lives, discuss their problems, and/or gossip. The best hairdressers, then, are good listeners who have top-notch conversation skills and empathy. “I love every minute of it. I feel privileged to know my clients trust me enough to tell me their problems and secrets, and feel comfortable enough with me to complain about anything and to ask me for advice,” Thomas explains.
9. THEY DON’T HAVE A REGULAR WORK WEEK.
Many hairdressers work Tuesday to Saturday, staying late (until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m.) on weekdays to accommodate people who want to get a haircut after work. Rather than a relaxing day off, Saturday is typically a hairstylist’s busiest day. Clients come to the salon that day because they usually have more flexibility in their schedules and may want to look their best to attend a Saturday evening event.
10. HAIR SPLINTERS PLAGUE THEM.
“When hair gets stuck in my clothes it feels like little needles are poking me,” Thomas says. What hurts more than getting hair stuck under clothing, though, is when a piece of hair gets stuck under skin. These hair splinters, which can get embedded in the bottom of a foot, can feel like having glass under your skin. “I get them out by using tweezers,” Thomas says.
11. THEY’RE CONSTANTLY LOOKING FOR STYLE INSPIRATION.
Because fashion trends are constantly evolving, hairdressers are always on the lookout for style inspiration. Some stylists scroll through Instagram or read style blogs to get ideas. Strebe also looks at older fashion magazines, editorial work, and her peer’s work. Thomas considers what her clients want: “I look to my client’s lifestyle, hair type, and desired result. I take all of that into consideration and let that inspire me. That way I can give my client what’s best for him or her.”
12. THEY DON’T ALWAYS CUT THEIR OWN HAIR.
You might assume that a perk of the job would be free haircuts for life, but hairdressers don’t necessarily cut their own hair. Thomas says that while she’s cut her own hair many times, that’s not par for the course. “I don't cut my own hair on a regular basis—I usually get one of my hairstylist friends to give me a haircut,” she says. And Strebe cuts her own hair from time to time, but mostly just her layers. “I'm just too dang busy!” she says.
13. THEY PROBABLY HAVE A LICE-RELATED HORROR STORY.
Although most hairdressers have probably dealt with rude or nasty clients, lice are their real horror story. Not only are the little insects disgusting, but if a hairdresser spots lice eggs in a client’s hair, they have to sterilize and disinfect all their tools. “I have found lice eggs on clients, which is horrifying. But I don’t get as grossed out as someone who isn’t in the business of working with hair,” Thomas says. It should go without saying, but if you have head lice, treat the problem before getting your hair cut at a salon.
All photos courtesy iStock.