Your No-Drama Guide to Salon Etiquette!

No one wants to have an awkward or unpleasant experience at a salon—whether you’re the client or the stylist! Sometimes personalities clash, or things go wrong unpredictably. But most salon problems can be avoided by following basic salon etiquette.

The main rules for clients and stylists are to be kind, courteous, and respectful. Treat people how you’d like to be treated and try to put yourself in their shoes. Additionally, keep their goals in mind when figuring out how to address any potential difficulties.

In this post, we’ll go over salon rules for both clients and stylists, as well as some answers to basic problems you may encounter.

Salon Rules for Clients

Here are a few etiquette rules that clients should follow in order to get the most out of their appointment.

Know Your Hair

It’s great to be prepared with photos and to find a hairdresser whose style compliments yours. You also want to explain clearly what you want your hair to look like to set your stylist up for success!

Also, don’t forget that this might include add-on services, such as a styling rather than just a cut, or products you’ll need to take home to maintain your look.

But keep in mind that there are things about your hair that even a fantastic stylist can’t change. If your hair is very thick and you bring in a photo of someone with thinner hair, your cut might look drastically different.

You should also know yourself, and what level of maintenance you’re willing to provide your hair on the daily. You won’t be happy if you like to keep things simple, and instead end up with a long process to get your hair styled every day.

salon etiquette client

Be Polite

Treat your hairstylist like a human being—they are one!

You should never be rude. If you do have a problem with the stylist, try to address it in a calm, constructive manner.

Screaming is a “no” in salons, whether you’re shouting about your stylist cutting your hair too short or yelling across the salon. Not only may this annoy your stylist, but others in the salon who are trying to focus on work, or relax while receiving their own haircut.

Be kind and courteous to those around you—and those who aren’t.

Don’t badmouth other professionals, especially if they’re your stylist’s coworkers. It puts the person cutting your hair in an awkward position.

Don’t be Late!

Even 5-10 minutes can really throw off a stylist’s schedule. Once you make an appointment, do what you can to ensure you show up at that time (or early, if you can!).

If you’re late, your stylist will have to begin their next appointment late, and all of the following appointments will be set back as well. It impacts a lot of people!

However, if the day of your appointment comes and you know you won’t be able to make it on time, just let your stylist know as early as possible.

This at least gives them time to rearrange their schedule, and possibly make up for your being late.

As long as you’re not always pushing back appointments, your stylist isn’t going to hold it against you that you were late a single time.

salon rules for clients

Don’t be on the phone!

If you’ve worked in customer service, surely you understand that customers chatting on the phone while you’re trying to service them is rude!

For a hairstylist, it can be even worse. If your cell phone is held to your ear, how are they supposed to cut your hair around it?

This puts your stylist in a bad place as, if you don’t like your haircut, you’ll be upset with them for messing it up.

If you have an important call, try to schedule it at a different time than your salon appointment, or at least okay it with your stylist first—they might be more accepting if you are courteous enough to ask them how to best take the call without affecting their ability to style your hair.

Of course, if it’s an emergency, no one will blame you for answering!

But you might be asking, what about texting? Can I browse social media during my haircut?

Different stylists have different views on this. The safe bet is to either keep your phone put away, or ask your stylist if they mind you having it out.

Some stylists won’t mind, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their work.

Chatting is Okay, But Don’t Overshare

According to this interview with various hairstylists, you can be as chatty or quiet as you like. Stylists are used to dealing with all kinds of people.

However, some hairdressers may be troubled to hear the intimate details of your personal life, and some won’t appreciate if your talk is overly political or religious.

It’s best to make small talk, chat about your style, or ask which products they recommend. Treat your stylist like an acquaintance, not like your best friend!

salon etiquette stylist

Ask for Pricing Ahead of Time

If you’re going to a new salon, it’s understandable that you may not know their pricing. The last thing you want is to be shocked by the price once it’s time to pay, though.

This is bad for you and the stylist. It could lead to embarrassment if you don’t have the cash, and the stylist could lose out on part of the paycheck they’re counting on.

To avoid this, ask for prices in advance, like when you’re setting up your appointment.

Keep in mind all the services you’ll want, any products you might buy, and the cost of a tip. If possible, bring more than you need in case you want to treat yourself to a little something extra while you’re there!

Missed Hair Appointment Etiquette

If you’re going to miss your hair appointment, it’s best to give your stylist at least a couple of days’ notice. This way, they have a chance to book someone else for that time slot.

You should avoid canceling whenever possible because it really does hurt your stylist. If they can’t find someone else to fill that time, they won’t be paid for it.

However, sometimes an emergency comes up, or you forget to cancel. If you’ve already missed your appointment, you can give your hairstylist a call, apologize for the mistake, and reschedule.

A kind (not required!) thing you might do is offer your stylist a higher tip next time.

Is It Okay to go to a Hair Salon with Dirty Hair?

It’s best to wash your hair at least a couple of days before going to the hair salon. This is because it’s easier for your stylist to get a feel for your hair if it’s clean.

Everyone’s hair is different, but you know how often you need to wash yours.

You should also make sure your hair isn’t tangled before you go to the hair salon. Your stylist can comb it for you, but if your hair is very knotted, it makes their job more difficult. It also adds time to your appointment, which isn’t ideal for either of you.

How Much Should I Tip my Stylist?

If you’re happy with your stylist’s work, a 20% tip is fair. Some people tip less if they’re unhappy with their stylist or their haircut.

Don’t forget about your stylist’s assistants, though! You don’t have to tip them as much as your stylist, but a smaller tip will show your appreciation for their hard work.

How to Tell Your Hairdresser You Didn’t Like the Haircut

If you don’t like your haircut, should you tell your stylist?

Yes, absolutely!

But, we know that’s easier said than done. It’s easy to get nervous. You don’t want to be rude or put others’ work down, especially when you can tell the hairdresser really tried!

A professional stylist should be happy to receive criticism, though, as long as it’s constructive. Tell your hairdresser honestly, but kindly, what you didn’t like about your experience.

They’d rather you let them know than for you to go someplace else—or worse, let them keep styling your hair in a way you’re unhappy with!

Salon Rules for Stylists

stylist etiquette rules

Now we’re onto the stylists! Here is etiquette you can follow to ensure your clients (and yourself!) get the best experience.

Be Professional

Professional hairdressers put clients at ease and make them feel that they’re in capable hands. They’re polite, kind, and non-judgmental.

Remember your cosmetology schooling and put it into practice! Never make a client feel bad about themselves or their appearance.

If you haven’t gotten your license yet, our free cosmetology practice test can help you find out if you are ready to take the test. 

While chatting with the client, you want to be friendly—but not overly so. Don’t be the stylist who’s badmouthing their coworkers, or complaining about their boss or personal life.

It’s better to make small talk and focus on the client. Maybe recommend products or explain how they can take care of their hair to keep it styled how they like after leaving the salon.

You should also stay off your phone! Your clients should feel your attention is on them, and that you aren’t distracted. Talking on the phone or texting can come off as rude and unprofessional.

Related read: How Hard is Cosmetology School? What You Need To Know Before You Enroll

Time Management is a Must!

You expect your clients to be on time—make sure they can expect the same from you, too.

You don’t want a bunch of empty time between clients, but you also don’t want to be overbooked to the point where every client is waiting on you.

Keep in mind that they have lives and places to be, just like you do, and respect their time.

Clean-up Etiquette

A dirty salon doesn’t just gross customers out—it can also cause health risks.

Keeping your salon clean is incredibly important. This includes the chairs, the floor, and all of the tools you’re using.

When working in a salon with others, if you don’t clean up someone else will have to. It reflects poorly on everyone if your space is a mess!

Along the same lines, you should make sure you have all the tools you need with you before each appointment. If your space is clean, that’s even better, because everything will be easy to find.

Clients won’t want to wait while you figure out where you put the scissors!

client haircut

What if a Client is Annoying?

Not every client will be someone you’d hang out with in your free time. You probably know this already. But what if a client is getting on your every last nerve?

Refrain from losing your temper. Remember this is part of your job, and stay civil with your client.

Related read: The 15 Personality Traits of Successful Cosmetologists

Of course, if they’re that bad, you could drop them. But it will look unprofessional on your part, especially if it happens often.

What if I Can’t Style a Client’s Hair How They Want?

From time to time, a client might ask for something you’ve never done before. It’s okay to admit you’re in over your head!

Related read: What treatments can and can’t a cosmetologist perform?

In this situation, you can ask a coworker for help or refer the client to someone else who can give them what they want.

Don’t try to fake your way through! You wouldn’t want someone lying to you and potentially messing up your hair, so don’t do it to someone else.

What to do if a Client Doesn’t Like Their Haircut

Sometimes as a hairstylist, you’re going to make mistakes. Not every client will like their haircut.

If a client comes to you with criticism, your first reaction may be to push back or feel offended. But remember that it isn’t about you. It might not even say anything about your skills—sometimes you have a misunderstanding.

Take their critique calmly and politely. If you’ve messed up, then offering to fix it can go a long way.

And if you’ve made a mistake that can’t be fixed? Apologize, and do better next time!

Related read: Is Being a Cosmetologist Worth It?

We hope these salon etiquette tips have helped you, whether you’re a client, a stylist, or maybe even both!