How to Speak Up at the Salon When You Don’t Like What You’re Seeing

Not digging your hair, nails, or whatever salon treatment you’re getting? Here’s what to do and say.

<p>imaginima/Getty Images</p>

imaginima/Getty Images

I still remember the time I sat quietly in the salon chair, absolutely gutted over what was happening to my hair, and doing everything I could to hold back the tears. I didn’t want to offend my stylist, who was perfectly sweet and wasn’t doing anything wrong, but just wasn’t hitting the mark. So I held it in, smiled when she spun me around to look at the back of my head, paid, and then promptly broke down in my car.

That was years ago, and I’ve since learned that it’s so important to speak up at the salon when you don’t like the way things are headed. Maybe it’s a manicure and the nail polish color isn’t translating the way you wanted from the bottle, or maybe you’re getting your brows done and the microblading just seems a bit off. Whatever the case, remember that this is a collaborative process and that communicating kindly (key word!) and clearly is the way to get those before and after pics of your dreams!

We asked a handful of professionals about how to speak up when things start going sideways at the salon. Here’s their best advice.

RELATED: 9 Things Your Hairstylist Wishes You’d Stop Doing at the Salon

Say Something Right Away

Whatever you do, don’t wait until the end of the appointment to express disappointment. The second you notice things aren’t going the way you want, say something.

“It is usually easier to fix a mistake as soon as it happens, so we recommend saying something when you notice it,” says Michelle Nguyen, a licensed nail and lash artist and the founder of PLA Beauty. “It can be a little awkward, but it's way easier than waiting until the end of the appointment when there's no time left to fix anything.”

This is true of all appointment types, adds MariLynne Cosmillo, veteran hairstylist and founder of hOURS Haircare. If your hair isn’t short enough or you’re not digging the cut, speak up before your stylist starts blow drying. If the nail polish color isn’t it, say something before all 10 nails are painted.

Don’t Go Behind Their Back

Always try to speak directly with the professional completing your service versus other people in the salon. The only caveat to this rule is if things have absolutely gone sideways and you don't feel safe or comfortable with your provider, or if you did communicate your preferences and they still weren’t met.

“Don't be afraid to speak directly to your stylist vs going to someone else in the salon and speaking behind their back,” advises Chaz Dean, celebrity stylist and founder of WEN. “The end goal is to always make sure the client is happy, so we appreciate and want you to always speak openly so we can make sure you leave wanting to come back again.”

Nguyen adds that most professionals would also prefer you speak to them personally versus leaving poor reviews for everyone to see.

Be Calm, Kind, and Clear

We know, we know. It can feel so awkward to express disappointment, but remaining calm and kind—and clearly expressing what you don’t like—is a must.

“While most stylists can read your expression or reaction, they cannot read your mind,” Cosmillo says. “Take a breath and respectfully tell them what exactly you don’t love, and exactly how you would prefer it to look so that they or another stylist can help make it right for you.”

If it’s helpful, know that you aren’t the first person to ever speak up and that all professionals expect and welcome feedback as they work. “It’s very common that clients speak up,” says Cosmillo. “As a stylist, it’s a terrible feeling to see a client unhappy, but they won’t tell you what is ‘off.’ We want to help!”

Many professionals will ask questions throughout the appointment. Consider these moments an opportunity to speak up, as well.

Focus on the Work Vs. Giving Personal Critiques

When the barista gets your drink order wrong, you express dissatisfaction with the drink itself—not the person who made the drink. Follow this same approach when getting a treatment.

“Being assertive can sometimes feel like you're being rude, but as long as you remain polite and keep the discussion about the work itself—and not the stylist or artist—it shouldn't be an issue,” Nguyen says. “Maybe they don't have a ton of experience yet or are having an off day and couldn't perform to their normal standards. So rather than insulting them, stick to discussing their work and how you would like them to proceed.”

She adds that some people may not take any sort of feedback well, but don’t let that dissuade you from speaking up from yourself. As long as you’re kind, clear, and not insulting them directly, you are within your rights. After all, you're paying for a service, so the end result should be what you paid for.

Work Toward the Best Solution

Your first instinct may be to demand a refund immediately, but that doesn’t always make sense. Instead, the professional will typically offer a re-do in order to achieve the results you want. (Situations where a refund is warranted include unsafe practices, damage, poor results after speaking up, or a strained relationship where you no longer want to work with the same professional.)

“If you and your stylist agreed on what was achievable, you spoke up to give them a chance to fix it, and you’re still unhappy, ask for a solution from the front desk,” Cosmillo says. “It may be that your stylist wasn’t able to make it happen for you, but someone else can. Then, a re-do is appropriate.”

In some cases, a refund may be the best solution so you can go somewhere else to fix the service. However, every salon has its own rules regarding this, so don’t be offended if they say no to a refund.

Always Ask For a Consultation

Preventing your appointment from going awry is crucial. Angelina Murphy, celebrity extensionist, says it’s essential that both the stylist and the client be on the same page from the get-go.

“I prefer clients to communicate their preferences during the consultation, as it sets the stage for a successful outcome,” she says. “Taking time during this phase to discuss inspirations and realistic expectations is key to achieving your desired result. When expressing your thoughts, referencing your initial inspiration and the consultation discussion can help convey your desires without sounding confrontational.”

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