Hairdressers answer the 10 most awkward 'salon etiquette' questions.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve spent an entire hair appointment wondering if I’ve broken some unspoken rule of salon etiquette.

Here’s a small sample of my typical internal monologue: Oh God, am I making enough conversation? Is it rude if I start reading a magazine now? My coffee’s going cold but if I reach over to grab it, is that going to end in disaster?

The reassuring news is I’m not the only neurotic one out there.

The Glow team came up with a comprehensive list of the awkward salon etiquette questions we’ve always wanted to ask, but never dared to, and took them to two Aussie hairdressers: ELEVEN Australia co-Creative Director and three-time Hairdresser of the Year Joey Scandizzo, and Togninis Premier Colourist David Martin. They didn’t hold back.

1. Talk to me.

Q: How much conversation do you generally expect from a client? Do you find it offensive if they don’t really want to chat?

Joey Scandizzo: “Not at all! I love being able to concentrate on what I’m doing, and I totally understand it’s a great time for my clients to chill out and read a magazine, which most people don’t get the luxury to do these days. As long as we have a good chat at the beginning and both of us know exactly what’s going on with the haircut or style, I am happy for the client to sit back and relax. I’m pretty sure they are happier when they see me focussed and not just there for a chat.”

David Martin: “It’s all about the client and their visit to the salon. Bottom line is: if a client requires some chat time or quiet time it’s their visit, and it should never be taken personally or as though the client is being rude. Sometimes it’s nice for the hairdresser, too.”

L-R: Joey Scandizzo and David Martin. (Images supplied)

 2. The blow-dry issue.

Q: What about talking while blow-drying — should there just be a blanket 'no talking' rule?

Joey Scandizzo: "That rule would be awesome; you feel really bad when you can see your client's lips moving and you can't hear a thing they are saying. And it's not great for the clients sitting next to you to have two people yelling at each other over the noise of the dryer. The worst is when a client is in the middle of a big story, yelling over the dryer, and all of a sudden I stop the blow dryer and everyone hears them screaming."

David Martin: "This can be a challenge, especially if the client is softly-spoken or they are trying to talk about private matters. The best way to get around this is to learn to lip read in the mirror ... everyone wants to say, 'What? Speak up! I can’t hear you!' but no one does that. Instead, if we don’t hear something correctly we just smile, nod and say, 'Yes, absolutely' and hope for the best."

Watch: Mia Freedman's hairdresser Byron Turnbull explains how to get the haircut you want every single time. (Post continues after video.)


3. Eyes wide shut.

Q: During the hair washing, it's OK to lie there with closed eyes - right? 

Joey Scandizzo: "I think that’s the best! It shows the hairdresser you are enjoying it, and I think you have more of a chance of getting a longer head massage if the stylist thinks you are relaxed and loving it. Plus, clients don’t realise how loud they sound when they chat at the basin as they are trying to talk over the sound of running water, plus everything echoes... it can be quite funny sometimes listening to people."

David Martin: "Clients are supposed to relax at this stage; it’s been described as 'the best bit' for a reason. Please feel free to close your eyes, relax and even have a snooze — this is actually a compliment. Trust me, if you want to freak out a hairdresser drop your head back, open your eyes and stare at them. Awkward."


4. Show me the money.

Q: Is it OK to ask what the price will be for each element of the appointment (eg. treatments, blow-dry) before you agree to getting anything? Do you ever think a customer is being stingy if they do so?

Joey Scandizzo: "I don’t think it is stingy at all; people have the right to know what they are paying for. I think the best way would be to ask what the total price is for your complete service and then maybe ask what exactly that includes."

David Martin: "Unless they're Beyoncé and can make it rain cash, most clients are on a budget or just like to know where their money goes. It’s never rude to ask for a breakdown. Clients need not be shy and nor should hairdressers; communication is the key. Let’s face it, everyone loves an expensive surprise — unless they’re the one paying for it."

5. A challenge.

Q: If a style/cut/colour doesn't come out how the customer wanted it to, can they challenge it? At what point of the process should they speak up?

Joey Scandizzo: "No service should start if both parties are not 100 per cent on the same page with what the outcome will be, especially if you're having a big change. A client should speak up at any stage they are feeling nervous about an element of their service, they certainly shouldn’t wait to the very end. If you have a million questions, go for it! It's your hair, and your stylist should want you to look your very best and they should always want to do their best work. You are walking advertisement for them."


David Martin: "Please speak up as soon as possible. The last thing a hairdresser wants is something going wrong or a client not happy. A client should never feel as though they can’t raise a concern or talk to the hairdresser about the end result." (Post continues after gallery.)


 6. Day 4 hair.

Q: Is it poor etiquette to rock up to an appointment with hair that hasn't been washed for days on end? It's only going to be washed anyway...


Joey Scandizzo: "I do actually think this is poor taste. A little bit greasy is fine, but really out-of-control dirty hair isn’t nice for anyone. Your hairdresser needs to see how your hair sits, what its natural texture is like and how you like to wear it, and they can't get the right idea if it's a greasy mess they don’t want to touch."

David Martin: "There’s dirty hair and there’s dirty hair. Turning up with hair that is three days old and unwashed is fine. Especially when you’re having colour with ammonia on your scalp, it's best to leave some natural oils there for protection against irritation from colour."

Watch: Our managing editor underwent a big hair change - and we were there to capture the action. (Post continues after video.)

7. Tea time.

Q: If you've given the customer a cup of tea/coffee at the start of the appointment, when is the most convenient time for them to drink it? Is it hard to work if they're constantly learning forward to take a sip?

Joey Scandizzo: "I like my clients to be offered a tea or coffee when they come back from the basin so they can sit and enjoy it and zone out while I do my thing. I don’t mind the leaning forward — you kind of get into a rhythm with each other and it's fine. I'd rather they do that then cop a big chunk of hair in their coffee."


David Martin: "Small movements by taking sips from a coffee or tea cup really doesn’t throw the hairdresser into havoc. Clients will often visit during lunch breaks and may not have time to have a refreshment, so offering this simple service is highly appreciated."

8. Close contact.

Q: Eye contact through the mirror: How much is too much? 

Joey Scandizzo: "I am so used to talking to people through mirrors that it almost feels less normal to look them straight in the eye! I think it's fine, never too much — it's much easier for the client to keep their head in the right position for you if they look at you through the mirror, it can get annoying if they keep trying to turn around and look you in the eyes."

David Martin: "It's far more personal and easier to communicate sitting with the client at eye level, face-to-face, and talk to them about their hair. Once the hairdresser has some basic information, it's then time to move to standing behind the client and looking at them in the mirror. What we need to remember is we can get really close to a client, to the point where personal space in no longer in existence. So when the client turns to face the hairdresser and they’re 30cm away from each other’s face, it’s a little close."

"It's much easier for the client to keep their head in the right position if they look at you through the mirror." (istock)

9. Phone etiquette

Q: Is it rude for a customer to check their phone during the appointment?

Joey Scandizzo: "No, I don't think so; I think it's more rude for the hairdresser to do it! It's pretty rude for a client to be taking a call while you are doing their hair, but checking it and texting I think is OK. Some people use that time to catch up on emails and text messages so I’m OK if they want to focus on that and let me do my thing."


David Martin: "Checking a message or email while in the company of the stylist is completely acceptable. However, be careful when looking at picture messages around a hairdresser — they are curious creatures and love a peekaboo." (Post continues after gallery.)

10. Nap time.

Q: Is it weird if a customer falls asleep during an appointment?

Joey Scandizzo: "It is weird but happens more often that you think. Some people have crazy busy lives and don’t get the opportunity to just stop and sit still for an hour or so. Then add someone running their hands through your hair, it can be really relaxing. I think it's cool to have a power nap at the basin, but a little risky to fall asleep during a haircut when someone has sharp scissors near your face."

David Martin: "To have a client fall asleep tells you they have complete faith in your abilities and are completely comfortable in your company. It does not go unnoticed — all the hairdressers in the salon will let out a silent cheer as a mark of respect to the hairdresser's cool and very calming nature. Well done to the hairdresser, and nighty-night to you."

Are there any other awkward questions you'd like your hairdresser to answer?