Why Hairdressers Never Do What You Want

Hairdresser and unhappy client
Photo: Shutterstock
It's a common complaint among both women and men: "Why do hairdressers never do what I ask them to?" or "Why does my hairdresser always cut my hair shorter than I want?" The answer to these questions is not simple, but there are a couple of basic conditions that are the cause of the problem.
First, and this is not an excuse, but rather an explanation of the source of some of the issues, many hairdressers see clients who want to maintain the styles they have. And often, when you look at a hairdresser’s client base as a whole, you will see a "pattern" to the looks the clients have.
The hairdresser may become known for performing a particular cut well, the client’s friends may like the look and come to the hairdresser for the same (or a similar) cut and suddenly the hairdresser is spending 75% of his or her time performing the same style over and over.
This generates a habit that can be hard to shake, particularly when the hairdresser has a well-established clientele with few new customers. Even though most places have requirements that hairdressers have continuing training in new procedures to maintain their licensure, unless the clientele want these services, there is very little practice and the habitual services are left unchanged.
Another common reason for dissatisfaction with a hairdresser's service - perhaps the most common - is traced to a breakdown in communication. This can be a result of differences in conceptualization or perception.
For example: a client comes in and says, "I just want my hair trimmed to remove the split ends." Her hair is very long (almost to her waist) and the bottom 8 to 10 inches of the hair are badly frayed, damaged, and stringy.
Hairdresser, trimming long blonde hair
Photo: Krzysztof Chrostowski/Pexels
The stylist says, “I can see why you want it trimmed up. You have a lot of damaged ends back here.”
“I know. Can you just cut away the damaged parts? I’d really like my hair to look healthy and lush again.”
So the stylist proceeds to cut away the bottom eight inches of the hair and carefully trims away the remaining split ends from the new "ends" of the hair. The finished result is fuller, non-stringy hair that is smooth and hangs to the mid-back. The hair looks smooth and luscious.
Afterward, the client is unhappy because she didn’t anticipate the hair being cut so much shorter. She thought the stylist would trim off a few inches but would snip away the majority of the split ends without taking away any significant length. The stylist is concerned because she thought she had done exactly what she was asked to do. The client had said to "cut away the damaged parts" so that the hair would look "healthy and lush again".
Both parties approached the situation with the best of intentions, but their communication broke down because they were not exact in their terms. This is what I try to encourage. When you speak to your stylist about a certain style, try to have a photo of what you want, or be as specific as possible in your descriptions. If you want your hair trimmed, don’t say "just take a little bit off the ends" when you only want 1 to 2 inches removed.
Unhappy hair salon client with hair that is too short
Image: AI illustration
And do yourself a favor by going to the beauty supply store and getting a styling comb that has the inches marked along the spine of the comb. These are common tools among stylists and are useful to illustrate just h ow much hair will be lost in "a few inches"…
The bottom line, honestly, is to be careful to explain your wants in specific terms. And inversely, make sure your stylist explains what he or she plans to do to your hair until you have a clear understanding of exactly what to expect.
See also: Why do hairdressers always cut your hair too short?