By Kristin Limoges

Published on August 22, 2018

Approximately how many times a year do you go to your hairstylist? Once? Twice? More? Whatever the number, have you ever sat in the chair and wondered what he or she is thinking while you sit down? Is she judging your magazine choices or your very dirty hair? Does he want you to chit-chat or zone out? Do they care if you take a phone call?

Your expert stylist has thoughts, and we talked to a few of our favorites to hear what they have been dying to tell you.

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Illustration by Phuong Nguyen

Dirty hair is okay, but sometimes clean hair is necessary.

Confession: I chronically arrive to hair appointments with dirty hair. I go as far as to plan it out days ahead of time knowing that I’m going to the salon where my hair will be studied, cleansed, colored, maybe cleansed again, and cut. So why wash it ahead of time? But when I arrive in person, I worry my stylist is going to think I’m gross. But does she care how you and your hair arrive? Yeah, absolutely.

“Working with dirty hair actually makes my job more difficult.”

For some, dirty hair can be a deterrent in accomplishing the way you want to look. “Working with dirty hair actually makes my job more difficult,” says Anthony Cristiano, global artistic director at Phyto. “It’s my preference to work with clean hair.”

Next-day hair is ideal for others. “This may be left to the personal preferences of the stylist, but coming in with second day hair is fine,” says Paris-based celeb stylist David Mallett. In fact, it’s kind of helpful so you can show your stylist how your hair lays and what issues you have with it.

“If it is your first time seeing the stylist, come in the way you normally have your hair styled so the stylist can make suggestions of new looks and get a feel for how your hair usually lays,” says Garren, iconic celeb stylist and co-founder of R+Co. “If you’re a regular client, you can come in with your hair two to three days dirty.”

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That said, dirty dirty hair isn’t exactly best though, especially if it’s full of dry shampoo. “Arriving to an appointment for color with hair that hasn’t been washed in days and has product built up, like dry shampoo, could affect the way your hair takes the dye,” says Mallett. “Use your best judgement—if you’re questioning if your hair is too dirty, it probably is.”

“If you’re questioning if your hair is too dirty, it probably is.”

That said, most salons will wash your hair before color (although it’s entirely based on what type of treatment you’re getting). For Aaron Grenia, co-founder of IGK, hair in need of a wash can actually tell the stylist a lot. “Part of the service is a wash and blow dry. It also helps the stylist figure out what products are best for you—for example, it helps us understand how oily your hair gets post-wash, how it responds to product, etc.”

Rule of thumb? Since this preference varies so greatly based on hair, stylist, and type of appointment, call your salon, and ask very directly in what state they’d like your hair to arrive.

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You don’t need to make small talk.

Sometimes you just don’t want to chat, right? Same. You just want to read those trashy gossip magazines that were basically created for hair salons and zone out. But I feel kind of guilty for not chatting my way through the entire appointment with the person making me look good. Shouldn’t I make polite conversation?

Almost all of our stylists agreed that remaining silent during a cut or color is entirely okay—but there’s a catch: Chatting at the beginning of an appointment is absolutely vital.

“Once the initial consultation is completed, and I have a clear understanding of the client’s needs and the client understands the direction we’re going in, I feel it is totally fine for the client to sit back and relax,” says Cristiano.

“We have plenty of clients that want to talk, or want to take that time as zen time, or to work on their phones,” says Grenia. “We’re fine with anything.”

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Use common sense with your phone.

Our phones are basically an extension of our hands at this point. But there’s a proper phone etiquette for every situation. How does your stylist feel about texting nonstop, ‘gramming, and even phones calls during a treatment?

As in all social situations, use your phone responsibly. “If you need to take a call, by all means please do, but don’t abuse it,” says Mallett.

“It’s tricky today; clients are very busy and they’re working all the time,” says Cristiano. “It definitely makes my job a bit more difficult to navigate through it all, but I completely understand.”

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Phone calls though can put a damper on your appointment for a few reasons. First, it can delay service, especially if your expert has to stop, thus pushing your very busy stylist’s schedule back.

Second, it could mess up your cut. “A good rule of thumb is to warn your stylist before picking up the phone since tilting your head, moving, etc. during an appointment can be a bit frustrating and could result in an uneven cut,” says Mallett.

Third, being forced to listen to a long phone call is annoying. Don’t be that person that makes everyone around them endure one side of a 25-minute chat with your best friend. entire.

“It doesn’t bother us if you’re on your phone—it’s your time and we’re working too.”

All that being said, ask your stylist how they feel about it, or if it will be irritating. In true laidback IGK and Grenia style, they don’t really mind. “It doesn’t bother us if you’re on your phone—it’s your time and we’re working, too.”

Of course, if something is urgent or a quick call, feel free to hop on, just make sure you notify your stylist first.

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How about the dreaded text conversation?

A quick text here or there is totally fine, but think twice about constant, not-paying-attention-to-anything-but-your-phone texting.

“I do not recommend texting. Haircuts are a collaboration and exchange with your hairstylist. To get the best result, you need to communicate with him or her,” says Takamichi Saeki, creative director and owner of New York’s Takamichi salons (their newest beauty destination just opened in Gramercy, too).

You’ll appreciate the artistry and effort (and you’ll probably get a better cut since you can speak up more effectively as it’s happening) if you’re paying attention during the entire treatment. “I personally love it when the client is engaged and focused on what’s happening to them,” says Cristiano. “I allows me to work more effortlessly and give more of my attention to the work.”

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Garren notes that it’s a two-way street. “The stylist shouldn’t be on his phone, or pulling it out of his pocket if it buzzes… And if clients are texting and reading texts with their head down and not in the position the hairstylist wants it, it can be difficult to get the proportion right when cutting or blow drying—especially for a new client. But if the client holds the phone up so their head is in the right position, then they’re fine.”

For Teddi Cranford, owner of White Rose Collective and lead stylist at ApotheCARE Essentials, phones are not ideal during a cut. But during a blow dry, feel free to catch up on everything you missed.

Christian Ceja-Compin, Oribe educator, gives us a good reminder: “Having your hair done is an experience and should be treated as one.”

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Yes, you need to be on time.

Just like for anything else in life, being late is considered poor form. At a salon, the schedule can be so tightly organized, a few minutes here or there can mean they’re running behind all day. Basically, if you’re 10 minutes late at 10 am, you can affect the timeline of the 6 pm appointment. So be on time!

“Don’t be late. You don’t want to rush your hairstylist when they’re cutting or coloring your hair,” says Saeki. “A good cut and color takes time.” Cranford agrees, being late is a big no-no, which can affect the flow and schedule of the entire day.

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Do your research, but be open to ideas.

I use to arrive with a plethora of Pinterest-saved blonde-haired images, ready to instruct exactly what I was hoping to accomplish. But lately I’ve swung to the other side, arriving empty-handed, and just kind of say “natural, IDK” and shrug when my stylist asks what I want. Which one of those extremes is the way to go?

For Jon Reyman, Spoke & Weal founder, research is extremely important. “Come in open minded, but do your research,” he says. Meaning, know what you want in general, have photos, and also know what you don’t want.

“Know what you want—not how you want it,” he says. “Give us direction on the what, but leave the how up to the professionals. My job is to give you a great haircut.”

Photos are important though, especially if you want a very specific look, or are making a big change. “References are great because they give the stylist a sense of you, and what you like, and also don’t like,” says Cranford.

And know that how you phrase what you want matters. If you say “do what you think is best,” that means you are open to the end results. So don’t say this unless you really mean it, cautions Reyman.

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Cash tips are preferred.

This should be obvious, but bring cash, which is preferred for tipping, says Cranford. Twenty percent is standard.

Please, no food.

Can’t believe I have to say this, but don’t eat while getting your hair done. A handful of almonds or a few quick nibbles on a Kind bar, no problem. But a BLT? A footlong sub? A Sweetgreen salad? Nope, please don’t, it’s very distracting.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY AARON BENGOCHEA

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