How do you tell your stylist you are unhappy with your hair?


When I think back to the years I spent behind the chair doing hair in my private studio, it feels like a different life. And in a lot of ways it was! While I miss the connections with my clients and seeing so many of them on a regular basis, I cannot see a time that I will return to doing hair in the future. I’m not saying never, but for now I think that chapter of my life is closed.

Regardless of that fact, I still have about 10 years of experience to draw from when I’m asked questions from readers about how to handle tough situations in the salon.

I got an email recently from a reader asking the following question:

“I just spent a few hours at a salon getting my hair cut and colored. The total was close to $350 and I’m really dissatisfied with the color. You can barely tell a difference and I’m not sure what to do! I never want to go back there because I’m not confident that the stylist knows what she’s doing, but I feel totally screwed. Is there anything I can do in this situation?”

I felt for her because I’ve been there. I’ve gotten beauty services done (from pedicures to massages) that are less than enjoyable and I feel like I completely wasted my money afterwards. Plus, it feels weird not to tip so it’s even more frustrating that there is an expectation to tip on top of a service that you didn’t enjoy. I haven’t had personal experience with having my hair not turn out the way I wanted, but I can certainly understand the frustration!

If it were me, I would recommend calling the salon and talking to the manager or owner. Take a bit of time to calm down if you are emotional, so you can speak calmly and rationally to the manager and owner. Explain how you feel and ask what they can do about the situation. If they ask you to come back in (and I hope they would!) take them up on that and ask the person you spoke with on the phone to be present when you show up. I wouldn’t be surprised if the manager asks for the stylist who did the work to take another look at your hair and explain her process so they can try to understand what happened.

Sometimes a miscommunication in the consultation can lead to poor results, and other times the stylist may have made a mistake or not known how to achieve the look you wanted. The more thorough the consultation, the better. My hope would be that your displeasure with the results was simply from a miscommunication with the stylist, as that would signal an innocent mistake that is easily fixable.

In an ideal situation, you would be offered a free service to try to make adjustments to get closer to what you were expecting. But it all depends on the salon’s policies and each individual situation.

The easiest way to avoid this happening again in the future is to go to a stylist who you were referred to by someone you know. Bring photos in for your consultation so he or she can SEE what you are talking about, instead of you simply trying to describe it!

p.s. one of my favorite cozy sweaters!


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Comments (47)

  1. Posted April 25, 2018

    This is a really helpful post! It sounds silly since hair can always grow back, but it’s a big issue for us girls, especially when we’ve paid a hefty price and trusted the stylist with all our hearts!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  2. Michele says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    Such great advice! I actually switched salons after a less than satisfying haircut (the change was coming…her hours and the location of the salon no longer worked for the working mama season of life I had just entered). One concern I had was that if I returned unhappy, there’d be some hurt feelings and perhaps future unhappy hair services. Is this an unrealistic concern?

    • Kate says
      Posted April 25, 2018

      It really depends on the person. It’s such a personal service but the hope is that the stylist would remain professional!

  3. Chelsey says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    My stylist always has done an awesome job, but she says every time I leave to let her know if I have any problems or need anything fixed after I get home! It’s great!! This is good advice!!

  4. Allie says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    This is great advice, thank you Kate! I used to leave the salon dissatisfied all the time. I think finding a good salon that you are happy with can be so hard – it’s why when I do I keep going, even when the rates increase. I hope everyone has an amazing day full of great hair, xAllie

  5. Amanda says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    I bit the bullet and moved salons last summer. The new stylist was ok, but not brilliant and didn’t interact very well. I took the opportunity to watch the other stylists cut and interact with clients and decided to try one of those for my next visit. It worked and she has been fantastic – I don’t know if we communicated better because we are a similar age ? I was apprehensive about changing stylist within the same salon, but I tried to be kind and constructive in my explanation.

  6. Susan says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    I just had my stylist of 4 years thin out my hair so much I can hardly do anything with it. I have good thick hair and I know in the past she has thinned it out a little. Even though I have asked her not too because I just don’t like my hair being so thin with my face shape.
    This time I took a picture and sent it to her and even she admitted it was thinned out too much. 😞

  7. Sara says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    I am a stylist and I’ve been doing hair for 18 years. I greatly appreciate when a client gives me the chance to make it right. Especially if it was the first time I’ve done their hair!

  8. Paige says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    What about salon hair product dissatisfaction? I recently spent quite a bit on some products at my salon and really don’t like one of them. Can I return it? If so, do salons typically refund you or only allow exchange for another product?

    • Rebekah says
      Posted April 26, 2018

      It probably depends on the salon. Mine will let you return a product if you’ve only used a little bit of it. You could also try asking for a sample before purchasing a full-sized product.

      If the products you’re interested in are sold at Ulta or Sephora, I recommend purchasing from those stores since they have an awesome return policy!

  9. Leslie says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    I will be going to a new salon/stylist this week. I’ve had my hair done for about a year with a young girl who does a good job, but her ‘canned’ list of questions that she asks every time I come in just got to be annoying. What movies I like, where do I like to eat, how many kids do you have…I’ve answered all those a few times! While I’m processing, she will look on her phone and ask if I heard about some news report or something. I just want to relax and not have a lot of chit chat. The new place I’m trying has been highly recommended by friends. Part of me wants to mentor the young girl and let her know but I don’t think she’d ‘get’ it.

  10. Posted April 25, 2018

    I’ve grown up with a family of hairstylists and this advice is so spot on! My dad’s a (now retired) barber and my sister’s a hairstylist. Although my sister does my hair 99% of the time, I’ve reached out to my dad’s coworkers in the past when my sister was unable to schedule me in. One cut my hair into the Rachel Green cut and one left me with an orange ombre. Both were disastrous and while I was lucky and had my sister fix both, it can be challenging for the average person. Thank you so much for sharing this advice,

  11. Bridgette says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    I recently just had this happen to me. Stylist was spot on with every hair do she’s ever given me but when I wanted a pixie, it was awful. It’s still bad but bearable and now I’m afraid to get my hair cut again since I’m growing it out and it getting screwed up again. So frustrating.

  12. Heather says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    This happened to me. I spent a couple of different haircut appointments consulting with my stylist about the color change I wanted. We had lengthy consultations complete with pictures, etc. My main point was I absolutely did not want any chunky highlights and wanted all over color. I ended up with yellow, chunky, uneven highlights. I told her right then and there that I didn’t like it (in a polite way). Things got awkward really quick. She tried to do a quick fix and I still didn’t like it but at that point the salon was closed and things were so awkward I wanted to leave. The next morning I called and spoke to the manager who was insanely rude to me. He finally had me come in so they could try to correct it. It was one of the most uncomfortable situations ever. They treated me like someone who was just trying to get free services or something, which was not the case. I just wanted my hair to not look awful. They screwed it up again and I ended up going to an entirely different salon to have it fixed. I called again after the other salon fixed it and was basically berated over the phone by the manager. This was one of the most popular and high end salons in my city too. So in my experience, letting them know I was unhappy unfortunately made things 100 times worse and I should have just went to the other salon right away.

    • Heidi says
      Posted April 30, 2018

      I had a similar experience at a really well known salon in a big city. He botched my hair and when I came back in to sort it, they were all just horrible to me. I never went back. It was a $160 haircut !

  13. Nichole says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    Man, I wish I would have had this advice a few years ago. Went to a salon based on a referral to get my ombre touched up and left with my whole head a brassy orange mess. I did go back and they “fixed” it (not really, it still looked bad). Ended up having to get a full color done to fix the mess, though it did help me find stylist I love!

  14. Beth says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    I once had my hair done by a stylist who had just been broken up with by her boyfriend. It was a total disaster!

  15. Angela says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    This is such an important post! I can remember getting a horrible highlighting job and I absolutely hated it. I normally never like to complain but I told the stylist I was coming back in to get it fixed and luckily she complied. It’s important for everyone to know that you can go back and discuss what to do if you’re not happy.

    Thanks for sharing these tips!

    Angela at Blush & Pearls

  16. Sarah says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    I like your advice on how to handle this situation, but I need to know what your favorite cozy sweater has to do with it?

    • Meg says
      Posted April 25, 2018

      I was wondering that too!

      • Rebecca says
        Posted April 29, 2018

        She’s wearing a jumper in her photo at the top of the page..

  17. Kari says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    My advise is to never be a client of the owner or the manager if they are stylists. In the case of a bad experience, there is no one to bring your concerns up to. Trust me, you’re stuck

  18. Annie says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    Random comment– I often click on your links and hate that they open up in the same window, especially if I’m not done reading the whole post. Can you have your links open in a new window? That will help us shop and keep reading at the same time without going back and forth! Thank you! Love the blog and have been reading since the early Pinterest days!

    • Amanda says
      Posted April 25, 2018

      You can right click on the link and a box will pop up that gives you the option to open the tab in a new window. 🙂

  19. Arlene says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    Hi, I have a question. How do you get a cute style or color when you are on a budget? I color my own hair and usually go to a place like Cost Cutters for a cut but am frequently unhappy. Often I resort to cutting my own hair which isn’t good either. I’m afraid to spend a bit more for the same fear as this post, that I’d be unhappy AND spent more money. Any thoughts or tips would be appreciated. Thanks.

    • Rebekah says
      Posted April 26, 2018

      It definitely depends on where you live, but I’ve been able to find reasonably priced haircuts ($35-45) everywhere I’ve lived. Many nice salons will have junior stylists with lower fees. If you have medium/long hair and have a good stylist, you could go 10-12 weeks between haircuts, which helps with the budget! I recommend doing some online price shopping with local salons. 🙂

  20. Anna says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    First of all, I cannot get over the fact how expensive hair services are in the US. In Greece, it’s far cheaper, even on upscale salons!
    One time I was really dissatisfied with my blow dry and I did sent an email to the salon. I had visited this salon thanks to a press event and a coupon, but then I returned as a proper customer. My hair fell flat in less than 24hrs…they offered me a free blow dry but I negotiated a discount for balayage which I used promptly!

  21. Bee says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    Oh my gosh this is where I am at right now… with extenuating circumstances. I have gone to the same hairdresser for 20 (yes, 20!) years now. No one else has ever cut or coloured my hair in that time. As you can imagine, we have become friends through that time. I will say that I have never been happy with the way she styles my hair when finished, but I am usually so pleased with the cut and colour that I have let that part slide. Unfortunately, the last few times I have gone, she has refused to do as I ask. I have taken photos in and explained what I want (just an ever so slight angle towards the face). Each time I go in, I ask, and she says she does it, but she doesn’t. It is SO frustrating. I have expressed my frustration, but my last visit was the last straw. A couple other things happened during my visit, where I started to think that maybe she is TOO comfortable with me. Today I am trying someone new. I am nervous but excited. At the same time, I am feeling really guilty. Do I notify her to let her know that I am moving on? After 20 years do I owe her that? I am nervous that she will try to talk me into coming back. Freaking out a little!

    • Rebecca says
      Posted April 29, 2018

      We can all do with a freshen up sometime. After 20 years, I think you’re allowed to try somewhere new.. see how it works out for you and maybe tell her after a couple of times of being happy with another stylist.
      We can all grow complacent, so don’t feel guilty to leave, you’re paying for a service, you should be getting what you want.. good luck !

  22. Eva says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    I am kind of unhappy with my hair, which I got cut last week from my long time hair stylist. It stinks because it had grown out super long and I loved the way it air dried, but now it’s a little shorter but more blunt along the bottom. It looks kind of preppy or something. I’m really not liking it at all, but I think I’m just going to let it grow back out and know next time to speak up. I just didn’t notice it until I styled it myself a day later.

    Eva |

  23. Amy M. says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    Thanks for the advice. I’m struggling right now with my stylist that I have gone to for years and years and I have followed her through many salon changes. Her latest change is to a very upscale salon (awesome for her) but I fee very priced out. I also know her outside the salon so it’s difficult. I really don’t know how to handle it.

    • Rebecca says
      Posted April 29, 2018

      Tell her., she might see you outside of the salon?

  24. Charlotte says
    Posted April 25, 2018

    This is one of the worst things about moving country… To find a hairdresser to trust!
    I have VERY thick hair (which I have passed on to my daughters) and I need a hairdresser that knows how to cut thick hair, otherwise it looks awful!
    Almost 13 years ago I moved from Denmark to England and it took me several years to find the right hairdresser. Just before we now moved from England to Canada, she moved to a different salon so haven’t had my hair cut for a while. I really need to soon (almost 5 months ago now) but I am fearing not finding a place where I will be happy with the cut.

    My worst example for a bad hair cut was for my daughter quite a few years back. Her hair is even thicker than mine (as mine has thinned a little after having children) and we went to the salon and explained how we wanted the hair cut. It was supposed to be a bit like what in England is referred to as a pixie cut, shorter in the back with layers. The stylist we talked to said, yes, I can do that. Then proceed to cut my (then 12 year old) daughters hair completely straight. I don’t know if you know what that will look like for someone with VERY thick hair to cut it about the length of the ears and very straight without layers but it makes it go puffy and big and not very nice, which was the exact reason why I asked for the graduated cut with layers!!!
    I immediately completed and the apparently very junior stylist said “but I don’t know how to cut it like that” which really made me angry, as I had explained it thoroughly before she said she could do it !
    Luckily the owner had overhead me explaining the cut and agreed that it was not what I asked for and we were given a new appointment with a more senior stylist.
    What really surprised me was that they all thought I was asking for something really difficult, when in fact, I can do (a not very good version of )this haircut myself, which I had done in the past but now wanted a more professional cut and she was not a little girl anymore.
    Needless to say that we did not go back!

  25. Erinn says
    Posted April 26, 2018

    This is so true!! I have been unhappy with highlights in the past and have felt so bad about actually speaking up and saying something abut my disappointment. I try to avoid conflict whenever possible so I try to convince myself it’s okay and not that bad…and that’s when I realize wait, it is that bad! Great advice!

  26. Andrea says
    Posted April 26, 2018

    Kate, have you ever had a client whose hair grows at different rates on their head? I swear my hair grows faster on the left than the right. Each time my stylist cuts my hair she checks for symmetry. By the time I return 6 weeks later, sure enough, I’m uneven. Weird, huh!

    • Liz says
      Posted April 29, 2018

      I’m a hairdresser – this is totally a thing. You’re not the only one!

  27. Laura says
    Posted April 26, 2018

    I’m curious why you recommend going straight to the manager/owner instead of addressing it with the stylist? I would think that l giving the stylist the opportunity to make it right would be the first step. I’ve had a couple bad colors/cuts but always addressed it with the stylist. Every time they have been incredibly helpful and fixed it without issue. I guess I just wouldn’t like if someone went directly to the manager without giving me the opportunity to fix the issue.

    • Posted May 7, 2018

      I completely agree with you Laura, and was going to leave pretty much the exact same comment. Treat people as you would want to be treated.

  28. Megan says
    Posted April 26, 2018

    If you miss doing hair and would like to do it part time, here’s an easy kid-friendly solution. My old stylist had a small salon behind her house. They got one of those portable storage buildings but ran electricity and water to it, completely finished the inside so it looked like a regular building. Her kids were small so she only took a couple appointments a day but she was able to schedule them at her convenience and not have to leave her kids. She even had a baby monitor so she could hear them in the playroom. I thought it was such a great solution since she wanted to be home with her kids but didn’t want to give up het career!

  29. Laura says
    Posted April 27, 2018

    I respectfully disagree! I’m not a fan of tattling. I would call and talk tot he stylist first. If she/he doesn’t make it right then and only then would I call the manager/owner.

  30. Allissa says
    Posted April 28, 2018

    What’s a good products to put on your ends after your done styling your hair and also a product to refresh your ends the next day?

  31. Posted May 5, 2018

    I couldn’t tell them, so I went home, grabbed my husband’s clippers and shaved my head. Now in the painstaking process of growing all my hair back.

  32. Posted October 10, 2018

    I’m lucky to have 2 salons where I have people I trust- one I’ve been going to since I was 12 and one in DC where I’m friends with the folks who work there. I really appreciate that the manager/ my girl Yvette ALWAYS says to me when I’m paying, “please contact me if ANYTHING isn’t the way you love it.” I know I can count on her and that takes some of the pressure off.

    x0x0 caro

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  34. Jess says
    Posted October 16, 2018

    I did bring pictures to the stylist I went to for five years. She messed up big time. On her way to mix my color she stopped to talk with the salon owner who was doing the nail techs hair. My stylist put the other person’s color on my hair. She never owned her mistake. I called the salon owner. End result my hair was fried(had to be lightened to bring me back to blonde. She put level 5 on my hair) 300 plus bucks out of my pocket to try to save my hair at another salon. No way I was letting her touch me again. Talking to the stylist and owner was pointless

  35. Lindsay says
    Posted May 26, 2019

    I like your advice, but am wondering your thoughts on my situation.
    I’ve been going to the same stylist for like 14 years now, since she graduated beauty school. She used to always do a great job, but over the past couple years, she has really just been awful and not doing what I’ve asked and shown her. My last straw was six weeks ago. I wanted her to add more brown in my hair to blend it more with the blonde, my hair is dark brown to begin with, but we’d been lightening it, because my hair has been growing fast and honestly, I can’t afford to go in every 4-6 weeks like she wants me too. I showed her the picture and she was like “Yea, we’ll do that” So my whole head is foiled and I’m thinking she’s been putting in brown and making everything blend good. She goes to wash it and tone it, saying the toner will help keep the blonde pieces blonde (whatever to me because my hair has been white as snow before so I know the drill) and when we get back to the chair, my hair is PURPLE. She left the toner on too long and I was like.. what is this and she said oh it’ll wash out in 20 washes (what!? If I wanted purple hair I would have had her give me purple hair) So I was pissed the entire time and wanted to cry. My hair was falling out when she was blow drying because she BLEACHED MY ENTIRE HEAD and added no brown or did any blended. Or I thought she bleached my head. My roots are about an inch grown out and she didn’t touch them, nothing. So my hair is beyond able to be touched now and my roots are so overgrown it’s embarrassing and like I never even got my hair done.
    SO she owns her salon, she’s the only one there aside from her sister in law. Obviously I paid her and I know she knew how I upset I was about my hair but kept saying it will wash out.
    What would you do in that situation. I’m not going back to her and feel awful about it, but my hair is seriously completely ruined. To the point where I don’t wash, I use olapex and redken products to help alleviate some of the damage and even those do not work. How do you breakup with a stylist you’ve been going to for the better part of 13/14 years?

  36. Darla Schuerger says
    Posted April 16, 2021

    I am looking dor some advice. I got a haircut by a new stylist. I was looking to change my hairstyle and was willing to go shorter and deal with it, if I didn’t like it. The thing that’s upsetting to me is I showed pictures and we talked about the style. I guess we were not on the same page. It took 1.5 hours for what he did. I feel like my hair looks the same. I wanted a shag cut and long bangs. I asked for short on top and to keep as much length as possible. He kept the length on top and really emphasized the texture only on the ends. I am very upset and I’m not sure I’d I can go back without bursting into tears of frustration. PLEASE HELP!