How to break up with your hairstylist, what to tip, and 9 more awkward beauty situations, solved
The hair biz is one big game of musical chairs, but that doesn't mean you can just up and disappear. Hairstylist Matt Fugate suggests these little white lies: "Blame a friend or your mom—say she's taking you to her stylist for a pampering day or bought you a gift certificate at a different salon." Here's an insider secret: Your stylist knows you're lying but won't hold it against you: "When they come back, you're happy to see them, even though they cheated," says hairstylist Nunzio Saviano.
Don't make a scene, but don't stay quiet for too long. First, stamp out PHSD (post-haircut stress disorder) by living with it—for no longer than a week. You're usually entitled to a free fix, but "let the salon know as soon as possible that it's not working. Don't go back after three or four weeks, when it's time for a haircut anyway—if your hair is too short, tell them you want to grow it," says Saviano. Happy with your fix? A 15 to 20 percent tip on the full price of your free cut makes a lovely olive branch.
"A shampoo should be relaxing. If you're going to spend the whole time worried about your purse sitting on the other side of the salon, just bring it with you," says Saviano. "If the salon is intimate and feels like home, leave it at the station." Surprisingly, stylists say that iPhone chargers—not purses—are a salon's most-swiped accessory: "They all look the same," says Fugate. "I've had clients accidentally take off with mine a few times."
At a restaurant, your waitress will divvy up her tip among the support staff. Your stylist may not do this unless you specifically ask her to. As for how much, stylists say $5 to $10 for a shampoo, $10 to $15 for a blowout, and 15 to 20 percent of the price of the service are typical thank yous for a job well done. It's not necessary to tip salon owners.
Things can get tricky at medi-spas, where you might pay for a pricey series up front and see a different aesthetician every time. Cindy Barshop, owner of Completely Bare spas, suggests tipping based on time—$20 to $40 per hour.
For a hair-removal appointment, let your yeti flag fly. "Don't trim first—if you go too short, the aesthetician may not be able to remove the hair or it could cause ingrowns," says Barshop. She insists that no reputable expert will laugh at your bush, no matter how untamed. "They're used to it; it's what they expect."
For a pedicure, a courtesy leg shave is always appreciated, never obligatory. "It doesn't affect the quality of your pedicure in any way," says Nadine Ferber, co-owner of Tenoverten nail salons. (Just be sure to wax or shave at least 24 hours before your appointment, since tiny abrasions in the skin can let in fungus and bacteria.)
As naked as you want to get, since nobody will see any naughty bits. "You can fully disrobe if that makes you more comfortable," says Jamie Ahn, founder of New York City's Acqua Beauty Bar and Townhouse Spa. "During a facial, you should be covered in a blanket at all times; during a massage, the therapist will properly drape you so that you are not exposed, even during stretches."
In most of the world, it's actually weirder to be dressed—unless you're American, where modesty is ingrained. (Blame the Puritans.) "In the wet areas at Korean bathhouses, there's full nudity. It's actually quite liberating!" says Ahn. "But it's entirely up to you and your comfort zone." If you're not comfortable nude, don't be shy about wearing a swimsuit or strategically draping a towel for coverage.
The best pros are intuitive enough to hush before you even mention it. "If the therapist keeps talking, a client should never feel bad saying, 'I'd like to take this time to relax and decompress,'" says Ahn. (It's not like your massage therapist came to work that day for the conversation.)
Separating a woman from her iPhone is difficult, even at the spa. "It shouldn't happen, but it does all the time," says Ahn, who asks clients to avoid disturbing other spa goers by talking in the reception area.
Nail salons are more laissez-faire, but use your judgment: "A quick work call is no problem," Ferber says. "But spending your entire service on a personal call? It's not the time or place." Don't try to multitask by texting with one hand while the other one's being painted; it drives nail techs nuts. If you need access to your phone while you dry, take it out ahead of time.
Most spas are adults-only, but your mini me is welcome at the nail salon—provided you follow these three rules:
- Time it right for the run of the joint. "Weekends are hectic, but weekdays between 10 A.M. and noon are perfect—it's quiet until lunchtime, when there's an upswing of corporate clients," Ferber says.
- Keep the party small. Each additional child adds to the noise level exponentially. "Don't bring your daughter and her four best friends."
- Provide your own entertainment. "Kids don't need as much cuticle care, so their manicures take less time. Keep them occupied with a book or iPad during that extra half hour."
Don't walk in like you own the place, reject an available aesthetician, then demand your favorite pro—plan ahead. "Call the salon and request an appointment with your specific tech," says Ferber. This system makes everyone happy—your tech knows you like her work, you can feel comfortable knowing you'll get the manicure you expect, and the creepy tech you didn't want anywhere near your cuticles will never be the wiser.
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