How To Break Up With Your Hairstylist, According To Actual Hairstylists

Sometimes you just need to move on — or, to be more specific, your hair does. Client-stylist breakups happen for lots of reasons. When you feel like it’s time to move on, you may wonder how to exit with grace and civility.

We talked to stylists, who said it’s important to remember that this is a professional, not personal, situation. “It’s a relationship rooted in service,” said stylist Steven Picciano, owner of Glass Beauty Bar. “If at any point you feel that the value of your service is not equal to or greater than the cost, it’s time to move on. It’s important to remember that every client is not for every stylist and vice versa.”

They noted that you aren’t being “picky” if you don’t feel good about the experience — you just haven’t found the right person yet. “People visit stylists for many different reasons,” explained stylist Joseph Maine. “Some look for a fun experience, others prefer quiet solitude, some wish to feel pampered, and others simply want their hair to match a specific photo. You might have to try out a few stylists before finding the one who’s right for you.”

First, do a gut check.

If you’ve been thinking about moving on, the situation with your stylist has probably been building up over time. It helps to review how the last few visits have gone. Some red flags, Picciano said, include the realization that the stylist didn’t ask any questions. Or consider how you felt during the last few visits. “If you’re nervous throughout your appointment, that’s not fun for anyone,” he said.

“There could be many factors at play, like the stylist not being able to provide the client with their end goal or look, lack of communication between both parties on the reality of creating the look, poor consultations or just lack of creativity over time with the same stylist,” said stylist Clint Dunlap, owner of Material Tampa

If you want to give it one more try to have your wishes heard, Maine offered these conversational options: “I’m noticing that my hair isn’t styling properly, even when a professional does it,” or “The last few times we spoke, I mentioned wanting ________, but it seems we’re not quite there yet. What can we do to ensure we achieve this today?” or “I always appreciate your work, but I really want it done this way: ________.”

A stylist who doesn’t listen is certainly a valid complaint. But you also might want to reflect on whether you’ve been asking for something that’s impossible. “Sometimes a client insists on doing something you know won’t work, or won’t look good — no matter how much you explain it to them,” said stylist Rod Anker, co-founder of Rod Anker Salons.

And while your hair may look great, there may be other factors souring the experience for you. “Maybe the stylist is always running behind or has a bad attitude that makes you feel uncomfortable,” said stylist Raven Hurtado, from Chicago’s Maxine Salon.

Do you have to leave the entire salon? 

Not necessarily, stylists said. “If you’re happy with everything else there, I do recommend staying in the same salon,” Picciano said. “If a client wants to move on, they should simply make their next appointment with another stylist.” 

Of course, some of us are much less courageous than that. Yes, it’s your money and your choice, but this might create an awkward situation, even if it’s all just your overactive imagination getting the better of you. If you’re filled with dread at the idea of your ex-stylist being in earshot as you’re heaping praise on the styling talent of their colleague, you might be facing some tough choices. To alleviate any potential for awkwardness, consider finding a brand-new salon that’s far, far away from your current one.

Some stylists might be happier if you just moved on. Stylist Akihisa Yamaguchi had a different view. “I actually prefer ghosting. Unless you have a relationship outside of the salon, it’s the one time that ghosting is acceptable behavior to me.” 

We've all been there.
We've all been there.

We've all been there.

What to say, if you’re going to address the breakup directly.

You can certainly have this conversation when you’re booking the appointment, but most salons have a different person handle that, or allow you to do it online. The stylists we talked with suggested addressing it face-to-face (or mirror to face) once you’ve gotten to the chair. Picciano offered this strategy: “Keep it simple, be respectful and remember you’re in a salon to receive a service. You should feel good from start to finish.”

Wondering what to say? Dunlap suggested leading from the heart. “Ideally, I think it would be best if the client could convey their thoughts and feelings about what is happening,” Dunlap said. “It may be an awkward conversation to begin, but part of our jobs as stylists is to be professional and realistic about our craft and what may or may not be working. “

Here are some conversational approaches from stylists:

Anker suggested trying something like, “Hey, I love visiting you, but just don’t love my hair like I used to. It’s time to try someone else.”

“If you’re not sure what to say, a nice way to communicate can be, ‘Thank you for all your help, but I think I’ll be moving on to someone who understands my hair needs,’” Hurtado said.

Here’s the one thing you shouldn’t do.

If you run into your ex-stylist, be a grown-up about the situation, these experts urged, saying that ignoring them or running away is never a good idea. “When you encounter your former stylist, be polite and say hello,” Picciano said. “They most likely won’t be offended when people find a better fit, because truth be told, if you’re feeling like it’s been a difficult relationship, most likely so are they.”

But avoiding them if you happen to bump into each other is another matter. “People will get offended if they feel snubbed,” he said. He told a story about a client who was upset about being rescheduled and decided he was no longer the right stylist for her. “I didn’t know this at the time, but I learned it because I saw her out in public,” he said. “She looked at me and literally ran the other way. It hurt.” 

It’s hard, but worth it.

The situation may feel fraught on your end, but they might take it all in stride. “I’ve always steered clear of assuming ownership over my clients, recognizing that it’s perfectly fine to seek a fresh perspective or a change in style from a different salon,” Maine said. “It’s important to understand that it’s not always personal.”

Finally, consider these wise words from Hortado: “It can feel tough at first, because it almost feels like a breakup, but being honest allows both the client and stylist to grow,” she said. “Your stylist will appreciate the honesty.”