Salon Etiquette: 5 Things Your Hairdresser Wants You To Stop Doing

By Ashleigh Cometti
Collage / Julia Gessler

It’s time to celebrate the creativity, self-expression and joy that underpins everything we do at Viva with the stories that you read the most and spent the greatest time with in 2023. The following article, which originally ran in August, was one of them.

Welcome to Viva’s Salon Etiquette series,

From hairstylists and nail technicians to facialists and makeup artists, we’ll be speaking to Aotearoa’s top beauty experts and calling for their brutal honesty — the juicier, the better. It’s time to brush up on your makeup manners, or home in on your salon social graces.

This week, I spoke to hairstylist and hair extensions trainer Tessa Burlison (@Hair.bytess_), who brings with her a wealth of knowledge when it comes to all things tresses. Not only is she my personal hairstylist (hi, Tess!) but she’s flexed her creative hair prowess both in Aotearoa and abroad, more recently taking up residence at Hookd Hair in Mt Eden alongside her long-time friend, flatmate and fellow hairstylist, Katie Hook.

ASHLEIGH COMETTI: This series is all about maintaining good salon etiquette. What are five things people do in your salon chair that you love?


  1. I love when clients show up to their appointment super organised. I’m talking snacks and books but also inspiration photos and ideas. This makes the service run much more smoothly and I worry less about their entertainment.
  2. When clients tell me openly the things they loved and didn’t love about their last service, this helps me learn their hair and we get a much better result.
  3. If you are super happy with the work your stylist does, please tell them this, it makes us really happy and we get such a rush when we get good feedback. When I get a random message from a client telling me how much they love their hair or a particular compliment they got on, it gives me warm fuzzies. Even just sending something that reminded them of a conversation we’ve had, it humanises the hairstylist/client relationship.
  4. It’s the best when clients actually listen to you regarding home hair-care advice, meaning their colour/cut/extensions are given their best opportunity to shine.
  5. Lastly, I really love it when clients bring me presents. I had to say it, it’s so sweet. It’s not just the gift itself, it’s when people enjoy your company enough to consider a gift, whether it’s a birthday or for Christmas or a random time, I just think it’s so precious.

AC: What are five things people do that you’d rather they didn’t?

TB: Okay, disclaimer: I’m so sorry if you’re my client and you do any of these things, I promise I don’t hate you.

  1. People that try to help by moving their heads forward at the basin. I get the concept but, trust me, this doesn’t help — I just end up pouring water down your back. We know what we’re doing and we will ask if we need you to raise your head.
  2. Floppy heads! If I put some tension on a hairbrush while I’m drying and your head starts moving towards me with every movement, I’m internally screaming.
  3. When clients talk with their whole head. Honey, I love how excited you are about your new air fryer but you do not need to turn your whole head to face me while I’m in the middle of a foil. I’m going to want to throw the foils at the wall and walk away. There are only so many times I can ask you to “Please just keep your head nice and still,” gently before I scream it.
  4. When clients aren’t honest about their hair history. The truth eventually comes out once we start colouring and most issues are easily avoidable. This can waste both our time and money. Please don’t lie to your stylist.
  5. Lastly (this feels like common sense), showing up late to your appointment with a coffee in hand. Most stylists are very accommodating by offering a 15-minute grace period but if you roll in half an hour late, didn’t call and yet you had time to stop at a cafe? That’s just disrespectful. (Consider bringing one for me, I take it with coconut milk, thanks.)

AC: How can Viva readers go about requesting a silent appointment without making things awkward?

TB: I personally don’t have the option online currently (but this might be the reminder I needed). If asking in person is too uncomfortable for you, try messaging prior or writing it in your booking notes.

Another option is bringing your own entertainment. Like I said earlier, having a book or wearing AirPods lets me know (subtly) that you’re happy just doing your thing. I also love the surge of clients WFS (working from salon). I will never be offended by a client wanting to focus on their work/texts/emails/book/Instagram doom-scrolling, etc.

Please remember, we speak to humans all day, so it’s usually a welcome relief for us too.

AC: If a client isn’t happy with the result of their appointment, how should they go about letting you know?

TB: As a stylist, it’s my number one goal to give you the hair you want — if you’re not happy with it neither am I.

The easiest time to mention something is before blow drying/styling in case there is something we can easily do to rectify it before you leave. I understand how hard this is and I try to provide an environment that feels open and comfortable, but that some people find it easier doing this from behind a screen.

Please be polite when providing this feedback and asking for a redo — any good stylist is going to be happy to offer a fix, they can happen anytime, but we still like to be treated as humans.

More Salon Etiquette

Advice from your spa therapist and your nail tech.

Salon Etiquette: 5 Things Your Spa Therapist Wants You To Know. Yes, it’s okay to cry during your massage.

No, Your Nail Tech Doesn’t Want To Treat Your Dirty Nails, And Other Manicure Manners. Beauty editor Ashleigh Cometti asked her go-to nail tech for her client do’s and don’ts.

Want Botox But Don’t Like Needles? One Cosmetic Injector Shares Her Tips On How To Cope. Here’s how to get the most out of your cosmetic injectables appointment.

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