How to get what you want at a salon

Real Simple Magazine

Ever been less than satisfied with your treatment at a salon? Real Simple asked 14 beauty pros to weigh in on how to deal with common service issues. By Stacey Colino

How Do I Stop a Massage Therapist From Yammering During My Massage?

Marc Zollicoffer, Aveda's global educator for massage and spa, in Minneapolis: If your goal is to be quiet and relax, be up-front about it. Say something like "I'm looking forward to peace and quiet today." If the therapist doesn't get the message, try being even more direct. Say, "I'm having a hard time focusing on my breathing or relaxing when you talk, so if we could have more silence, I would appreciate it."

Anna Post, etiquette authority and spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute, in Burlington, Vermont: Don't chat back, because that will encourage more conversation. And then you won't have a leg to stand on.

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What Should I Do If My Bikini Waxer Double Dips a Spatula?

Linda K. Franks, director of Gramercy Park Dermatology, in New York City, and a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine: This is never OK. Disease-carrying bacterial spores can survive at incredibly high temperatures. If she double dips, demand new wax and a new applicator.

Lura Jones, lead waxer at the Stark Waxing Studio, in New York City: It's an industry standard not to double dip for the face, bikini, and underarm areas at dedicated waxing studios. You can catch infections. Plus, it's just gross. I'd say, "I noticed you double dipping." If she says, "It's OK-the heat will kill the bacteria," you're within your rights to leave.

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How Can I Get the Stylist to Focus on Me Rather Than Gabbing With Clients or on His Phone?

Chris McMillan, stylist and owner of Chris McMillan, the Salon, in Beverly Hills: Ugh. Stylists really shouldn't do that. You would be within your rights to say, "I wouldn't interrupt your haircut-please don't interrupt mine." You're paying a lot of money for a good cut, which requires undivided attention. You're entitled to ask for it.

Michelle Slatalla, Real Simple's Modern Manners columnist: Get your stylist's attention gently and say, "Wow! It seems like you're really busy today. Maybe I should have come on a different day." That way, you're sending a clear signal that you would like him to be more present.

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What Should I Say If I've Obviously Cheated on My Stylist Between Visits?

Sarah Potempa, stylist in New York City: It's nice to compliment your stylist when you go back. Mention that you got a haircut when you were on vacation and that the stylist who did the job said your cut or color was great. If you give your stylist good feedback, you'll bring the situation back to something positive.

McMillan: Say it was convenient and act as if you did it spontaneously-not like you thought it out and researched it. Clients often try other people, but they'll usually come back to their regular stylists. Stylists have to expect that and put their egos aside.

Post: Say, "I wanted to switch it up a bit" or "I was in the mood for a change," then tell your stylist what you liked or didn't like about it. Use it as a springboard to talk about your visit that day. You don't need to apologize-you didn't cheat on your husband!

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What Should I Say When My Stylist Tries to Talk Me Into a Look I'm Uncomfortable With?

Potempa: Use your lifestyle as an excuse. Say, "I'm too busy to handle a big hair change right now." Stylists know you on the surface, but they don't know what your daily schedule is like.

Ted Gibson, salon owner and stylist in New York City: First of all, realize that many women actually break up with their stylists because they never encourage them to try anything new. Still, all you need to do is hear your stylist out-you are never under any obligation to change your look.

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What If I Hate My Haircut?

McMillan: If you don't have the stomach to let the stylist know when he's done cutting, call him once you're home. Don't not say anything! The stylist will do anything to fix it, because at the end of the day he wants you to be happy and doesn't want to lose clients. He should fix it for free within a week.

Gibson: You should call the stylist and tell him what it is you don't like (for example, the top is too puffy) and ask for styling suggestions. There's almost always something you can do to make a bad cut look better. He can also assess whether you need to come in for a retrim, which should be free.

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My Stylist Always Runs Behind Schedule-How Do I Get Her to Be on Time?

McMillan: Try talking to the salon manager. Say, "I love the way this person does my hair, but she's always late." That way, you don't need to get involved. The manager can instruct the stylist to be on time.

Post: I would be direct with the stylist. Say, "Jen, I wouldn't go to anyone else but you, but I need us to stick to our appointment times. This delay really messed up my day."

Potempa: Try to schedule your appointments for earlier in the day. Chances are your stylist won't be running behind yet and you won't be kept waiting.

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What Should I Do If My Stylist Is More Conversationally Intimate or Physically Affectionate Than I Like?

Potempa: You could say something like "My shoulders are really sore from the gym-please don't rub them." But the truth is, if you don't feel comfortable just saying "No, thanks," perhaps you should be going to someone else.

Post: I like to defuse those situations with humor. Say, "That's too much information! Let's talk about the weather, please." If it's just the person's style, then grin and bear it and go to someone else the next time.

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What If I Don't Like the Pressure, the Temperature, the Music, or the Oil During a Massage?

Zollicoffer: You're the paying customer. If something doesn't feel comfortable, say so. Ask to smell the oil before the massage, or simply ask for unscented oil. Any other problems can be addressed during the massage. It's just a matter of being pleasant but firm. You could say, "I'm feeling a little chilly. Would you mind turning the temperature up a bit?"

Slatalla: With this kind of stuff, I don't think the professionals are invested emotionally. If something is not to your taste, the therapist would rather know in the moment, so you don't give her a bad tip or a bad review later.

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How Do I Know If Manicure Instruments Are Being Properly Sterilized Between Clients?

Jin Soon Choi, manicurist and owner of the Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot Spas, in New York City: You need to ask the manicurist or the manager what the salon does to sterilize instruments. They should use an autoclave for metal instruments and soak nonmetal instruments in a hospital-grade liquid sterilizer. (An autoclave looks a bit like a microwave. It uses pressurized steam heat to sterilize.)

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What Should I Do If the Facialist Hard-Sells Products the Salon Carries?

Mona Sappenfield, aesthetician and owner of the Mona Spa and Laser Center, in Memphis: I would request samples or the information in writing, so you can consider the products on your own time. Then tell her you'll let her know if you want to buy anything on your next visit.

Slatalla: Say, "I assume this is what you used on me today, so I want to wait and see what the results are like."

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How Can I Switch to a Different Stylist, Manicurist, or Massage Therapist Without Hurting Feelings?

McMillan: Everybody likes a little change now and then. You can always take a stealth approach and find out which day your usual stylist isn't working and which day the person you want to try is. But don't worry-if your original stylist catches you in the act, she'll probably be glad that at least you stayed within the salon.

Gibson: Your stylist should be able to handle that. Ultimately it's good for clients to switch stylists sometimes; it gives everyone a fresh perspective on your hair, which often leads to positive change.

Ji Baek, manicurist, salon authority, and author of Rescue Your Nails: It's your money, your time, and your nails. The person isn't your best friend, so it's better not to get worked up about it.

Zollicoffer: Massage is not about one person being the best and another person being not so good, because everyone has a different approach. So you can simply say, "I want to experience a different style of massage."

Read the Rest: How to Get What You Want at a Salon

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