Your head is (literally) in their hands.

  • Picking the right hair salon can be difficult.
  • A hairdresser, a salon manager, and a design director told INSIDER there are a number of red flags to look out for that suggest you're about to get your hair done at a bad salon.
  • Avoid those that offer heavy discounts on their services.
  • Meanwhile, if you don't get a scalp massage during your shampoo, alarm bells should be ringing.
  • Visit Business Insider for more stories.


Choosing a new hair salon can be tough.

After all, if you're going to put your head in a stranger's hands - and spend good money to do so - you don't want to cry when you see the results.

Instead of going for the most Instagrammable place you can find, there are a number of specific things you should be looking out for before you make your booking, or even during your appointment.

Read more: There's one red flag you should watch out for at a hair salon, according to a hairdresser

INSIDER spoke to a hairdresser, a salon manager, and a design director to find out all of the red flags to look out for that suggest you're about to get your hair done at a bad salon - and how to pick a good one instead.

1. There's hardly any information on the website

Gavin Hoare, Salon Manager at Richard Ward Salon in Chelsea, London, said one of the biggest windows into a business is its website.

"Quite often if you're a new client phoning the salon, the first question my reception team will ask is: 'Have you had a look at our website?' If they say no, we tell them to go away and look at the website."

"Then you can look at the services we have on offer and pick out the stylist to match your budget and work with you."

Yureesh Hooker, Design Director and Master Hair Stylist at Broome Street Society in Soho, New York, agreed.

Working in the beauty industry for more than 19 years, Hooker now works with L'Oreal Professional Products Division as an international artist, training and educating for salon teams across the United States.

He said that as part of the education L'Oreal offers, the professionals are told to consider the whole salon experience, called "Salon Emotion," and the "window" to the salon plays a big part.

"It's virtual as well as physical," he said. "The first thing to do is check out the virtual window and social media of stylists in the salon. I use this myself a lot - social media has become our portfolio now ... Check it out, look at where you're going."

2. They discount their services

Hoare, who also has 19 years of experience and has worked with L'Oreal in hair education for nearly 10, said it's a red flag if a salon offers discounts on their services.

"I can't discount my services and maintain consistency in the customer service experience I give you because the team members that are delivering it are doing a job. They need to be rewarded for giving their expertise."

Hannah Jafferji, a hairdresser at Blade Hairclubbing in Soho, London, added that price can be a sign of a good salon.

"In most respectable salons we charge accordingly to the service we are delivering, within reason," she said.

3. They don't respond to negative feedback

"TripAdvisor is your worst enemy but also your best friend," Hoare said. "I've gained so much business because of my responses to good or bad reviews ... As a manager if we do something wrong or something in your experience doesn't live up to expectation, I want to do everything in my power to change that ... if it's an action of my team member or something didn't flow with an appointment, it's something I can actively change.

"Ultimately, if someone's reading a review site, how the manager of a salon or the person answering those reviews responds is really key for me, that they know their stuff, they're interested."

4. The receptionist doesn't ask questions when you book

The reception team you book with should be asking all the right questions, according to Hoare.

"If you're a new client going to a salon and you're phoning up and they're just booking you in with the first person they mention, that's a massive red flag for me. What I want to know is: Did they ask how I look after my hair? Did they ask how often I get my hair done? Did they ask if I want high maintenance or low maintenance? Did they ask if I want to whisper, scream, or shout my end results? They're all clues telling me about the client."

5. You don't feel welcome in the reception area

Hooker said that the reception area is another part of "Salon Emotion".

"The reception holds the keys to the kingdom," he said. "You should feel welcome, they should be informative, the service menu [should be] available, [because] maybe there's something else you'd like to add on to your service while you're there. The reception should make you feel like you're at home - it should be a place of relaxation."

Hoare says he often reminds his staff that coming into a salon can be intimidating for a client, so they need to appreciate each one when they arrive.

"Quite often with your regulars you don't have to do the meet and greet, they don't want that fuss, but certainly with new business what I want to do is remind my staff that when you come into this environment how intimidating it can be," he said.

6. Your stylist doesn't give you a consultation

"If you as a client go into a salon environment and you don't sit down for a consultation to figure out what is going to be taking place, do not proceed to the shampoo area," Hooker said. "How could somebody deliver a service if you haven't talked about it first? If there is anything that is crucial as a client, be sure that that takes place."

Hoare added: "Ideally I want to be talking about your hair before we start talking about your holiday and your boyfriend."

Read more: A hairdresser says this is exactly what you should do to keep an expensive blow-dry intact for up to 5 days

Jafferji agreed that the consultation is one of the most important parts of your visit.

"It's in this time we create rapport and fully comprehend what the client wants," she said. "We have a variety of experience extending different techniques we adapt to each client differently.

"Other salons are often trained in one way and thus everyone leaves with exactly the same haircut despite whatever you've explained you've wanted which is why I think so many people have had terrible experiences with hairdressers. We are stylists, it's our passion and art, not just a job."

7. The shampoo area isn't very clean

"Look for an area where you can feel at peace and you can relax," Hooker said. "Are the shampoo bowls clean? Are the products dusted? Always look for cleanliness. Are they cleaning out the hair shafts? Is there colour on the side of the bowl?"

He suggested it's a bonus if you're asked to smell the shampoo or products. "If you think about it, you're going to be smelling that all day long," he said. "The smell of things can either super positively effect experience or super negatively effect experience."

8. You don't get a scalp massage

Jafferji stressed that your alarm bells should start ringing if you don't get a head massage during your shampoo.

"A scalp massage should be standard practise in salons and those that don't offer it is surprising, as it's not just a 'nice to have' but also stimulates blood circulation to the hair and promotes healthy growth as well as helping with hair loss," she said.

9. The team isn't working together

"The cool thing about a salon is it can be a family, [so] look for the way the team interacts, and look for awareness - are you sitting there with a coffee cup wandering around and nobody is stopping to help you? Have you been sitting on the front sofa for 10 minutes and nobody has checked up on you?" Hooker said. "What happens wrong is usually about communication amongst team members/lack of awareness among people that we're servicing.

"Have that eye out for how this team is working together: Are they cohesive? Are they aware of what's going on around them?"

10. They don't ask whether you're happy with your results

"I'm actively encouraging complaints in, for want of a better word," Hoare said. "When you're paying your bill I want my reception team to say, 'Was everything alright with your experience today? How could we have done anything better?"

He added: "I've had clients complain about bangles when they were being shampooed, something that if the receptionist had asked if everything was okay, they would have said they didn't like it."

Hooker agreed that the checkout is one of the most important parts of the experience.

"You could have got the best haircut of your life but you're still not going to come back if you're rushed, [people are] rude, etc. We're not actually in the beauty business, we're in the relationship business."

11. You're surprised with extra charges

"When you come in for a consultation the technician should explain the costing, 'This is going to cost you x, if we do a treatment it will cost you x,'" Hoare said. "I don't want any surprises at the desk, and if you head down to pay and say 'no one said about x,' I'm taking it off your bill."

Hooker said that ideally, price should all be agreed in the consultation.

"Make sure that you understand at the end of the consultation exactly what the service is going to be and exactly what the price is going to be," he said. "Sometimes a conditioning treatment may be necessary, you may talk about it, [but] money may not come up. You want to make sure you address that at this stage so that at the end of the appointment you're not shocked."

Meanwhile, while the staff should give you the chance to purchase the products that were used on your hair, Hoare says it shouldn't be a "hard sell."

"What I want to give them is well informed knowledgeable advice and you can make that decision," he said.

Receive a single WhatsApp every morning with all our latest news: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa: