News & Politics

Great Hair: Leaving Your Stylist for Another

Is there a nice way to leave your stylist and try someone else at the same salon?

Washingtonian Great Hair > Leaving Your Stylist for Another

A woman's relationship with her hairdresser can be like that with a lover: She loves the person's touch. She can tell this person almost anything. She lets her hair down.

But after a while the hairdresser may take her for granted. She gets bored, too. Her eye wanders.

What's a good way to break up with a stylist–especially if you want to try someone else at that salon?

"The best way is to say, 'I really enjoyed my time with you. I would just like to see what someone else would do with my hair,' " says Kevin DePew of DC's Celadon Spa. "A hairdresser secure in his talents won't mind."

But most do. It's not just the money they're losing. Says one Georgetown stylist: "I find it offensive. I've built a relationship with this person."

DePew admits that when he was younger and not as secure, a wayward client would sting: "It was like seeing an ex-lover on a date with someone else."

What's the best way to leave a hairdresser you've known for years?

• "It's not you, it's me." Just want a change? While everyone has seen a stylist once or twice and then silently moved on, stylists prefer when longtime clients don't just disappear. Can't tell your stylist to his or her face? Hairdresser and industry expert Geno Stampora suggests a "Dear John" or "Dear Jane" letter. If you think you might come back, it leaves the door open.

• Switch to the salon owner. One Washington woman who changes hairdressers once a year says that an old stylist can't take it out on the owner upon seeing you in his or her chair.

• Remember, owners want to keep you in their shop. At good salons–such as Salon Cielo in Dupont Circle and Eclips in Virginia–the staff is told to smile and greet old clients who are trying new cutters. "Go to two or three stylists at a salon and then no one gets their feelings hurt," says a local network news producer. "I always made it sound like a scheduling conflict and that I was desperate for color or a cut."

One working mom, however, has been burned by salon gossip: "Believe me, during their breaks they have nothing better to do than talk about you, and if you've ever shared any secrets with them, it will be broadcast all over town. So if you need a change, I say go to a newsalon."

• Realize that if you're bored with your hair, your stylist might be too–and he can't envision you in a new way. "Some clients, you want them to leave," says one hairdresser.

• If you've seen a stylist only a few times, don't sweat it. One McLean woman, who went to great lengths to make appointments with a new stylist on days her old one was off, one day got a cut while her old stylist worked the next chair. "He didn't remember me," she says.

If you appreciate what you had after you leave, and want to go back toan old hairdresser, you might as well be honest. Because these lines–heard by stylists–rarely work:

• "I did it myself." Says one Georgetown stylist: "I get this a lot." While desperate women trim their bangs in a pinch, stylists know when that bob was the work of another pro. "I can tell my work," says Stampora. "We all have certain ways we cut."

• "I was traveling." You're on a project in Seattle and can't get home for weeks. It happens. But stylists chuckle at women who come back a year later and say they were traveling–that's quite a trip.

• "I couldn't get an appointment–you're so busy." If true, it's an opportunity to try that other stylist you eyed. But if not true, be warned: When a stylist hears that, says Eclips owner Diane Fisher, he or she may take it out on the front-desk staff.

By the way, gifts aren't necessary. Kevin DePew received, from a client he hadn't seen in a while, a $500 gift certificate to Neiman Marcus. Shortly after, the woman came in for an appointment. They never talked about where she had been.

"In her mind, we didn't have to discuss the fact she strayed," he says. "The gift certificate was so unnecessary. I would have taken her back anyway."

Editor in chief

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.