Questions You've Always Wanted To Ask A Hairdresser
The Debrief: The nits. Oh god, the nits
Illustration by Katie Turner
When you’re sitting in the chair, getting your colour done, do you ever wonder what’s going on in your hairdresser’s head? From strands of customer hair embedding themselves in boob-skin, right through to what they really think about washing your scalp, we asked two (anonymous) hairdressers to spill the (perfectly coiffured) beans on what it’s like in the salon. They didn’t hold back.
What sort of things do customers say to you while you’re cutting their hair?
People really open up to us. With my clients, you’ve got the ones who are going through divorces and having affairs, or people who do weird jobs – one woman is a producer and I was like, ‘What are you working on?’ and she said, ‘Erectile Dysfunction. I just get sent loads of pictures of cocks and have men breathing down the phone at me.’
I get a couple of weird people, who are very deep. But that’s fun, it’s better than your normal, ‘Ooh, where are you going on holiday’ chat. You also get criers – who don’t cry about their hair, but about life. One woman’s husband spent £20,000 on having a private investigator follow her, which was a bit mad. I was like, ‘Tell me more – what an arsehole!’. You get really caught up in it sometimes, it’s fascinating.
What’s the grossest thing about being a hairdresser?
You get hair stuck in your actual skin. When you cut hairs off, they float around in the air and embed themselves in your skin – I’ve found them in my nipple! First it’s sort of like a hair splinter, and you can get it out with tweezers; it’s quite flat and often really long. And there are really bad ones I get on my thumbs as well. Skin sometimes grows over it, so you’ve got to really dig around to sort it out.
Do people come in with disgusting hair?
Yeah, that happens loads. People come in who haven’t washed their hair for ages. Thick hair can go for ages without washing but fine hair comes in and it’s like wet, it’s so greasy. Also, you get people with really bad psoriasis, and it looks looks like they have soggy cornflakes all over their scalp, which makes me gag a bit. Some have really huge lumps of gathered dandruff.
Also, nits. There’s a smell that comes from nit hair, I can smell it a mile off. Once, an apprentice mistakenly thought a customer had nits so I had to go over and check – turns out, she didn’t. The rest of the session was very, very awkward. You’re not supposed to cut nit-infested hair, but sometimes you can find out too late.
Are people ever rude to you?
Yes! All the time! Sometimes they’ll ask you to get them lunch, they give you money and go, ‘I want this, I want salad, I want the sandwich like this,’ which is horrible. Or you get people come in and are on the phone the whole time and they don’t even say hi.
Obviously, you get people who start kicking off about their hair. I used to have this customer who would always come back to me every time, and I’ve no idea why. When she was coming in, I’d get really worked up about it because she’d pick out tiny little strands and say, ‘I want this one blonde’ and then another tiny strand and be like, ‘This one brown’. And do the same once I’d coloured it, telling me, ‘I asked for this one to be blonde,’ and it’d be really difficult.
I’ve wanted to have a go at some people who are rude, when they come in and ask you for a total change, then go away and speak to their husband and say, ‘I don’t like it, you’ve done a crap job.’ I hate it when they turn it on you, because it’s not what you’ve done. People are very good at blaming you. It can give you a bit of a knock, and you can start doubting yourself.
What’s the most boring hair style to do?
If someone comes in and they want a trim and it’s half a centimetre off, that’s really boring. I try and jazz it by doing a cool blow dry to keep myself interested. Also, when people aren’t interested in having a change – they come in and ask for a touch up on their roots. Or when someone comes in for ‘just the usual’. Boring.
Do you like washing people’s hair?
Hairdresser #1: I hate washing people’s hair. They’ve got stinky heads most of the time. We get people come in who only have their hair washed at work, and you have to scrub their scalp clean.
Hair dresser #2: I don’t mind it. I get into it. With our training, we did Indian head massage, so you learn which parts of the head relaxes people. It’s like a nice break in the day. Saying that, I definitely go off into my own little world and think about what I’m up to in the evening. I’ll watch other people cut hair and stuff. I don’t really concentrate on the actual massage, because it’s like second nature.
What’s the hardest hair cut to do?
I hate doing colour. It reacts to people differently, so one colour won’t be the same on someone else. Firstly, it’s boring. Secondly, with cuts I’m completely in control and there’s no way I can get it wrong unless I screw up.
With colour, even though you know how it’s going to turn out because you learn all the science behind the colours, it’s still a bit risky. Sometimes you can wash it off and it’s a different colour than you expected. You can work it out, but the customer starts to notice something’s not right...
In terms of hair styles, there’s nothing that worries me now but the pixie cut was the hardest to master. On the first day I qualified I had someone come in with long thick hair, who wanted to cut it all off like a pixie. I was like, ‘OH MY GOD’ inside. I did it, it worked and I felt so great.
What’s it like when you’re hungover?
TERRIBLE. You’re stood up all day, so you can’t sit down and cry. Also, you can’t hide, you’ve got the mirror in front of you. You can see how bad you look all day, and you can see the people staring at you because of how bad you look.
Unless you know the customer personally, you can’t be like, ‘Haha sorry, I’m really hungover’ either because it'll scare them. If you’re on the phone in your office, you can share it with them but it’s not the same for us. The cutting of the hair is a lot harder.
Sometimes, though, you end up being a bit better, and more aware that you’re hungover, and that you need to get it right, so you end up being better at your job. Sometimes.
Doesn’t it get tiring having to have good hair all the time?
If you’re not looking good, you get called up on it and that’s really hard. Dry shampoo, and making bed hair look intentional, is your best friend. I do my make-up in the car sometimes. The main thing is having your hair looking absolutely perfect, and wearing make-up every day. If you don’t wear make-up, they’ll say something to you, ‘What’s going on today, why aren’t you done up properly?’.
It’d be a lot nicer to roll out of bed and not care what you look like. It usually takes me an hour to get ready every day. At weekends, I don’t do anything to myself. When I went travelling, I didn’t put any make-up or hair stuff on for a month.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?
Once, a woman came in and told me she wanted to go brunette, but I knew she really enjoyed being a blonde. I asked her if she was sure, and she said yes. Then it came out a bit darker than she wanted. She sat there and cried when I started drying it, and my heart sank. She said, ‘I absolutely hate it,’ and started kicking off at me. I worked really late trying to fix it.
My friend once picked up the wrong scissors. She was trying to spin out layers with thinning scissors, that gently texture the hair, but instead, took a huge chunk out. The customer had a little tuft on the top. I know a couple of people who have done that. Sooooo humiliating.
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