surviving a salon with hairdresser anxiety

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Hairdresser anxiety is a real thing – I know I can’t be alone in this.

A salon visit is, at heart, a wholly unnatural experience: an array of strangers pulling and scrubbing at your head while you you try to avoid eye contact with your own reflection, and pretend to feel at ease. Your hairdresser will get closer to you than even your partner does, most days; or rather, they get just as close but actually pay attention. She’ll know about your grey hairs & neck acne long before you do. 
Glossy, scented and slightly orange, she sees all of your secret flaws.

I tried to write a genuinely helpful post on the subject.
I even spoke to my hairdresser about it, feigning journalistic interest instead of my actual first-hand understanding of the subject. I thought I could put together an action plan & try it out – & then sat down to write it, and the following came out. I’m sorry? You’re welcome? Who knows, really.

How to survive a trip to the hairdressers.

1/ Only go to hair salons which allow you to book online. It is a truth universally acknowledged that rudeness in salon staff is inversely proportional to rate of pay. The girl on the phones hates you and will leave you shivering, shameful and shy, long after you hang up. 

2/ Check you don’t have headlice before you go. Not because I think you have headlice – you almost definitely don’t – but this is the only way to shake the terror that can hit you when the possibility occurs to you as the stylist starts to comb through your wet hair. Rule it out in advance, & you’ll feel much better.

3/ Don’t take a coat – I’ll explain this later. Keep your handbag with you as you’re moved around, but be prepared to feel super awkward about it, as all the super-swish grown-up ladies around you don’t have bags of any description. You will be the only one with a leather holdall full of used tissues and black bananas at your feet, but don’t let them crush your individuality. 

4/ Don’t think about that article you once read in the Daily Mail about how the angle of the wash basins in salons can give you a stroke.

5/ Regardless of what temperature the water is, tell the stylist how ‘lovely’  it is when asked and grit your teeth – trying to change it only ever makes things worse. Close your eyes and pretend to feel ‘pampered’ instead of acutely aware of the fluorescent lighting illuminating your iron-filing eyebrow stubble.

6/ Bring pictures. The stylist will likely ignore these entirely and do what she thinks is best for your hair regardless, but it reduces the amount of awkward hair-related conversation you have to endure at the start of the consultation. Just point and say ‘like this but not blonde’, or whatever.

7/ Don’t accept the drink. You won’t know when to drink it – ‘am I allowed to move now? or now? When can I put it down??’ and it invariably ends up full of hair anyway. Plus sometimes there is fake champagne and sometimes not, and if you ask & there isn’t, you’ll sound like a total 2pm lush.

8/ Lie when asked how long it’s been since your last cut. The correct answer, it turns out, is ‘six to eight weeks ago‘, not ‘last December, but only because I had some chewing gum stuck in it & had to go to a Christmas party’. I’m as surprised as you are.

9/ Lie during the small talk. The only acceptable answer to “so are you going out after this?” is ‘yes, I’m going to a once in a lifetime red carpet event!‘. When you say ‘nah, just eating pasta in leggings on my sofa’ you are guaranteeing yourself a crap blow-dry as the stylist feels that you and your hair are a waste of her time. Equally, don’t confess to having young children or quite liking naps or visits to the garden centre. Stick to universally accessible subjects like bad Saturday night television, cats, and the lousy British weather.

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10/ Wear all of your make-up. Seriously, all of it – just pile it all on: a whole tube of concealer, dark blusher, that ill-advised purple lipstick you bought on a whim. More is more when it comes to preparing to sit staring at your reflection under bright lights for an hour without the comforting curtain of your hair to soften it all. A decent mask of cosmetics will help you to look like a happy clown instead of the living dead, which is slightly less terrifying, on balance.

11/ Lie about your haircare routine. My two favourite lines are either ‘I use the Kerastase line and I’m really happy with it‘ (it’s genuinely brilliant, so few sales folk can argue you need to buy anything different) or ‘I’m a blogger so I get all this stuff for free‘. The second has the advantage of making you seem fancy and swish, increasing your chances of receiving a decent blow-dry

12/ Agree. ‘Oh yes, you’re right – that’s made a huge difference!’. ‘Oh yes, it feels completely transformed’. These people know hair inside and out, so who are you to argue? They must be right, so just smile and nod.

13/ Pretend you like it. Yes, I know you want to cry, but hold those tears in until you get outside. Give a watery smile and say ‘oh wow, it’s lovely, you’re brilliant!‘. Resist the urge to frantically claw your fingers through in an attempt to fix it. She has scissors, and all the power. 

14/ Tip everyone. God, I don’t know – I listened to the whole Sali Hughes audiobook section on this and it still fills me with fear and trepidation. I think you’re just supposed to shove money at everyone in the salon – the girl on the till, the cleaner, that old dear getting her perm set in the corner. Press a crisp fiver into everybody’s hand as you dash out of the door (aren’t you glad you didn’t bring a coat?) into the inevitable rainstorm that trashes your blow-dry.

15/ Find a cafe and take the best selfie you can to text to your best friend, asking if she thinks it’s awful. Get a reply saying it doesn’t look any different and why didn’t you get the fringe you talked about? Begin to wonder if you need to go back again…

Do you hate the hairdresser’s too? Please tell me this experience is universal!