How to break up with your hairdresser

Recently, I received a text from a friend.

"What's the name of your hairdresser? I need a change," he wrote. "But I just feel like I'm cheating because I've been going to this other woman for years."

Why cheating? It sounds simple enough, right? You don't like your hairstylist, so you switch salons. It's only hair, people! But readers tell me there is a loyalty built up over time that makes switching hairdressers more difficult than one might think.

"I had a barber that I'd been going to since high school," says Patrick Snyder. "When he started getting older, the haircuts got worse, but I felt this need to keep supporting him. Once he literally snipped the top of my ear, and the back of my head looked completely lopsided. But I still tipped him after that and kept going back. I just really liked the guy. He was like family in a weird way."

"My hairdresser became one of my close friends," says Melody Cohen. "She did my hair for my wedding, and I knew her for years. But she dyed my hair orange a couple of times trying to make me blond. It was so hideous. I would come home and my husband would say, 'Why do you keep going to her? You hate how she does your hair!' But I just couldn't break it off."

How did Cohen resolve the issue?

"I told her we were moving, and we actually weren't," she admits. "Now I go somewhere that's in the suburbs just because I'm afraid I'm going to run into her somewhere!"

We have news for you—your hairdresser is probably on to your tricks.

"I've had clients who disappear for a while, and when they do come back, they say things like, 'Oh you were out of town,' or, 'I just couldn't get in because you were too booked,' " says Melissa Conley, owner of Abeille Beauty in Lincoln Park. "I'd rather they just say, 'I went somewhere else and I realized I like you better.' "

So what's the deal with all this fear behind letting down our hairdresser?

"I think there is a bond that happens between a client and their hairdresser that is unique and very intimate," says Conley. "Small talk leads to more in-depth conversations as your relationship progresses throughout the years. It's only natural for the client to feel like a friendship has formed, and one where there isn't the judgment—sort of like a therapist."

And the closeness that forms over time can make it even more difficult for some people to jump ship.

"They take it so personally, as if we are rejecting them, and we feel it," says Brandi Helligso, who admitted she has had to tread lightly so as to not hurt her hairdresser's feelings. "It's a competitive world, and they make no bones about it."

Conley says most professionals won't take it personally, though, if you do try someone else.

"It can be difficult if they've been your client for so long and you've seen them in singlehood, did their wedding, seen them though the birth of their children and then they decide to leave," she says. "Sometimes I get sad just because I won't be able to catch up on their current lives, but I'm never angry if they leave, and I always welcome them back with open arms."

If you are one of those people who can't handle the thought of dumping your hairdresser, even if you're no longer satisfied with their work, here are Conley's tips for working it out.

Talk about it

"It's possible that you can be with a client so long that you outgrow each other," says Conley. "If you feel like you aren't getting what you want and you need a change, express it. I've had clients that have been with me for 15 years and sometimes you want a fresh perspective."

Try another stylist in the same salon

"I'm known for doing long hair, so if I get a client in my chair who wants it all cut off in a pixie I would rather have them go to another person, someone within my team," says Conley. "My goal is to make them happy, and that may be with someone else in my salon."

Don't lie

"Stylists know their work," insists Conley. "I can tell if they've gone somewhere else. The lines don't lie. And people trim their bangs all the time, and that's even harder to clean up sometimes."

Bring in a picture

"If you have a specific look and the stylist hasn't been getting it right, bring in a photo and say, 'This is what I've been trying for and I just don't think I have it yet,' " says Conley. "That way, either your current stylist can try something new now that they have a photo, or they can direct you to someone who can do a better job with that particular look."

Don't worry about hurt feelings

"I may have taken it personally when I was first starting out, but now I just want the client to have a good experience," says Conley. "Salons are like restaurants—a new one opens, people hear the hype and then the hype dies down and you decide you either like the haircut or you don't. You can't make everybody happy and rather than have them leave and bad mouth the salon, I try to work with them as best as I can."

Twitter: @jenweigel

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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