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It's not you: How to break-up with your hair stylist

My friend Renee cut and colored my hair for more than a decade, but a few years ago, she decided to change careers. Since then, I flitted from hydraulic chair to hydraulic chair based on recommendation, whim and Groupons.

For now, I'm more or less a hair hussy. It's kind of like dating after a 10-year marriage. I'm just not ready to settle down. I'm playing the follicle field. I'm swiping right on multiple stylists.

That doesn't mean, however, that it's comfortable when I run into a former stylist and I clearly had my hair done by someone else. Even though I know I didn't do anything "wrong," I feel a sting-like twinge of guilt and awkwardness.

I've wondered what was the preferred protocol if you don't have a regular stylist – or if you leave a stylist after a period of time. So I went straight to the sources for their insights.

Obviously, slamming a stylist on social media is never cool. Nor is trash talking about a former stylist with a new one because word travels quickly around the shampoo bowls – not to mention it's disrespectful and tacky.

But should you tell your stylist if you're moving on? Do stylists want to know if and why a client switches or ditches? Al Oldham, owner of Taylor & Burton in Bay View, does not.

"I don't need to know. I can't do everyone's hair. I can't make everyone happy. I do my best but ultimately it's whether the fit of the stylist and client mesh," says Oldham. "No flag waving or horn blowing, just 'ghost' them."

However, for some stylists, getting "ghosted" (let go without explanation) brings up more questions and concerns than if they received the information directly.

"Many of my people have been seeing me for 5, 10, 15 years or more," says Alicia Laree, a stylist at Beauty. "Every now and then, I notice I haven't seen someone in quite a while and wonder what happened to them. I don't get upset, but my mind goes to, 'I hope they're alive and well.'"

Jamie Hanson, a stylist at Honeycomb Salon, would prefer honest feedback and direct conversation in lieu of silence.

"I have had people just disappear in the past, and it just stings a little bit and leaves a lot of 'whys?'" says Hanson. "I personally would prefer clients be honest with me at all times. Whether you are leaving your stylist because you're not jiving, it's too far away, it's not in your budget – I want to know. I genuinely care about every one of my clients and never want them to be unhappy."

Theri DeJoode, owner of Groom For Men, wants to know why a client is switching so, if necessary, she can learn from the experience. But she also recommends softening the message … with cheese.

"We recommend sending a cheese plate with a simple note thanking the salon and stylist for the past service. We have received a few cheese plates ourselves and it lessens the blow because we love cheese," says DeJoode.

Although all stylists are different, and the length and intensity of your relationship with your stylist will determine how you choose to end the relationship, the bottom line is that the relationship is still money-based and therefore there really isn't any obligation – other than respectfulness.

"I tell people I meet to give me a try. Then if they want to just go back to their original stylist I will not be offended. Same in reverse. Throughout the years, people come and go. It's part of the business," says Laree.


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