11 Women On The Exact Moment They Broke Up With Their Hairdressers

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I am, without a doubt, a chronic people-pleaser. It’s odd, because I wouldn’t say that I’m scared of confrontation, but there’s something in me that just struggles to say “no” at times. There’s no greater example of this than when I’m sat in a hairdresser’s chair. Oh, you want to chop my hair off until it reaches my ears? Why of course! I only wanted a trim, but no worries if not — whatever you think is best. 
It’s for this reason that I’ve broken up with a fair few hairdressers (if you’re reading this, I’m sorry!). I mean, how could I possibly tell a seasoned hairdresser — an artist — that I don’t like their work? The answer is simple: I can’t, especially when hairdressers endure so much already. According to Head Up, an initiative spotlighting salon workers’ mental health, 65% of hair professionals surveyed experience anxiety, burnout or depression. What’s more, hairdressers had to endure so much during the coronavirus lockdown; professionals were forced out of work and salons fought to stay open.
That unprecedented time taught us so much, not least the importance of hair as a tool for self-expression. But this is nothing new; there is an abundance of research linking hair to confidence. A 2022 study carried out by insights agency Opinium concluded that “good hair days” boost self-esteem. Then there’s the utter minefield that Black women have to wade through. A 2023 study reported that facing hair discrimination prompts many Black women to style their hair against their natural preferences, exposing them to intense heat and various ingredients inside hair relaxers, for instance, which are often linked to negative side effects. Add to this the rise of “Instagram hairstylists” where bad customer service, last minute cancellations and excessive fees are common, and it’s no surprise that loyalties are being abandoned. The bottom line is that your hair holds social and cultural significance, and affects the way you feel. Anyone who’s had a “bad” cut or color will know that it can spring forth tears and shatter your self-esteem.
Ahead, 11 women, who preferred not to share their surnames, tell us about the exact moments they broke up with their hairdressers.
These stories were told to Humeara Mohamed and Jacqueline Kilikita and have been edited for length and clarity.

A lot of braiders are self-taught and there’s nothing wrong with that, but they might not have a good understanding of what your hair and scalp actually needs, from a scientific point of view.


“I left my braider recently. As a Black woman, I’m used to pain when getting my hair braided. I’m used to not sleeping properly for a few days afterwards because my hair is so tight and my scalp is burning. It’s like hairdressers don’t realize they’re tugging on your hair and scalp, and that this can cause traction alopecia. I know people whose hairlines have receded because of aggressive mistreatment or relaxers. When I was younger and I’d get my hair relaxed, it would burn. Hairdressers would say, ‘It’s just working. It’s normal,’ and they’d leave it on. It’s suspected that some questionable chemicals in relaxers can contribute to hormone imbalances or endocrine disorders and fibroids.
“Now, I get my hair loc’d by a loctician who doesn’t pull it too tight, and my scalp is happier. I’ve noticed my hair feels a lot healthier and I can see new growth. I leave it about two or three months before I get my hair retwisted, so there’s quite a bit of time between appointments when my scalp and hair aren’t being manipulated or styled. My loctician doesn’t twist too tight and she uses a little bit of jojoba oil — no heavy creams. With previous hairdressers, my hair would be blowdried before braiding and they’d use so many greasy scalp creams, which wouldn’t work with my sensitive skin. A lot of braiders are self-taught and there’s nothing wrong with that, but they might not have a good understanding of what your hair and scalp actually needs, from a scientific point of view. There are ways to minimize traction alopecia and avoid dermatological issues, for example. I have a four-year-old daughter, and while her hair is a different texture to mine, if she grows up and wants to go to the hairdressers I’ll caution her, ‘It’s all trial and error.’ I’d prefer if she learned to take care of her hair herself.”

I wasn’t their usual clientele, which is white.


“I’d been going to the same salon for years and they'd recently hired a new stylist. I’m Iranian and I have very thick, long hair; I wasn’t their usual clientele, which is white. This new stylist assumed I had thin hair and squeezed me into a shorter slot. They rushed through it all. The trim was meh — it was a blunt cut, which I didn’t like. It felt like they didn’t understand my thick hair. They didn’t even have time to blowdry it and I went home with wet hair! I didn’t feel great from the moment I sat down at the backwash; the stylist was talking to her colleagues and I just wanted her to pay attention to me. Now I travel for hours from London to Bedford to get my hair done with a hairdresser that my sister recommended. He actually understands my hair type, like how to layer it and what products to use. I’ve been going to him for two years now. He makes me feel really comfortable and looked after too.”

The salon is meant to be a safe space for me where I can unwind, but this felt like such hard work and exacerbated my anxiety.


“Every time I went to my hairdresser, she would unload on me. I’ve since discovered that this is ‘trauma dumping’ and that it’s often the other way around (client dumping on hairdresser) but I always happened to be on the receiving end. She’d tell me about her relationship struggles, health issues and even bad mouth other clients to me. At first, I tried to give her advice, but as it went on, I was careful not to reciprocate or share my thoughts and opinions for fear of upsetting her. There are only so many times you can say, ‘Oh no!’ or ‘Ugh, I’m sorry to hear that,’ before it becomes exhausting.
“The salon is meant to be a safe space for me where I can unwind, but this felt like such hard work and exacerbated my anxiety. Now, I go to a salon with hairdressers who understand that I like some quiet time. A little bit of gossip is great, but I don’t want to have to assume the role of a therapist. I also love that some salons have introduced the ‘silent haircut’ which is a service where you can opt out of general chit-chat. Talking constantly can be absolutely draining.”

My hair started to melt away in straggly clumps at the backwash. The colorist was horrified.


“This one is entirely my fault. Like lots of people, I experimented with bleach highlights in my twenties. My hair became so dry and brassy and the maintenance was ridiculous (good purple shampoo is expensive!), so I dyed over it with a dark brunette box dye that I bought from Boots. I soon changed my mind and decided to treat myself by booking into a local salon where I asked for ‘caramel balayage’, which I’d seen trending on Instagram. The colorist quizzed me and asked if my hair had been dyed recently but I lied about the bleach because I was so desperate for a color refresh. Long story short, more bleach was applied and my hair started to melt away in straggly clumps at the backwash. The colorist was horrified. In the end, I had to have a ‘chemical cut’ and lop about four inches off. I was so embarrassed that I never went back. The salon was on my local high street and I used to cross the road to avoid being seen by the salon staff. Moral of the story: always be honest with your colorist!”

I noticed he’d unfollowed me on Instagram and unfriended me on Facebook.


“I saw the same hairdresser for years. He was really good — always very funny and bubbly. After a while, he contacted me from his personal number to say he was leaving the salon to go solo. He said he wanted to retain his regulars and that he was now working with his partner (who was also a hairdresser) from his house. 
It was now a bit of a trek for me involving trains and taxis, but I wanted to support him. Then he started to act a little strange. There were a few rude comments here and there, and he’d talk about himself for hours on end — to the point where I’d leave feeling completely exhausted. Once, he’d barely finished my hair before announcing that he had to rush off, leaving me standing on his doorstep waiting for a taxi. His partner was also rude. I had a perm and I said I fancied a change, to which he replied with, ‘Well, you can only keep doing that Stevie Nicks look for so long.’
“He moved again after that, and I followed him again. He didn’t stay there for very long. When he said he was moving on again, I asked him where he was going. When he didn’t reply, I decided to go elsewhere. Within a few weeks, I noticed he’d unfollowed me on Instagram and unfriended me on Facebook. It was all very odd!”

I looked like the mushroom from Mario Kart.


“I went for a full cut and asked for ‘long Dakota Johnson hair’ but my fringe was completely ruined. It was like a bowl cut and I looked like the mushroom from Mario Kart. The fringe went all the way round to my ears and I felt like I was part of the Winkleverse [a viral TikTok trend where people pinpoint celebrities they believe to be parallel universe versions of UK-based TV presenter Claudia Winkleman]. It took a year (and counting) to grow out. In that time, I jumped around Edinburgh to find a new hairdresser until I landed on one I liked, but I was miserable for so long. My new hairdresser was like, ‘We just need to let that grow. Only time can fix that.’”

She’d comment on my weight.


“I’d regularly book a freelance hairdresser to cut my hair and keep my keratin treatment topped up at home. After a few sessions, I noticed that she started to ask me really personal questions. I was newly divorced at the time and she wanted to know if I was seeing anyone. The questions then extended to my children. I’d answer her questions the best as I could without revealing too much, but I thought she was overly interested. I’m a former hairdresser myself, so I know it’s easy to get too close. After a few appointments it seemed like she was too distracted by the gossip to be bothered about what she was doing with my hair and she just wasn’t listening. I wanted my hair to be shoulder length, and when she was done, it would be collarbone length. It would take me so long to grow it back that it put me off wanting to call her. When I questioned her, she’d give me all this spiel about how my hair was damaged and that it would grow back healthier this way. I’m convinced she simply wasn’t concentrating because she was talking so much. Another thing that bothered me is that she’d comment on my weight and the food in my kitchen because that’s where she used to cut my hair. I put up with the bad behavior as she was much more affordable than everyone else, but the pandemic made me realize that I could do my hair myself — especially the color. The Clairol Blonde It Up is particularly excellent. It’s gentle on the hair and lifts existing highlights really well.”

I didn’t think she was being fair.


“Back when we were in between lockdowns and varying COVID-19 isolation rules, I had an appointment booked with a hairdresser whom I’d been seeing for months. Two days before, I tested positive for COVID-19. I instantly let her know and asked if I could move my appointment, but she said no, and that my £70 (approximately $89) deposit wouldn’t be refunded. I was shocked, because it wasn’t something I could help, and I was literally not allowed to leave the house. But that is a lot of money, so I said I’d be willing to come in anyway. She said that she didn’t want me to because she didn’t feel comfortable with it. Let’s just say I didn’t think she was being fair, especially because I gave her enough notice to book someone else, and I never saw her again.”

It was a nightmare and it felt pretty dramatic.


“I’d been going to this hairdresser for ten years, maybe more, and he cancelled on me the day before my wedding because he had a bad back. To be fair, I do think he probably needed to cancel, but he could’ve given me a bit more warning. There was also a train strike at the time of my wedding, so I couldn’t get someone else to my hair quickly. In the end, my stepmom drove two hours to London, picked up her hairdresser and their husband (who’s also a hairdresser), and they came and did the whole bridal party’s hair. They were amazing, so now I go to them instead. It was a nightmare at the time and it felt pretty dramatic.”

I just felt like my agency wasn’t respected.


“My hairdresser was very, very good, but somehow they came to believe that they knew my hair and my struggles better than me. I have seborrheic dermatitis [a skin condition that affects the scalp resulting in dandruff, inflammation and dry skin] and a very sensitive scalp that hurts when subjected to the slightest pressure — even combing can hurt! My hairdresser thought that using a new shampoo (over the one I said would work for me) would be better, and I ended up with more scalp sensitivity and burning. They also took more length off than I’d requested because they assumed that less hair would mean less weight and therefore less sensitivity. I just felt like my agency wasn’t respected, so I simply never went back.”

It started to feel toxic.


“I left my hairdresser because she always did my hair in the same way and didn’t listen to what I actually wanted. She was a friend from school, so there was a lot of gossiping in the salon about people I knew and it started to feel toxic. The gossiping was mostly about my sister-in-law as they were both in the same school year. It was very bitchy at every single appointment – she always went back to the same topic. I had to get out. I didn’t tell her that I was going to leave. I just pretended to win a hair appointment with another hairdresser in a raffle and then ignored her messages.”
*Some names have been changed

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