7 Signs It’s Time to Break Up With Your Hair Stylist — And How to Do It Nicely

A pro gives us the skinny on when to call it quits and the least awkward way to do it.


A medley of my chair-hopping.

I am a notoriously disloyal hair client. This isn’t all my fault: My job is bounce around to salons all over the city and ‘burbs to test out cuts, colors and styling. I’ve been dyed pink by the folks over at Architeqt (and American Mortals, and Richard Nicholas). I’ve gotten more natural-looking color from the gals over at Mirror & Mantel, and also Lakshmi, AMS, Hush, Blush, David Witchell, Art + ScienceParlour and others. I’ve gotten the best disco curls of my life at Salon Vanity, and an amazing braid at Moko. I feel bad for all the stylists I’ve loved and left — but I have an excuse. My head of hair is a guinea pig. (You’re welcome.)

While being a hair test subject can be a dangerous thing (one ill-fated visit left me with yellow locks), hop-scotching across all of Philly’s salons means I don’t ever have go through that acutely awkward process known as The Stylist Break-Up. But sometimes, just like with romantic relationships, knowing when to pull the plug is just as important as knowing how to do it. We got Steve Duross, owner of bath and body boutique Duross & Langel and a brand-new salon and yoga studio, to give us his pro tips on how to know when it’s time to cut the cord — and how to do it. (Spoiler: No, you can’t always do an Irish goodbye.)

Here are Duross’s seven signs that it’s time to find a new stylist:

1. You look in the mirror and see nothing special.
“Though hair may not be everyone’s crowning glory, the way you wear you hair is as important as a fashion accessory. The wrong belt or shoes can change the mood of your day. The wrong glasses ruin everything you wear. Like it or not, hair reflects your personal style. If you feel like a sexy thirty-something but are thwarted by a soccer mom ’do, it’s time to move on.”

2. You hate the way you feel when you leave the salon.
“A great haircut doesn’t have to cost $85, but paying $16 is a gamble. Whatever the cost, everyone should feel as though they look their best walking away from the salon and, more importantly, a week or so later. Find yourself a great stylist who charges what you can afford. The world is loaded with talented stylists at all levels and pricing.”

3. Drama, drama, drama.
“Life at the salon should not reflect an episode of Tabatha’s Salon Takeover.* Nor should you feel as though you have to listen to your stylist’s latest over-share on dating, screwing and salon drama. The stylist is paid for his or her time and talent, not personal issues. Though it might be amusing in the beginning, it soon gets old and work suffers.”

4. You’re left waiting. Again.
“On more than one occasion I’ve been referred to as the ‘Mussolini of the book’ for making things run on time. A person’s most valuable commodity is their time. No one should ever be left waiting for indefinite periods because a color client shelling out big bucks is taking forever to process. Your time is no less valuable than the stylist’s or the client in the chair before you.”

5. Attitude.
“From the front desk to the assistant who sweeps the floor, a good attitude combined with a level of happiness toward the work environment is vital for fostering great work. If you’re not buying into the vibe of the salon (or the front desk person needs a good slap), walk away. (This is a plum bit of advice for the stylists, too.)”

6. Stylists with bad style.
“Avant-garde to plain Jane, your stylist’s appearance should always be on point. A colorist with pan-fried bottle-blonde hair is as much an enigma to me as a barber with a blocked-off neckline. You need a stylist who gets you. Move from chair to chair if necessary, and don’t stop until you find a talent with great personal style.”

7.  You were born after 1945 and still you’re wearing a bouffant. 
“Come on. Need I say more?”

Feeling the need to cut ties? Here’s how to do it: If you’ve had a long relationship with a stylist, Duross says sending “a personal note and a little gift to acknowledge years of service is appropriate.” If you feel your stylist doesn’t value you at all, then just don’t go back — no explanation necessary. “And if you don’t like the salon or front desk or owner, tell your stylist to contact you once they make a change [to another salon],” says Duross. Hey, it might be awkward, but it’s a heck of a lot better than going back out into the world with a bad cut … or yellow hair.

*I loved this show so much, and it was only by the grace of God that I didn’t end up cutting and dyeing my hair to match Tabatha’s.