Prev Next

The Salon Trap: Is My Stylist Ripping Me Off?

By Amalah

Dear Amy,
Since you and Philip seem to have this wonderful client to stylist relationship, I was wondering if you can help me out? My husband and I have been having the dreaded budget talks again recently, and one topic that always comes up is how much I spend on my hair. I am aware that
getting my hair done is expensive, and as I have gotten more gray even more so. The question is, am I getting too much done and getting sucked into some salon trap?
Right now I go every 7 weeks (she says 6, I say 8 so we compromise). I get highlights, a semi permanent color run through, toner, plus my hair cut, plus tip and I have no money left for products. Some background, I am in my early thirties, and saw my first grays at 18. I used to get highlights only, but as the grays started showing up more, the grays weren’t blending with the highlights as much anymore. That is where the color run through comes in. What is the toner for? Are all of these things necessary?

While I admittedly do not know that much about the subtle art of covering gray hair, I can tell you that my jaw just about done hit the floor when you said “highlights” and “every seven weeks.”
Highlights. Every seven weeks. Seriously? Never mind the expense (although I imagine it is astronomical), I simply could not bear to spend that much time at the salon or deal with that much stress and damage to my hair.
I get highlights about twice a year. Of course, I don’t have any gray hair (yet), and I’m not changing the natural color of my hair. You didn’t mention your hair color (natural or what you’re trying to accomplish at the salon), but since you’re getting toner put in, I am guessing you are lightening your hair?
Toner is basically an extra step to minimize brassiness in blonds or downplay the natural color tone of your hair in order to make a dramatic change. Toner does nothing for gray hair, since gray HAS no underlying tone to neutralize.
I’d suggest that maybe it’s time to go single-process color for awhile. Roots only. Permanent, too. (I don’t quite follow the semi-permanent logic…everything I’ve read about covering gray states that a permanent dye is essential. Is it because your stylist doesn’t want to put highlights on top of dye? Or because your gray isn’t taking to the highlights? Or…I don’t know! I have so many questions!) Maybe even something you can touch-up yourself, at home, in a pinch.
Cover the gray completely and THEN talk about adding highlights back in for some depth, but the highlights shouldn’t be your primary tactic for blending the gray. It sounds like you’ve been past that point for awhile now, and yeah, maybe your stylist is just treating you like an easy and unquestioning cash cow.
While I certainly don’t claim to know exactly what the best process is for your hair, I do knot that two more things jump out at me and make me distrust your stylist: 1) You get your hair cut at every appointment, and 2) you don’t know what the toner is for.
1) You do NOT need to get your hair cut that often. Phillip recommends I come in every 8 to 12 weeks, and we usually stagger hair cuts and highlights so I don’t have to pay for both on the same visit. Unless you’ve got a crazy high-maintenance style like Posh Spice, most women can get away with getting their hair cut every two months or so. If your hair is longer and layered and you’re using decent shampoos, you can push your cuts even farther apart. Three months or so. Four cuts year.
2) Why why why why doesn’t your stylist explain things to you? Even if you are the super-quiet type who doesn’t ask a lot of questions, you should be told exactly why you are doing (and paying for!) what you are doing.
If you do trust and like your stylist, by all means give her a chance to create a more low-maintenance routine for you. You know, TALK TO HER. Tell her your budget concerns and lay down an ultimatum. (You may have to make a compromise or two in terms of your ideal color, like going darker or something closer to your natural pre-gray color.) Obviously, she’ll probably freak at the idea of you touching up your roots at home in-between visits and advise against it, but she HAS to understand that the cost and the commitment is wearing on you and is no longer acceptable.
If she continues to pressure or hard-sell you on the highlights and multiple-process approach, consider breaking up with her. Find someone else. Your Phillip is out there! Find him!

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon