Whether we like it or not, being a stylist has its limits. We’re not life gurus entrusted with personal influence over our clients’ decisions, nor fairy godmothers capable of appearing at the perfect moment to steer our customers in the direction of good hair care. We’re just hair professionals offering professional services, and it’s all too easy for our clients to overlook our advice, especially when they’re relatively new to us. But that doesn’t make it any easier for us when we see the evidence of extension neglect written all over their heads. So what’s a stylist to do?

We have a couple of tips:

1. Ask targeted questions. Ask specific yet neutral-sounding questions about your client’s hair care practices, like, “How often do you brush your hair?” “What products are you using?” and “How do you dry your hair?” You want the questions to sound neutral—i.e. non-loaded—because otherwise the client may choose to tell you what they think you want to hear. If even those questions seem blunt to you, try asking questions about your client’s experience caring for their hair: “How does it feel when you brush your hair? Is it difficult?” or, “What do you think of your new hair care process?” This tactic will often elicit longer, more descriptive, more earnest answers, since there are no “right answers” to these questions. If you still want to know the nitty-gritty details, consider asking your client to fill out an update card while they wait for the appointment to begin. Sometimes the privacy involved in this task can also promote honest responses.

2. State your observations. It’s important for you to draw your client’s attention to the less-than-ideal state of their hair for multiple reasons.

  • Number one: because you want to establish a relationship of trust and truthfulness with your client—how can you expect them to be upfront with you about their beauty regimen when you’re not upfront with them?
  • Number two: because the client will only be motivated to change their bad hair care habits if they realize that something is wrong with those habits—or...
  • Number three: if they realize that other people can see that something is wrong.

You want to do this gently, using (again) neutral statements, because being told that you messed up is never a fun experience, and you don’t want to alienate the person in your chair. If needed, you can phrase your observations as questions, such as, “Have you noticed any changes in the quality or appearance of your hair?” or, “How do you feel about this texture/shape/positioning?” or even, “Do you find that your hair is a little thinner than before?”

3. Don’t assign blame. It’s easy for a negative haircare remark to come off as a reprimand or slight, and there’s no surer way to push your client away from your advice than to portray them as the opposition. Remember that, even though the installation may be like a personal work of art for you, no one has invested more in the extensions than the client themselves. You can bet that they want the extensions to look good every bit as much as you do. So let them know that you’re on the same team! Also, try not to assign blame to yourself, either. While you should always inform your client of best extension maintenance practices after the hair is first installed, it’s normal to forget some details sometimes, and misinterpretation can happen. Learn from and forgive past mistakes, then focus on preventing them from happening again. (Pro tip: set your client up with an After Care Kit once their extensions are installed, because it contains all the details and items they need for basic extension maintenance!)

4. Share your own hair struggles. A great way to lessen the sting of a hair care correction is to let your client know that they’re not alone. It’s normal to mess up, and even you—a professional stylist—mess up on occasion. Don’t beat the nail over the head, of course, since too much of this can be a bit patronizing. But do drop a single example to reinforce their self-esteem and empower them to do better.

5. Set easy goals. When it comes time to talk routine modifications, make your points short and sweet. It’s perfectly likely that your client is mismanaging their extensions because of a lack of time, resources, or understanding, and creating some elaborate restoration plan on top of all that is kind of like dangling a carrot over their head. If they’ve got a lot going on, or need time to really grasp the techniques, give them a single goal to work on (namely, the most important one for addressing their hair condition), like brushing correctly, or washing their hair less frequently. Chances are that the next time they come in, their hair will already show some improvement, and they’ll be prepped and ready for the next update.

6. Demonstrate good techniques. If you’re not doing this already, start doing it ASAP! Some of the processes and techniques that we take for granted as stylists might not come as easy to our clients (they don’t practice the techniques nearly as much as we do!). So show them how to brush, lather, or even prep hair for sleeping. Better yet, provide them with a beauty guru link (or maybe even a link to your own online videos)—select someone who exhibits good hair care practices that are compatible with hair extensions. The benefit of this is that beauty guru content is often addictive, and viewers can approach and experiment with the content in the comfort of their own homes.

7. Recommend relevant products. This is probably something you have plenty of experience doing. Sharing a pro-recommended product or collection with your client is a courtesy to them and a bonus for yourself! Win-win, right? Well, sometimes pitching a product at the end of an appointment can come off as unapologetically sales-y, and your client might gloss over the recommendation. That’s why we suggest recommending certain ingredients or types of products, as opposed to an actual brand from time to time. If you mention that a dry-spray shampoo is a great alternative to washing greasy roots, your client will probably remember that, regardless of whether they have the money or will to pick up a Babe Dry Spray Shampoo right then and there. If they ask for your recommendation, even better!

8. Make yourself available. Building a good relationship with your clients is essential, as it can improve their trust in you and lead to their increasing reliance on your insights. One good way to do this is to give your clients personal access to you, even outside of the salon. Social media links, email addresses, or phone numbers are great because they allow for quick and easy communication (social media especially, as it’ll also provide a way for you to check out your client’s hair in-between visits). Get in the habit of responding promptly for maximum effect!

9. Check in. If you’ve scored your client’s email address or linked up with them on social media, you can also take initiative to ensure that your client is taking care of their hair. A couple of weeks after an appointment, if you haven’t heard anything from them, try sending them a simple message asking how things are going. This can coincide with appointment update emails, if that’s something you’ve already got going on. If not, it can just be a bit of personal attention! Just like with students, personal attention can go a long way towards motivating your clients. And if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that being a stylist is a lot like being a teacher. That beats life guru and fairy godmother any day.

What are your tips for encouraging better hair care practices? Share your experiences below!