The ultimate guide to salon and spa etiquette according to experts

Beauty Editor Kelsey Ferencak quizzes hair stylists and beauty therapists on those awkward appointment moments so you know what to do at your next salon and spa day.

We’ve all been there, sitting in the car after a visit to the hairdresser and bursting into tears. We’d send food back if it wasn’t what we ordered, so why are we so nervous to tell our stylist we’re not happy with our cut? Or our massage therapist the pressure is too hard?

Once we step into the salon or shrug on that white robe we often lose our voice, or turn into a neurotic mess flailing to figure out what’s polite and what’s not.

But salon and spas want you to leave happy and feel relaxed, you’re paying for a service so whether you want to bury your head in a magazine during your six-week root touch up, or chat your stylist’s ear off for 90 minutes is up to you.

When it comes to the unspoken rules, there’s the obvious common courtesy of calling ahead if you’re running late and cancelling 48 hours before your appointment. For the other awkward FAQ we’ve got you covered with the do’s and don’ts.


At the hair salon

With Melanie Peron Master Stylist and a Manager at Franck Provost salons…


  • Bring in a celebrity photo for reference. But cover the face and look only at the hair. Most of the time clients look at the overall picture, they might not have the same complexion, face shape or eye colour, which all make a difference. It’s also helpful to bring in references of what you don’t like.
  • Take into account your lifestyle. Does the cut or colour suit your hair type and your routine? Will you have time to maintain the style? Blow dry it every day?
  • Speak up if the massage pressure or water temperature isn’t right. This is supposed to be a pleasant and relaxing experience, so please do let us know if anything is making you uncomfortable. Regarding the temperature – a warm wash will help to deeply cleanse the hair while a cold rinsing at the end of the service will close the hair cuticles and enhance shine.
  • Tell your hairdresser if you’re not happy with the end result. All stylists will agree you’re a walking advertisement for them, so they want you to look and feel good. Many salons are likely to have customer satisfaction protocols, some even offering guarantee policies.


  • Expect a colour change that is chemically impossible in one sitting, like going from black to blonde. The same goes for colour corrections, they take time and cost money, you’re not going to get a dramatic change the first time.
  • Look at your phone or take calls at the basin during a head massage. Take time for yourself, close your eyes and relax.
  • Underestimate or ignore the consultation process. It’s always better to manage client expectations than have them feel disappointed. If you’re unsure about the service you want to have done, your stylist might also find it hard to identify what will make you happy so it’s important to say something to avoid disappointment later on.

At the day spa

With Kimberly Duck Skin Expert and endota Education Coordinator and Melissa Vitalis Crown Spa Sydney’s Spa Manager


  • Express your preference of a male or female therapist at the time of booking. If you forget, ask the receptionist, however if the spa is booked out it may be not be possible.
  • Ask for silence. Although most therapists are intuitive, if you prefer a quiet treatment there’s nothing wrong with letting your therapist know during your consultation. Be mindful that your therapist may ask questions to ensure your comfort at some stages throughout treatment.
  • Wear the disposable underwear provided, especially for body treatments like scrubs, wraps, massages and hair removal. It’s not only hygienic, but ensures you’ll leave with your own clean, dry pair.


  • Ignore uncomfortable pressure. There’s nothing worse than leaving a massage feeling worse than you went in, so communicate with your therapist if the pressure is too firm or too soft, especially if you’re sore around certain muscles as this will help guide them to adjust the pressure. After all, they are trained to do so.
  • Second guess stinging or tingling products. Often tingling is a sign the product is working, and therapists should always advise if a product will do so. But if it becomes uncomfortable, or starts to sting let them know. This way you’ll avoid irritation or unwanted redness.

The awkward bits..

  • You’ve got two to three minutes to get undressed and be on the bed before a facial or massage.
  • Try not to lift or hold your arms, legs or head up during treatment as it stiffens muscles. You may be trying to help, but the heavier and limp you are the better.
  • Relax and close your eyes during shampooing, massages and facials. It’s normal (and necessary).
  • Don’t fall for sales pressure during or post-treatment – especially when you’re lying down, vulnerable.
  • Your hairdresser won’t be offended if you don’t want to talk during your appointment – but especially during a blow dry. They can’t hear you, FYI.