Whenever I sit down to get my hair cut by somebody new, I’ll admit, I steel myself for what’s coming.
“OMG, girl! You’ve got so much hair. I should charge you double!”
Yep, that’s me. The girl with a ponytail as thick as a strongman’s arm. And thanks to Derek Hannah, a delightfully frank senior stylist with Toronto salon Bob + Paige, I now know for sure what I’ve guessed all along.
“When I see people like that I kind of go, ‘Oh great! You’re here. So nice to see you!’ But automatically in my head, I’m doing the math,” he tells me.
In other words, thick and wavy hair like mine requires an extra 20 minutes in the chair for the cut and even more to dry it. And yes, if I decide to go to a higher end salon that offers “free” herbal tea and scalp massages, I might even end up paying more for my cut and blow-dry than my wispy-haired friends sporting the latest, shoulder-grazing lob.
But how much is too much when it comes to a haircut these days?
The reality is that the amount you’ll pay—particularly if you’re a woman—is all over the map. You can hit the local strip mall cut-rate place in small-town New Brunswick and walk out only $31 poorer, or reserve time with a top-tier celebrity stylist in New York and fork over hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
But for your typical, mid-range salon across Canada, Hannah says you’ll likely pay an average of $60 to $80 for a haircut. Go to a master stylist and you’ll pay a bit more. Go to a junior stylist and you will pay slightly less—about $50 plus tip. Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal prices will obviously be on the higher end of the scale.
(By the way, don’t bother asking him if those uber-expensive haircuts are worth it or simply a way to score bragging rights. “I don’t know,” he tells me. “Maybe there’s something I’m missing. I’ve never paid $300 for a haircut.”)
While prices will vary wildly, there are ways to be sure you get the best bangs for your bucks, no matter what kind of salon you frequent.
Go to people who know their stuff
Let’s face it: Just because you fork over $100 at an expensive salon, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get a great cut. Some stylists are simply more talented than others. However, if you go to someone more senior, his or her experience will certainly give you better odds of liking what you end up with. They know how to choose a cut that frames your face and accentuates your best features. They can also steer you away from mistakes during your personalized consultation.
“They have more confidence,” maintains Hannah. “They can be a little bit more free and artsy.”
It’s perfectly acceptable to inquire about a stylist’s experience before booking your first appointment. Or do a little homework online. Many stylists use Instagram to show off their portfolio, says Hannah.
Once in the seat, don’t be afraid to ask questions as your hair is being cut and styled. You’ll want to know how to replicate the look at home.
Ask in advance what you’ll pay
It’s not rude or gauche to talk about money before your stylist starts clipping, particularly when it comes to drying and styling. An extreme blowout — using multiple brushes and curling irons—will probably cost more. Good stylists will let you know that before they begin.
“I think it’s just good business practice to discuss it—and it’s good manners too,” Hannah says.
Play the gender-neutral card
I hate the “pink tax” as much as you do—the extra fee women pay for everything from haircuts to razors. Hannah isn’t crazy about it either and says he looks forward to the time when men and women pay the same amount in the chair.
If the idea of paying twice as much for your short cut as the guy next to you makes you steam, don’t be afraid to say something (while remaining civil) to the salon owner. There’s a chance you can negotiate a discounted rate. They want to a good customer—particularly a loyal one who drops $800-plus on her hair each year—to be happy.
Originally published August 2018; Updated July 2019.