In addition to revealing hygiene habits, the intimacy of styling one's hair regularly brings about a conversation about a client's personal life. Read these hairdresser's accounts of the most startling finds while cutting a customer's hair:
Sanitizing For Days
“I’ve only had two disturbing discoveries, thankfully. Both happened when I was in cosmetology school.
The first wasn’t too bad, just weird. This lady came in for a cut and when I put my fingers in her hair, I found tons of twigs and leaves inside. Her hair was fairly thick, and there were just tons of twigs tangled up in there. I made a comment about it and she just laughed. It was really strange.
The second time was disgusting. A different lady came in for a cut and I took her to the shampoo bowl and started shampooing. After a minute of that, I noticed a spot on her scalp that felt funny so I parted the hair and she had this huge wound that was oozing pus and blood. I almost threw up on her head. I had to go get an instructor as I had just started working on real clients at this time and was quite shy to explain to her why I couldn’t continue her service and she literally looked at us and said, ‘Well, it’s not even that bad, I don’t understand why you can’t just cut my hair anyway.’ She had to leave wet and I spent a good 30 minutes scrubbing my hands and nails afterward.”
She Found A Soft Spot For This Sweet Client
“My aunt was a hairdresser and had a client who had these little ‘soft’ spots in her head with scars above them. The client was ‘a bit dotty’ as my aunt affectionately put it and very fixated on my aunt to make sure the scars were covered. The lady would get a perm each visit so she spent quite a while there and my aunt always assumed she might have early dementia or something, but adored her because she was very sweet and fun to talk to.
It wasn’t until the client’s son was there during a visit that aunt found out her client had been lobotomized as a young housewife and that was what the ‘soft spots’ were from. According to her son, it was done because she was very depressed and suicidal. She apparently chose to do it after ECT (electroconvulsive therapy or ‘shock treatment’) failed and her husband arranged it.
Having met the woman, they must have done a ‘good’ job (if any lobotomy could be such a thing) because she wasn’t vegetative, she seemed pretty normal just a bit ‘off.’ But even if she made the choice herself, it’s a horrifying thought.”
Situations That Took ‘Every Bit Of Self Control’
“I have two:
This high school aged girl who came in for foils. I mixed her color and got through maybe three foils when I noticed something moving on her scalp. I took a closer look and saw bugs all over her head. I had never seen lice in real life, so I called my friend, another hair stylist, over to confirm my suspicion. The client looked super nervous and said, ‘Are you about to tell me I have lice? I’ve been to three stylists this week and they all said that but I haven’t found any.’ I had to drop my tools, rush her to the shampoo bowl, rinse off the color and get her out of the salon. I couldn’t believe this girl. If you have been to THREE STYLISTS this week and they all said the same thing, WHY THE HECK WOULD YOU NOT BELIEVE THEM AND COME INFECT ANOTHER SALON!?! We had to disinfect the entire salon that day, chairs, capes, towels, tools. I was so mad. But I did walk her down the street to a Sally’s and got her the medication she needed. Hopefully, she took it and didn’t go trying another salon. Sheesh.
The other was in hair school. We had a lot of destitute people come in because the cuts were like $4. This lady sat in my chair for a cut/color. Her hair was impossibly ratted and it took me a good half hour to finally remove the tangles. Once the brush strokes were fluid, I noticed a large bump on the back of her head. I moved her hair out of the way and it was a HUGE tumor that was red and the skin was cracking like crazy. Think, cutting a softball in half sized. She told me she’d been in the hospital for weeks waiting to have it tested and removed and that’s why her hair was so ratted (from laying in bed for so long). It took every bit of self-control I had to control the gagging and not be sick all over that place.”
A Scarring Incident
“My grandmother was a hairdresser and when I started driving she used to tell me the story of Priscilla Hudson to scare the crap out of me to respect the railroad tracks.
Priscilla Hudson was an old woman who used to come into my grandma’s shop. She said this old woman had a scar that started on the middle of her cheek, went up through her eye and into the hairline. Upon fixing her hair, my grandma realized it went almost all the way to the back of her head. She had to ask what happened. Apparently, she had gotten tired of waiting on the gate at the train tracks to lift up and didn’t hear to train coming (I’m not sure how) and went around it. Her car got hit by the train, but she somehow survived and got that gnarly scar.
A year later, Grandma gets a call from the family informing her Priscilla died and they wanted her to fix her hair for the funeral. She agreed and when she came in to fix it she noticed she was stitched up in an identical manner on the other side of her face. Apparently, she’d done it again and it killed her the second time.”
“Parenting Skills Were Sorely Missed Here”
“I had a ten-year-old come in and when I was washing his hair, I noticed a crusty film over the crown of his head and part of the top. I grabbed a comb and started scraping at the edges and it came up in huge pieces that peeled away. I asked him if it hurt and he said no, it was just itchy. I called the mom over and asked if she was washing his hair or if he was. She replied he did.
I advised her to help him learn how to properly wash his hair since the build up of skin, un-rinsed shampoo and conditioner had built up and caused cradle cap in the top of his head. I felt so bad for this kid. It couldn’t have been comfortable and had probably been building up for a long time. I got as much as I could off with clarifying shampoo and a comb, but it would be a while for it all to be peeled off. Parenting skills were sorely missed here.”
Who’s This ‘Master’ You Speak Of?
“My first job out of school at a major chain salon. The type you work for experience. I was super interested in going back to school and becoming a master barber, so I took this job where I was basically doing 30 men’s cuts a day, very few women.
Towards the end of my shift, a woman came in with beautiful long blonde hair. I sit her down, get her caped and start my consultation. She pulls an iPad out of her purse and pulls up a messaging app and starts typing away without saying a word. She was typing my questions to someone else.
I ask again what she would like and she says she needs it buzzed, but she really doesn’t want it buzzed. I try to tell her she shouldn’t do anything she doesn’t want to do and that her her hair is gorgeous, etc.
She finally tells me that her ‘master’ is waiting in the car. She has to have a ‘butch’ cut for him. All the while she is typing everything she and I say on the iPad.
We talk it out and finally decide on a short ‘butch’ cut that isn’t just a styleless buzz and we go on to have a fairly normal conversation through the 15-minute service. All the while, she’s transcribing everything to her ‘master’ waiting in the car. We get done, she purchases a few up-sales (yay commission) but gives me no tip and leaves. Oh well, I chalked it up to an interesting experience.
10 minutes later, a hulking, ripped, huge slab of man in jeans and a leather vest comes in and silently hands me $200 bucks. The blonde lady was standing outside giving me a thumbs up and mouthing ‘thank you.’ What a weird experience.”
Her Suggestion Saved His Life
“My friend Jen is a hairdresser and saw that this regular of hers who was a man had a mole start to change. It suddenly had a gross looking kind of bleeding growth on it. She didn’t remember it being there before and told him he should probably get it checked.
She didn’t see him for almost a year and then he came in bald. After getting his hair cut, he went to the doctor’s and they found stage 3 melanoma that he probably wouldn’t have ever thought about if the hairdresser didn’t say anything. He told her she saved his life since there was an underlying tumor that could have spread to his brain stem or cervical spine and paralyzed or killed him.”
The Whole Salon Would Smell
“I’m an ex-hairdresser.
I’ve seen ringworms on two kids heads. One was so bad he had bald patches where the worms were and his dad took him to get a new haircut to help cover the baldness. We used to have an old lady come in every two months or so for a color change. I’m pretty sure she never washed her hair in between visits. She would have a viable layer of hairspray and the worst dandruff I’ve ever seen.
Most people have never seen real dandruff (most people just have a dry scalp). Dandruff is puss-y, yellow, waxy and smells like dirty hair and wood and is a gross-puke-kill-me-now type of thing. Anyway, in some places this old lady had about 2cm build up of dandruff in places.
The worst part was when you would blow dry her hair it would make the whole salon smell like dandruff.”
“It Was Truly Awful”
“First a guy came in and wanted me to comb out his hair and give him a trim. He had a couple massive dreads in his hair and begged me to try and comb it out. I did it but it literally took me 6 hours of combing. He had hair down to his waist after I finished as opposed to when he originally came in and it was so dreaded it was at his shoulders.
The second guy was an older man who really liked me in beauty school and although he was sweet, he smelled terrible and had an awful case of greasy dandruff. It smelled horrid and no matter how many times I shampooed my combs, it would get caked in it. It would shed off in clumps and get stuck on my hands. It was just truly awful.
Lastly, there was a client I had not too long ago. I work in a high-end salon so this rarely happens, but a woman came in for a haircut and after taking her hair down, I started to look through it, the woman had mold in her hair and it smelled terrible. She apparently never fully dried her hair before putting it up in a bun, so the mildew over time (and I am sure other things) built up and cause her hair to mold. Ew!”
‘Flamin’ Hot’ Hairstyle
“My barber was telling me how just last week a man with thick dreads came in to get them cut and have a fade done. She told me the amount of dead skin and food in the dreads was sickening. That doesn’t even take the cake though, he apparently had a full-length hot cheeto stuck in one of them. She asked if he wanted to throw it away and he said he was going to keep it and put it on a plaque on his shelf.
My grandfather had skin cancer on his left ear and it made the entire area around it extremely sensitive. He had a special barber that would be extra sensitive around it, but sadly enough, she moved. He came to me and asked if I could cut it since I used to cut my own hair. At the time I didn’t know how bad it was, that is until I went to cut it only to realize his skin was pulsing and would probably popped if I touched it. I proceeded with the haircut but man I wanted to throw up so bad.”
“My instructor had a client come into the salon who wanted a perm. The client sits in her chair, they consult about what exactly she wants, and she starts to examine her hair and scalp. This was common protocol before you begin any service. Within seconds of parting her hair in a different direction, my instructor notices TONS of lice. Literally, HUNDREDS crawling all over her scalp. She told our class that there were SO many, there was no way the client didn’t feel them crawling around. The client had to have known she had them.
The state law is that as soon as a hairdresser notices lice, they must stop the service immediately (for less chance of the lice crawling around and spreading) and send the client away to get treatment. The client got really really mad she couldn’t get her perm, threw a hissy fit about it, and stormed out of the salon. Next day, my instructor saw the same lady walking down the street with curly hair. Someone gave her the perm. Perms aren’t a short service either, so that lady had to be in the chair for at least an hour or two. That means some other hairstylist was touching that scalp for that long, combing through all the lice and their eggs. Seriously gross.”
Not Cool, Dude, Not Cool
“I’m not a hairdresser, but my sister is a salon assistant and told me about this guy whose hair she had to wash.
Apparently, his hair was this big oily mess, like the guy had just dumped a bunch of oily waxy stuff in his hair and left it. To top it all off, he had this horrible rats tail that he refused to cut off because ‘he grew attached to it.’ It turns out this guy only washed it when he came into the salon, which was once a month or less.
To make it worse, my sister said that she was making small talk with this guy and this dude was head of some business apparently. My sister mentioned to him that she would never want to be head of a business because of the responsibility, and the guy just responds saying, ‘Oh, well women need to be told what to do!’ She was shocked from the whole thing and went quiet. Lucky I wasn’t there because I wouldn’t have been so nice.”
Not What You Typically See At A Fancy Salon
“I used to be a barber at a pretty fancy salon. I had this one kid come in who said he has never had a haircut or a shave and wants both. He just met a girl and wants to look nice. He was a nice kid.
The problem was, he never washed his hair. He said that he’d run it through water, dry and stuff like that, but never wash it or anything. Some people can wash very little, but not this guy. No, his hair had all kinds of tangles in it, same with his beard. He stunk too. You could tell that sweat would get trapped and fester.
I had a sit down with him and told him that the easiest thing to do would be to shave it all off and he agreed. I get this 5-pound lump of hair off this man and his scalp and face are covered in sores, pimples, just all around redness. I recommended he go to the doctor. A few pimples popped as I was shaving.
He would come in from time to time, gladly the stuff cleared up, but it was bad. After that, we threw the hair into a trash bag and threw it immediately into the dumpster.”
He Didn’t Realize He Was Going To Be Dealing With Patients Rather Than Clients
“This incident actually made me quit hairdressing and join the Navy. A guy came in for a $7.95 cut and his hair was so greasy and he had scabs and sores and huge crusts all over his head but didn’t want to pay the extra dollar for the shampoo. I shampooed him anyway with tea tree shampoo and it took everything in me to not puke on his head. Of course, no tip either.
Then once, I was cutting a guys hair, when I got to the side, he wanted the sides level with where his ears met his head, so I make the cut and something fell off and then there was blood and I’m freaking out, it was this huge mole type thing and I cut the entire thing off, he thanked me and said ‘Now I don’t have to go to a doctor to get it taken off.’ Shudder.
Another time, there was a guy with a prosthetic ear. He didn’t even tell me. It was secured into his head somehow and looked real enough until I tried to comb near it and my comb hit something hard. He told me he didn’t even feel it. First and last time I ever saw a plastic ear jammed into someone’s skull.”
If Your Hair Resembles Cheese, Something Ain’t Right
“I remember in Cosmo school I had a client who didn’t like to wash her hair until she would come see me.
I saw her once a month. For starters, her hair would be very tangled which as a student was overwhelming at the time. So I would check out her scalp before shampooing and one time, I saw so much build up it legit looked like cottage cheese. It was not a good sight to see nor smell. I’ve been specializing in naturally curly hair so I’ve worked with hair that hasn’t been combed through in weeks, hair that hasn’t been washed in weeks, all kinds of situations. I’ve only had one other client who had that much build up that relates.”