How to be a pro at getting a haircut in France

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France

Getting a haircut(3)

Whether you move across the state or across an ocean, finding a new hair salon and stylist can be a daunting process for anyone — and that goes double if you’ve been traumatized by a bad cut. Add in cultural differences and a new language to contend with and you might just forgo that little trim you’re supposed to get every couple of months.

So what’s it like getting a haircut in France? Read on for my guide!

Getting a haircut in France

I’ve gotten a haircut in France a whopping four times. Ever. I’d put it off until I was back in the U.S. and always found excuses not to go. And that is why my hair was long enough to jump rope with — up until last week. After getting one terrible cut too many I decided to try a little harder at finding a salon that knows what to do with my hair. Of course bad experiences can happen anywhere but a burned scalp and a bad, uneven cut just seem that much worse when you’re in a new country. But folks, I’ve lived to tell and have found someone I trust. Phew.

Let me enlighten you on a few things when it comes to getting a haircut in France.

What to know:

Salons in France are as plentiful as boulangeries. Walk down the street in any reasonably-sized city and you’ll have more than enough choices. From chain salons to privately owned salons, you can find something to fit every budget, so shop around before you decide on one.

When you have your head back in the sink and the stylist nonchalantly asks you if you’d like the soin (sounds a little like “swan” in English but without the “n”), say no unless you want an extra 10-20 euros tacked on to your bill. The stylist is asking if you want a conditioner which seems like a no brainer (how can you comb through only shampooed hair without it being a mess?). I said yes the first time I got a haircut in France thinking it was some fancy thing and really it’s a regular conditioner. But this is an add-on service and is NOT included in the price of the cut. Your hair will be fine without the conditioner if you don’t want to pay more.

Like anywhere and with anything, and especially when getting a haircut in France, I believe you get what you pay for. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to get a good haircut for 20 euros or that a 200 euro cut will be the most amazing thing either. But I think around the 40-70 euro range is about normal for a decent haircut at a reputable salon with stylists that know what they’re doing.

photo(28)My new cut and style after about 8 inches were taken off!

What not to do:

Do NOT leave a tip at the end. Did you get that? Tipping, like at restaurants, is not the norm in France. If you really like your cut, you can leave a few euros if it’s convenient, a 50 euro bill for a 47 euro cut is fine. Or just pay the 47. It’s not cheap to NOT leave a tip — it’s what you’re supposed to do! Note: If you leave a 20% tip the first time you see a new stylist, you’ll most likely feel obligated to do that every time you see him or her, so just know from the get go that it’s not necessary or expected. Really.

Do NOT just tell the stylist to do whatever s/he wants. This is a surefire way to have a disastrous result when getting a haircut in France. Yes, really experienced stylists can sometimes read your mind and they know what will look best so maybe you’ll luck out. But it always pays to look up a few words in the dictionary ahead of time and pull up a few pics of the cut and style you’d like on your iPhone before the appointment. Communication never hurt anyone. And who knows, maybe your stylist had that in mind anyway.

And because it’s France and all, my new stylist Jean-Michel who is also the owner of the salon told me it was totally alright to bring Dagny. So I did, and she curled up on her blanket at my feet. Gotta love France 😉

dog at hair salon in france

Good luck!

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Comments (23)

  • Den Nation

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    I didn’t know about the ‘soin’. Well, that not surprising, since I never go the salon here. I’ve only been once – for my wedding. My husband cuts my hair.

    That’s cool that they let Dagny stay in the salon. I don’t mind pets in public places as long as they are quiet. I think it’s kind of cute!

    So do the stylists make small talk while they are cutting your hair just like in North America? Or do French stylists prefer to keep silent?

    Reply

    • Diane

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      So lucky your husband is a hairdresser! Cuts down on costs majorly. And yes, yappy dogs make me crazy so luckily mine doesn’t bark — definitely wouldn’t even have asked to bring her if that were the case. And I think the small talk thing depends on the stylist. My new guy loves to talk and so do I, whereas people I’ve had in the past barely said two words. So I think it varies on the person. By the way, what is your name? I know you by your email address and you comment often so I figured I’d ask!

      Reply

  • Isabel

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    I came across your blog not long ago and have enjoyed reading about your Parisian adventures! While I was living in Belgium I was amazed at the cost of getting a haircut, which was minimum 50 EUR without the ‘soin’. The first time I got my hair cut there I was thoroughly confused when the stylist asked me if I wanted ‘un brushing’. I had a feeling she was not asking me if I wanted her to brush my hair, so I had to ask her what the meaning of ‘brushing’ was! It turned out that ‘brushing’ means ‘styling’. I’m not sure if this word is used in France!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yup, Isabel, the brushing refers to a blowout, I believe and is often used in France. It’s probably cheaper to walk out of the salon with wet hair and in the US I know that salons will let you blow it out yourself (for free) but never heard of that option in France. It’s always a shampoo/cut/style around here. So glad you enjoy the blog!

      Reply

  • Jackie

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    I found this post really interesting. I love that Dagny was allowed to come too ! The tipping thing in Paris is still confusing to me. Is there anytime that you should tip ? I’ll be in Paris the end of the month and still wonder about the tipping thing. 🙂

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Jackie, sometimes a small tip is perfectly acceptable (but never expected and you aren’t cheap if you leave nothing) like if you got great service at a restaurant and leave a few extra euros on the table. Or in a taxi, an extra euro or two for a safe and direct ride would be smiled at (but again not expected). But the 20% tip at a restaurant or hair salon would be strange for a French person, might even embarrass the service provider. Only exception would be if you went to a really expensive restaurant and if you receive exceptional service and were really well taken care of, more money can be left. And when I had my couch delivered, I had the guys move my old couch upstairs to a spare room and it was a pain in the butt. But most services do not require a tip. At all! If you have specific questions, just email me and I’ll do my best to answer!

      Reply

      • Jackie

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        Thanks Diane ! I understand the tipping process in France much better now.

        Reply

        • Diane

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          You’re very welcome. Happy to help!

          Reply

  • Kim

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    After witnessing the disaster of a haircut my friend ended up with when she asked for bangs, I always keep it simple! My basic cut last week (no wash or blow dry, I was working out directly after) only cost 15€! It helps to build a relationship with your hairdresser, especially in a small town.

    Reply

  • Cynthia

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    I love your new hair style Diane ! It is beautiful ! And Dagny at your feet is so cute ! The price range sounds very close to that for a woman with very long hair here in the US. Because of the length of my hair I pay at least 60 for a trim “my hairdresser takes off at least two inches” But for that price I get the works including a deep conditioning and a blow dry and the flat ironing. I always leave her at least a 10 dollar tip besides. This info is nice to know if I should come to France one day ! Thank you so much for sharing !

    Reply

  • Ze Coach

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    Great post. You’re right about the tip. 2 stories just for you.

    1. The first time I got a haircut in the US, they made me sign a liability release form to prevent me from sueing them. I knew about the tendency to sue in the US but I was still surprised. I soon realized that I was in a hairdressing school. 🙂

    2. My mother has a hairdress saloon and she always cut my hair, even after I left home. She never cut my hair short even if I asked her to. With time, I came to the conclusion that by doing that, I had to come back home more often and I think that was the purpose of it: to see her son more often. I’m not a hairdresser. Now I wonder, what will I find to make my kids come back often to see me? 🙂

    Reply

  • Alan

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    Perfect timing for Tracy

    Reply

  • Daniela

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    First of I want to say a BIG thank you to you Diane for making this blog!! I am moving to France in a couple of months and I am stressing about all the changes!! Love all of your posts & tips, keep up the amazing job 🙂 p.s super cute hair cut 🙂

    Reply

    • Diane

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      You’re very welcome. So glad you find it helpful. Best of luck to you in France!

      Reply

  • Catherine

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    What a timely post Diane!… I finally made it to Paris and am terrified about getting my haircut (makes me regret not having it done before leaving). From what I see on the salon windows, the prices are about double what I used to pay in the States… eeek! I also wanted to ask you if there are special salons for kids as my two boys need a haircut – really badly! Thank you for the tips, very helpful when I decide to go 🙂

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi there, thought of you the other day, so thank you for stopping by — must have read my mind! Yes, the prices in Paris tend to be a bit higher than other parts of France, but just steer clear of super touristy neighborhoods and a decent cut can be found for 50 euros or so. I don’t know of any salons specifically for kids but I’m sure they exist. I remember my nephew going to one in his neighborhood. Sorry I can’t be more helpful there!

      Reply

  • Amanda

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    I’ve totally given up on getting my hair cut in French salons, so I bought a pair of good hair cutting shears (60 euros for a pair) and my boyfriend does it with results that are a million times better than what I got by paying 40 euros just for a cut and bit of shampoo.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Sounds like an excellent solution. Your man must be very talented!

      Reply

      • Amanda

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        Lol, not at all, youtube videos go a long way. :p

        Reply

  • Cheryl

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    My boyfriend cuts my hair as well. Better than the salon, no hassle of a burned scalp, high costs or making an appointment. I admit I was a little nervous the first time I let him take the shears to my locks, but he did such a great job the first time, I told him straight up he was my hair guy and I was through going to the salon. It has saved me hundreds of dollars. I think the fear of the first time having your guy cut your hair scares most women off, but I think there would many woman that are much happier getting their guy to do their hair knowing the days of bad haircuts are history.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Love this! Do you have long hair? He just goes straight across like a blunt cut? Awesome he does it for you and does a good job! 😉

      Reply

  • siaosi

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    My sister is a hair stylist. It is sometimes hard to have someone else cut it. I had it cut in Tonga for quite some time and it was not anything like the style in the US. I think I would stick to having people from my culture cut it.

    Reply

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