How to go to the hairdresser in France

Salut ça va ?

Many readers sent me the question: how to go to the hairdresser in France? What to say, what to ask so I don’t enter brunette and leave blond (or the opposite) or shaved.

I see what you mean as I personnaly had a panic attack when I first went to the hairdresser abroad. The lady who was going to cut my hair has awesome tatoos on both full arms. She was so blond her hair was almost white. And her cut was completely asymetrical. Which was absolutely awesome. I’m a huge fan of people who take their personal style so seriously.

BUT I was TERRIFIED and none of this helped. I have to confess, I almost left as I had NO idea what haircut I was looking for.

So when I read your emails « what do I ask for in French? » I GET IT. I have a huge empathy for panic attacks at the hairdresser abroad.

In today’s episode, you’ll learn the essentials to go to the hairdresser in France.

Click to watch « How to go to the hairdresser in France »:




Et toi ?
Have you been to the hairdresser in France?
How did it go? Any funny anecdote to share with the community?

Share your story so we can discuss in the comments area below the video.

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Feel free to share your thoughts on the contact page!

A la prochaine !

Géraldine

Join the conversation!

  • Great idea Geraldine to do this for people like me, afraid to go to the hairdresser here in France .
    I did not see how to ask for layers though . Is that coupe avec
    degrades?

    • Bonjour Elizabeth,

      I have to admit that I don’t know… Maybe bring a photo of what you want, on your phone, to show the hairdresser?

  • Hi Geraldine,
    I am a big fan of your blog. I’ve always found your posts very entertaining and great for taking a peek into French life before moving to France! I’m living in Paris now and am in need of a hairdresser at the moment since I got lighter highlights done a couple of months ago and my darker roots are growing out. Basically, I would like to go back to my natural hair color. I guess it would be a sort of inverse ‘balayage’ but I’m not sure what the correct term is in this case. How would you recommend to go about this?
    Thanks so much for your help and a big hello from Paris! 🙂

    • Hi Paula,
      Easy, just say “je voudrais revenir à ma couleur naturelle”.
      I’m no hairdressing expert but this is what I would say. 🙂

  • Hairdressers in Paris. If they ask if you want a conditioner with your shampoo ask “how much”. It is extra, not included with price of shampoo and brushing.

  • Salut tlm, when I lived in Paris way back in the 90, as a 20-something, I found going to the salon (and pretty much everywhere else!) stressful. So I always brought a picture of the cut and color I was looking for. It’s something I still do today in the US. I found salon visits expensive, paying separately for cut and blowdry. Now of course American salons have caught on and do the same thing, charging for each step of the process. Ah well.

  • Hi Geraldine, this will be so useful in the future. I’ve only been to the hairdresser once in France. All was fine, the hair was done, as near to what I had hoped for as possible, when the she started to apply make-up to my face…..I can only think that she didn’t think my face was up to the standard of the hair!

  • Hi Geraldine. Love your series and have just discovered this. As a guy with not much hair, I would like to have it cut very short. What would I ask for? Merci

    • Bonjour Paul,

      It took me some time to answer because I asked guys around me what they asked for.
      They advise you ask for “une coupe” and usually, the hairdresser will know what to do. If you wish to add something, they said ask for “propre sur la nuque et les oreilles” et “court”. “Propre” here doesn’t mean “clean” opposite of “dirty”, it will be cleanly cut around the ears, and the neck. Where the hair becomes easily longer and messy. Hope it helps!

  • I thought French hairdressers always cut the same style! Thank you so much for this as my pathetic French always results in what we call in English a basin cut (as if someone put a basin over your head to use as a guide). I now know that what I want is a un carre plongeant. I will try next time in the hope that I don’t leave looking like a medieval king again. Merci beaucoup for this information — much appreciated!

    • In French, “basin cut” is “coupe au bol” which has exactly the same meaning!!! 😀
      Sending you good vibes for your next haircut, Suzanne.

  • Great post! I was curious about this. When I was in Paris two years ago. I was looking for other spa services and found something where I could have a walk in appointment. It was difficult with my limited French. I did get a few strange looks but in the end my service went fine.

  • As I was getting ready to leave a hair salon in Naples, Fl. I overheard a lady with a French accent introduce her mother to another stylist, telling her that her mother was visiting from France and spoke no English, and that she, herself had to leave, but explained what her mother wanted from the stylist….I noticed after the young woman left, the mother looked frightened and was by herself while others were talking in English all around her…So, even though I was “panic-stricken” about sounding too forward and self-concious of my “limited French”, I approached her smiling and introduced myself and asked a few questions…and made small conversation to put her at ease…It was nice to see her smile and grab my hand….I felt that it could have been my mother in a foreign country who was all alone..and I felt so good that I got her to smile!

  • I go armed with a photo of my normal haircut and I come out with the French version which is great. We have a delightful hairdresser in the next village who cuts my husband’s hair as well. He really enjoys the hair wash and massage from the apprentice!

  • I studied abroad in France in 1994. I saw a sign in the window of a salon that said “Tarif Étudiant” and I thought “Great, they offer a reduced rate for students.” What I didn’t realize is that “tarif étudiant” meant the person cutting my hair was a student, not me. That combined with my lack of vocabulary (I particularly remember not knowing how to say “bangs” une frange) resulted in one of the worst haircuts of my life.

    • That’s funny. 99,99% of the time “Tarif étudiant” MEANS “Reduced Rate for Students”.
      Maybe you just had bad luck… 🙁

  • My husband and I visit Paris every year. My French is quite basic but I have ventured to the hairdresser each time. I get it cut at a marvelous salon in Passy where they pamper me … I stumble through my requests of what to do and often resort to sign language !

    Still they are very tolerant and every time I have come home with a fabulous cut …

  • I’m fortunate to have a good hairdresser in France. Thank you for explaining the tirelire; I had to find out for myself. Does le brushing mean blow dry? And I’m not sure if les meches means fringe or highlights (because I have highlights in my fringe…)

    • Bonjour Celia,
      Glad to help!
      Yes, le brushing means blow dry.
      La frange = fringe
      The best word for highlight is “balayage”
      Mèches means both stand/lock and highlights

      • Bonjour Geraldine et Celia,

        When I go to the hairdresser in France I ask for des mèches which in Australia is called “foils”. Does any other English speaking country call them “foils”? My experiences at the hairdressers in the small village have always been fabulous.

  • Chere Geraldine,

    I have just recently moved to France and will need a haircut soon, so the timing of your lesson is perfect! Thank you for the information. I am a little less intimidated now.

    I do have a question, though… Does one typically leave a tip for hairdressing services in addition to the charges? And if so, what are some guidelines for tip amount?

    • Hi Martha,
      Thanks for your message.
      Yes, you can leave 1 or 2€.
      You can either give it to them after you’ve paid. Or put it in their “tirelire” (piggy bank). 🙂

  • Chere Geraldine—

    On several occasions while visiting in Paris, I went to a coiffurist in Avenue Bosquet in the 7th arr. The young woman who took care of me made certain I was both pampered and indulged. A lovely shampoo, followed by a very good haircut. Unlike in America where it is often hurry hurry hurry, she took her time and made it a memorable experience. This was a unisex shop. Would I be correct in thinking most coiffurists in France are unisex?

    • Hi Michael,
      Great to hear you had such a lovely experience!
      There are both “salons de coiffure” that are “homme-femme” and “homme” OR “femme”.

  • Chere Geraldine,
    Going to the hairdresser’s in England was one of the most pampering and pleasant experiences I have had! I am sure it will be equally indulgent in France. Perhaps, it’s worth going to the hairdresser’s when visitng a different country, so you topic is really useful! How do you say pampering or indulgent in French?

    • Hi Valeria,
      I don’t see any direct translation, but I’d say “se chouchouter” or “prendre soin de soi”.

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