Ever Wonder Why Haircuts Can Be So Expensive? We Asked the Pros

Written by Dahvi Shira

If haircuts are what you factor in as part of the high cost of living (cough, California), you’re just like us. Especially if you live in a metropolitan city, where you get your haircut (and who’s doing the chop) is the ultimate status symbol. Even men’s haircuts are expensive these days, and tiny barbershops have cult followings and high costs. And the chicer hair salons come with not-so-chic price tags (we’re looking at a $350 average price). That said, don’t you wonder how your hairstylist even got to the point of being able to charge so much? There are many layers (pun intended) that contribute to the cost of a haircut. Before we get to the bougie breakdown, hairstylist and Goldie Locks product developer Devin Graciano wants to make one thing clear: “While an expensive haircut can offer advantages, there are also skilled and talented hairstylists who offer cost-effective service options.”

Now that we have that out of the way, keep reading for eight factors that go into the expensive average cost of a haircut—and let’s help you justify those salon prices from your hairdresser.

A woman having her hair cut by a hairdresser at a beauty salon. | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: Getty / Susumu Yoshioka)

About the Experts:

Devin Graciano is a professional hairstylist and hair care product developer at Goldie Locks.

Briana Cisneros is a hairstylist and colorist at Nine Zero One Salon in West Hollywood, CA. She’s also a Wella ambassador and Cosmo Prof educator.

8 Factors That Go Into the Cost of a Haircut

Experience of Stylist

Experience is probably the most obvious contributor to the price of a haircut. For example, decades-long legend Frederic Fekkai charges $750 per haircut, but he has done it all. In addition to chopping locks for ages in the world’s biggest cities, he also has his own namesake hair care line, and a developed devoted fanbase.

“Veteran stylists have put in their time and sweat, and they’ve picked themselves up from past failures to distinguish what works and what doesn’t,” Graciano explains. “They typically have the confidence to converse with a client to find the best end results through a consultation, versus letting the client drive the conversation. Experience backed by education truly allows the seasoned stylist to show up for their clients in a way that a new stylist just can’t yet.”

Examples of where experience comes in handy are the ability to “fix, alter, and personalize with knowledge of what the end result can be,” Graciano says. “Experience also allows the stylist to understand the demands of the market, location, and product usage.”

Cutting to Someone’s Color

Many hairstylists don’t double as colorists, but Nine Zero One pro Briana Cisneros does both—and she says it benefits the way she cuts hair.

“When I’m cutting color-treated hair, I know exactly my sectioning, exactly where I’m cutting it, where I want the depth, and what story I want to tell,” she told Mane Addicts backstage at Cosmo Prof’s Iconic Blonde taping. “I can bring my cuts to life in a certain way. If you can’t look at the whole picture, you’re short-changing yourself. If you’re collaborating with artists, you have to know how to speak the language of the person you’re collaborating with, and how to convey what it is you want to come across with the color. Otherwise, some of the best color points can be cut off.”

Personalizing the Cut

We’re certainly not bashing Supercuts, Great Clips, or other salons with accessible price points, but when you opt for a more high-end salon, you’re typically getting hair services tailored to you. Saying you want layers, for example, can mean something different for your strands versus your best friend’s. A less expensive haircut is more likely to offer one-size-fits-all styles.

“I’m thinking about, can my client recreate this from home?” Cisneros says. “Am I working with their natural hair pattern and texture? Am I bringing out the wave to make it wavier? I want my clients to be shocked in the end and think, my hair can do that?"

She adds, “In haircutting, everything’s about face shape. It’s almost like buying a good pair of sunglasses. When you get a good haircut, you’re like, this is it. When you get a good haircut, it’ll grow out forever. It’ll last you six months to a year. They’re cutting to your curl pattern, your texture. They’re bringing everything out. They’re lightening up the weight of it. They’re meeting all your needs so you get longevity in that haircut.”

Location of Salon

As we mentioned above, the demand for high-end hair care is obviously higher in metropolitan cities (namely, Los Angeles and New York City). Therefore, stylists can get away with higher prices because they know people will pay them. And, as Graciano points out, if your salon is filled with many stylists who have exceptional experience and education, that will generally keep the price high, too.

Cutting for Easy Grow Out

A less expensive haircut may be good, but it likely won’t be cut for a successful grow-out. It may lean into a trendy hairstyle of the moment, but may not be suitable as it grows out down the line. “You can get a haircut that will look just as good at six weeks as it did on day one, style permitting,” Graciano says.

Salon Ambiance

Anyone who’s been in the chair knows getting your haircut is an experience. Whether your hairstylist plays therapist for the day or you leave a little tipsy from complimentary champagne, a day at the salon is much more than a simple service. That said, fancy frills (we’ll take that bubbly) up the experience, and therefore, the cost.

“An upscale salon that provides a luxurious and comfortable ambiance typically has more costly services,” Graciano says. “These places include offerings the moment you walk in, through the moment you leave your appointment.”

She goes on to say, “If the paint is peeling off the walls, there’s always a foul odor from the bin, or accommodations are missing the mark, how can any client justify paying a higher value for a service when it doesn’t align with the environment?”

The Cut’s Ability to Wear Naturally

Something we’ve personally noticed, which Cisneros points out, is that a high-end haircut will often leave you with strands you can style naturally. For example, if your hair is naturally straight, layers will air-dry noticeably and make a statement even without being styled. And with naturally curly hair, your curls will air-dry uniformly and won’t be unruly.

Additional Services

If you go to a Fantastic Sam’s, for example, there won’t be bells and whistles to your service. Every additional option after the cut, itself, is typically individually priced. At a higher-end salon, you may get complimentary scalp massages, along with a blowout, deep conditioner treatment, or other services. While these “free” add-ons don’t have additional singular charges, they’re all part of the package.

What happens when your hair service still costs more than you expected? Find out HERE!