Women often reveal their darkest secrets to the hairdresser

February 27, 1991|By Pat Morgan | Pat Morgan,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Remember when the only thing your hairdresser knew for sure was the natural color of your hair?

Now it seems your hair stylist may be more informed about your life than your spouse, your best friend, even your therapist.

Eighty-four percent of the women polled by Matrix Essentials Inc. said they would trust the advice of their hairdressers over that of their therapists.

Matrix, a manufacturer of skin and hair care products, says women view hairdressers much the way men view bartenders. Here is a person who will listen to your troubles, keep your secrets and maybe make you feel better in the bargain. This sexist theory women also go to bars and men also have their hair styled presumes, I guess, that women feel better when their hair looks good and men feel better when they're drunk.

Now, I talk to my stylist. She's a fashion fan and knows what I do for a living, so we talk quite a bit of shop (and shopping). We also swap tales of our vacations and discuss how I might change my hairstyle.

But would I tell her if my marriage were breaking up? I don't think so.

Apparently, plenty of people do. Skeptical of the Matrix survey results, I called several hair stylists and asked them if customers share intimate secrets.

Absolutely, they said, though every one of them claimed a sacred client privilege, just like attorneys (or psychologists this is getting kind of eerie, isn't it?). They agreed to talk only if no names were used.

An unhappy marriage is a common complaint. A salon owner says a client told him of her impending divorce before she told her husband she was leaving.

One stylist says he encouraged a client to get treatment for her addiction to prescription drugs. She got help, he says, without telling her husband, who still doesn't know she had a problem.

Why would anyone share such intensely personal information with a hair stylist, unless the stylist was also a good friend?

Psychologist Lew Losoncy, who teaches seminars on "salon psychology" for Matrix, has a theory. Losoncy became interested in salon psychology after one of his patients told him she preferred the advice of her hair stylist to his.

"It's the power of touch," he says. "Touch is a vital need, and for many women, their hairdresser may be the only person who touches them in a gentle way.

"Having your hair done is a very personal service. The average woman goes to the same hairdresser for about seven years, so they do become friends of a sort. It may be easier to share painful information with a friend you pay than with one you have to see in church."

Still a bit skeptical, I asked my local sources if this theory is valid.

"I know it sounds hard to believe," one of them said. "But I also know that women I barely know confide in me. And they ask my advice, which makes me kind of uncomfortable. My life isn't exactly all peaches and cream. What qualifies me to tell a client to divorce her creep husband?"

The answer, of course, is nothing. If that matters.

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