How to get your hair styled in a French salon!

Hair salon
Franck Provost Salon

It’s okay, open the door and enter! Getting your favourite cut, colour or perm is only a translation away…

After seven years in France, I have found that the stylists love a visit from a foreigner. Smile and assume that you will be spending most of the morning or afternoon in the salon; it’s culturally correct to simply let the time flow around you. I have never had better hair stylists anywhere. Going for the French salon experience can be the ‘highlight’ of your travels.

Whether you want your hair short – une coupe courte (oon coop court*), or long = une coupe longue (oon coop loonguh), don’t hesitate to use the magazines that they have in the salon to show your stylist your ideas for a cut or colour.

Here are a few terms to help you get started. Give it a try and have fun!

Salon magazines = magazines des modèles (magazine day mod-elle)

Cut = Coupe, coop
Style = Brushing, bruh sheeng
To colour = coloris, Coo-lor-ees

Shampoo = Shampo, sham- pwaw

If you are adventurous and you want a truly continental look, tell the stylist to do what ever she thinks is best! Say “Faites ce que vous pensez m’irez bien” (fet suh kuh voo pon-sqy mee-ray bee-en).

Additional phrases are included at the end of this article.

Some of the real magic in the French salon happens in the wash basin. First, a lovely shampoo followed by a head massage that lasts at least five minutes! At this point they might ask you a couple of questions: would you like a soin – a conditioner to protect your hair (for an extra charge). You can ask how much, combine ça coute? (Comb-bee-en sah coot?) Or just a simple oui or non merci will do. When asked ça vous va a temperature de l’eau? You are being asked: is this water temperature okay? (Sah voo vah lah tahm-per-ah-chur duh low?)

If you have thin hair, they might propose a special shampoo that adds volume, or de-frizz for frizzy hair défrisage (day-freez-aj).

When the stylist is finished they might ask if you would like a styling gel or spray – Vous voulez du produit coiffant? (voo voo-lay doo pro-dwee kwah-fon?) And you answer oui or non.

You will be delighted with your new look. It’s just the thing for your European travels!

For men – les hommes

Men can have their hair cut in France too! They will not come out speaking with an accent, but they might turn a few more heads after the experience!

Salon Stylist
Stylist – Caroline Costanzo

Here is some advice from a charming stylist ready to go the extra ‘length’ to make a foreigner feel comfortable in a new environment – advice for men by Caroline Costanzo, Stylist, Marseille, France.

The stylist will need to know how long it has been since your last visit, so that she knows how much hair to cut.

It has been one month (two months) since my last cut = ca fait un mois (deux mois) depuis je ne suis allez chez le coiffeur (sah fay uhn mwah (dhu mwah) duh-pwee zhuh nuh sweez allay chay luh kwah-fer).

It is best for the stylist to begin with your sideburns and neck while your hair is still dry.

To shave your neck = un fondu de nuque (uhn fon-doo duh nuke)

Short sideburns (or thinned) = les pattes courtes (ou juste désépaissies) (lay pat court (day-zah-pez-ee)

Keep the length please, but cut the top = garder la longueur mais coupez le haut (Gar-day lah loh-ger may coop-ay luh oh).

Short all over = court partout (Coor par too)

Additional Useful Phrases

French spelling is really different from English. Use the pronunciation guide in italics to say these phrases. The oo is like the oo in moon and the zhe is like the s in pleasure.

Yes = oui (wee) No = non (no)

Please = s’il vous plait (see voo play)

• Between two colours = Entre deux couleurs (awn-tr duh coo-lar)

• Can you colour my hair? = Est-ce que vous pouvez faire la couleur? (es-sah-kuh voo poo-vay fair lah coo-lar)

• Could you make my colour darker? = Est-ce que vous pouvez faire la couleur plus foncé? (es-sah-kuh voo poo-vay ploo fon-say)

• Could you make my colour lighter? = Est-ce que vous pouvez faire la couleur plus claire? (es-sah-kuh voo poo-vay ploo klay-r)

• How much will this cost? = Combien est-ce que ca coute? (Comb-bee-en es-sah-kah sah koot?)

• I would like my colour to be lighter/darker = Je veux que mon couleur soit plus claire (foncée) (Zhe ver mah coo-lar swah ploo klair (fon-see))

• I would like my roots coloured = Je veux teindre les racines (Zhe ver tandr may ras-seen)

• Light perm = Permanente souple (payr-man-awnt soupl)

• May I have a full head of highlights? = Je veux des mèches sur toute la tête or Est-ce que je peut avoir des meches de partout? (Zhe ver day mesh sir toot lah tet)

• Tight perm = Permanante sous tenue (payr-man-awnt soo teh-noo)

• Trim the ends = épointez le bas (ay-pwent-ay luh bah)

• Layered/to thin out = dégradez/enlèvez un peu d’épaisseur (day-grah-day on-lev-ay)

Summer Time Hair Care Tips from a Pro

Salon Stylist
Stylist – Jonathan Manas

Jonathan Manas of the Franck Provost Salon in Marseille has these recommendations to keep your hair healthy during the hot summer months:

1. Have your streaks put in at the end of June for a more natural look

2. Use a hair mask once a week to keep your hair shiny and more manageable

3. When you bathe, spray your hair with a spray mask to keep your hair healthy

4. If you use a styling wax during the summer months you should use one that is more oily to keep your hair moisturized

5. Cut your hair at the end of summer to change your style and to trim off the any hair damaged by summer weather.

Maya O’Riordan is a writer, mother and real estate negotiator working in the South of France since 2001. Please feel free to contact her at [email protected], or check out the website at

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