“Why do they have mirrors in hair salons?”, wailed my husband yesterday after his monthly visit for a cut.

Which set me thinking.

Why are most salons overflowing with mirrors?  Does every client really want to stare at themselves during their appointment? What if you banished mirrors in selected areas of your salon?

Before you dismiss it out of hand, just let’s explore the idea as it illustrates a much wider business challenge.


But all our competitors do it…

Play safe.

Play follow my leader.

That’s what many hair and beauty business owners do. They research their competitors, discover how they do things, then follow the crowd.

Yet many of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs succeed because they consciously opt to buck the trend.

They don’t camouflage themselves to look like their competitors. Far from it. They proclaim their difference.

Let’s take three quick examples:

  • Uber: offered an alternative to the traditional taxi. It wasn’t such a different business model – they still ferry people around – but they challenged the status quo.
  • Ikea: offered showrooms where you help yourself to your flat pack furniture, carry it home and self assemble. Again, not so different to regular furniture stores, but different enough to make them a global success.
  • Amazon: sold books online which at the time seemed at odds with conventional bookshops. They are now one of the largest international corporations.

Can you see the common thread?

Each company took an established business model and gave it a nifty new twist. Having studied their competitors they deliberately chose a path that is different, distinctive and out of the ordinary. They weren’t afraid to stand out from the crowd.


Dare to be different

Look around you.

Is your hair or beauty business slavishly adopting the industry norms? Is your salon a carbon copy of most others in town?

There’s nothing wrong in embracing best practice and great ideas. But copying our competitors’ business isn’t necessarily the road to salon success.

I’m not suggesting your changes need to be earth-shattering. Just suggesting you take time to look outside that clichéd box.

Which brings me back to banishing mirrors.

Is this a classic example of “we’ve always done it this way,” which could be challenged?

A quick tap into Google soon reveals the strength of anti-mirror sentiment out there. These two hair salon clients are from NetMums.com forum, and there is a stack of support for their views.

“I hate having to sit looking in that damned mirror for 2 hours! I can’t stand having to look at my ageing face constantly  does anyone else feel like this and the hairdressers are so young and pretty with their youthful glow.

I will bury my face in a magazine when I can but I have to be careful when I look up because last time I thought it was my mum in front of me.”

And another…

“Yep I absolutely hate the mirrors too – they show up every grey hair, your roots which you can’t afford to get done this time round, every wrinkle, sag, spot, dark shadow – yeurch! Best to stand about 20 feet away from the mirror with your glasses off – vast improvement!”


Mirrors create anxiety

I dug deeper to find our aversion to mirrors and our reflection isn’t just down to vanity.

Researchers at the London Institute of Psychiatry report that staring at yourself in the mirror does more psychological harm than good.

Their study reveals volunteers who gazed at their reflections for up to ten minutes at a time gradually became more and more anxious and depressed about their looks – even if they were perfectly happy with them to start with.

Sound like a recipe for a WOW salon experience?

I don’t think so.


But we need mirrors (sometimes)

Of course, most of the time clients want to be able to see what’s going on. To avoid moments like this…


Been there and got the T-shirt?

But what about colour services or treatments? What purpose does a mirror serve here? If you’ve a dedicated colour bar or lounge area, why not fling the mirrors out?  Save them for cutting, drying and hair-up.



But why subject clients to something that eats away at their self-confidence and makes them feel depressed? Chuck out the mirrors and improve your clients’ salon experience.


Don’t stop at salon mirrors

Mirrors are just for starters.

What other things do you do just because “that’s how the hair and beauty industry does it?