Nothing but the Truth: Setting Client Expectations

Written by Shelly Steadman

Client expectations often aren’t realistic. Let’s take, for example, our lovely associates in the world of hair. How many times have you sat down in a chair with an airbrushed picture of some lovely model, who more than likely is sporting extensions or even a styled wig, and informed your stylist you wanted to look like that? There was no consideration of texture differences or the fact that you are unwilling to spend the extra thirty minutes every morning sectioning, blow drying, and curling to create those beautiful waves. Not to mention the five products she applied to your hair to get it to shine and bounce just so.


The skin care business is the same. Clients see retouched photos of women with gorgeous skin, perfect eyebrows, and voluminous eyelashes and think they too can achieve the same results by simply applying a serum or coming in for a single facial treatment. We, the professionals, know this is not true. Great skin requires work and a solid commitment to reverse and prevent further damage. Eyebrow clients can be even worse. They show you pictures of phenomenal eyebrows without understanding those aren’t entirely the model’s eyebrows. Those beautifully arched darlings are courtesy of concealer, eyebrow pencils, highlighter, and patience.


Clients don’t like to hear this. They want the miracle in a bottle that influencers, magazines, podcasts, and blogs have promised them. I’m sure you’ve all had the client that comes in with sun damage, static wrinkles, and elasticity that is completely blown. The same client who hasn’t had a facial in years, hardly ever washes her face, and never uses moisturizer, much less sunscreen. What does she want out of her treatment? Youthful skin. A complete and total skin turnaround – today – directly following her appointment. So, what do you do? I don’t have all the answers to being a great aesthetician, but I do have this one. Don’t lie to them, ever. It’s very tempting to tell clients you can fix everything, especially when your retail numbers are low or your books are wide open. Don’t do it.


So, again, what do you do? Be honest. I’m brutally honest with all my clients about everything. When you have a client that has unreasonable expectations, don’t start the treatment until you’re sure they understand that the cure for aging skin is not located behind your closed door and that this one microneedling session will not tighten their jaw or get rid of those smile lines. Nor will they leave without a single sunspot. They will argue with you. They will tell you that their best friend’s sister had the same treatment and it made her look 20 years younger, while all the while you think to yourself, “Okay, go wherever she went, because I’m an aesthetician, not a magician.”


When I do encounter clients like this, I always start with one simple question. “What’s your relationship with the sun?” They look at me like you are probably looking at that sentence. But it is the most important question you’ll ever ask them. In my area, the answer is typically, “I love it and am in it as much as possible.” Ding, ding, ding – wrong answer. But, it allows me to get a feel for what is possible for their skin going forward, so that we can set realistic goals. Have I had clients leave because I shot down their hopes and dreams of impossibly perfect skin? Yes. Does it bother me? No. I want my clients to be happy. I learned a long time ago, you don’t click with everyone and that’s perfectly okay.



Shelly Steadman 2019Shelly Steadman is a licensed aesthetician and educator with over 11 years’ experience in the skin care industry. After spending the last six years of her career behind a teacher’s podium training new aestheticians, she transitioned back into a treatment room. Steadman is currently working as an aesthetician at artistrySPASALON in the beautiful city of Franklin, Tennessee.

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