How to say "to have something done" in Spanish - mainly beauty and body contexts

The English expression "to have something done", often used in beauty/hygiene contexts, e.g., "I had my nails done" or "I had my hair cut", cannot be translated directly into Spanish:

to have your hair cut 
tener el pelo cortado

To express that someone has done it for you, Spanish uses a different expression which you may initially understand as suggesting that you have done it yourself, (despite this not being the case).

This happens with verbs and expressions that are related to the body and are referring to beauty or hygiene treatments; for example:

  • cortarse el pelo (to have your hair cut)
  • depilarse (to remove hair)
  • hacerse la cera (to wax)
  • hacerse la manicura (to have your nails done)
  • hacerse la pedicura (to get a pedicure)
  • teñirse el pelo (to have your hair dyed)
  • ponerse unas mechas (to get highlights in your hair)
  • quitarse las canas (to get your grey hair dyed)
  • hacerse una limpieza de cutis (to get a facial)

All these expressions use reflexive pronouns.

Here are some examples:

-Pareces diferente. -Sí, me he cortado el pelo.-You look different. -Yes, I got my hair cut.

¿Te has teñido de rubia?Did you have your hair dyed blond?

Elena se ha hecho la manicura.Elena had her nails done.

Ayer me depilé las piernas.Yesterday I got my legs waxed.

Este sábado tengo una cita. Me voy a hacer la pedicura.I have an appointment for this Saturday. I am getting a pedicure.

Deberías ir a la peluquería a quitarte las canas.You should go to the hairdresser's to have your grey hair dyed.

In all these examples we can assume that the person performing the action is not the subject of the sentence, but rather a professional, a person paid for their service. 

Using the reflexive form and conjugating the verb this way could lead us to believe that the person is doing it themselves, and while this could be the case, most of the time we are referring to having something done by a third party.

We could actually conjugate the verb in the 3rd person plural (they) and use an impersonal construction; in this case it would be absolutely clear that "they" did it for you, and not that you did it yourself. However, the most common construction is the reflexive one.

Less common usage:

Me han cortado el pelo.
They cut my hair/ I had my hair cut,

Preferred usage:

Me he cortado el pelo."
I had a hair cut.

Similar context

There are similar expressions that, although not related to beauty, are still referring to the body, and these use this same reflexive structure, making one think that the action might be performed by the subject, though this is clearly not the case. For example:

Me opero el martes que viene.I am having an operation / I am getting operated on next Tuesday.

Deberías mirarte los ojos si ves todo borroso.You should get your eyes checked/looked at if everything seems blurry.

Other contexts

As stated previously, this is mostly used in these specific contexts.

There could also be other contexts, although not using the reflexive form. For example, if we ask someone if his car has been repaired, we could say:

¿Has arreglado ya el coche?Have you repaired the car yet [yourself]?/ Have you had your car repaired yet?

The speaker is asking if the person (himself) has repaired the car, but what he actually means is if that person had it repaired by a mechanic.

The owner of the car could reply:

He arreglado el coche y le he hecho la revisión anual.I had the car repaired and they did the annual check.

Again, it sounds as if he did everything himself (he arreglado/he hecho) but what he means is that someone did it for him.

To see other possible structures used for "to have something done" see:

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Examples and resources

¿Has arreglado ya el coche?Have you repaired the car yet [yourself]?/ Have you had your car repaired yet?
He arreglado el coche y le he hecho la revisión anual.I had the car repaired and they did the annual check.
-Quiero cambiar de look. -Pues, ponte unas mechas.-I want to change my look. -Well, get some highlights.
Este sábado tengo una cita. Me voy a hacer la pedicura.I have an appointment for this Saturday. I am getting a pedicure.
Me he hecho una limpieza de cutis y me ha dejado la piel muy suave.I had a facial and it left me with a very soft skin.
-Pareces diferente. -Sí, me he cortado el pelo.-You look different. -Yes, I got my hair cut.
Deberías ir a la peluquería a quitarte las canas.You should go to the hairdresser's to have your grey hair dyed.
Ayer me depilé las piernas.Yesterday I got my legs waxed.
Deberías mirarte los ojos si ves todo borroso.You should get your eyes checked/looked at if everything seems blurry.
Me opero el martes que viene.I am having an operation / I am getting operated on next Tuesday.
Elena se ha hecho la manicura.Elena had her nails done.
¿Te has teñido de rubia?Did you have your hair dyed blond?
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