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Hairdressing as a profession

Updated on January 29, 2012

So you want to be a hairstylist?


Whenever considering any profession, I feel that information is needed in order to make an educated choice. Not because I think it will change your mind, but because you need to know what you’re going up against. When I decided to become a hairdresser the only points of view which I received was that of the beauty school itself. They informed me of how wonderful and glamorous it was going to be. They showed me how much money I would be capable of making. They lured me in with promises of greatness and wealth.

When I think back now on those days I laugh at how gullible I was about the whole thing. I realize now that the school would have told me anything that I wanted to hear in order for me to sign the paperwork, so they could get their grant. When I went to beauty school, no not cosmetology school, beauty school, everything was a lot simpler. There were only three courses which you could enroll in. You either had to be a full cosmetologist, a nail tech, or an esthetician. If you decided to be a cosmetologist, the nail and esthetician course where part of the training. You did not have the choice like you do today to simply chose the hairstylist course.

The year I enrolled in Beauty College they were experiencing higher than normal volumes of enrollment. The class which I eventually graduated from was, and still is till this day, the largest class the school has ever had. The first day of class we began with fifty two students. In the first week alone we dropped to thirty eight. By the time we graduated from the classroom unto the floor three months later our class was down to twenty six. On graduation day only eighteen of those twenty six students went on to take the state boards and get licensed. At our five year reunion only six of us where still actively doing hair, and by the ten year reunion two of us were still doing it for a living. I retired my license two years ago after being a hairdresser for twenty eight years.

I promised myself that if I ever wrote this article, I was going to make it brief. I also needed to be as honest about the beauty profession as I could possibly be. I wish anyone going into it to do so with their eyes wide open. I still cut hair for family members, but I no longer can do it to earn a living. Not that still don't want to, but because my body will no longer allow it. The battle wounds of a hairstylist behind a chair for twenty eight years are endless. Shrunken back muscles from constantly leaning to the right, worn out rotator cuffs, carpal tunnel from constant scissor use, back and feet problems from standing, loss of smell from chemicals, and arthritic knees from pumping chairs up and down. You would never guess it by looking at me, but trust me when I tell you that I'm reminded of my 28 years of service the first 10 minutes out of bed every morning. Cosmetologists are one of the costliest professions to obtain health insurance for, and with good reason.

I was very blessed with talent and good fortune during my career. After finishing up my year of Beauty College I decided to continue on to six months of Barber College. Once I was licensed in both, I went off to train at Redken international, Universal studios, LA, Seattle and finished off my career in fabulous Las Vegas Nevada after doing platform work for three years. I went from being a measly beautician to a hairstylist, perm technician expert, and an expert colorist. So what advice do I want to give to those thinking about becoming a hairdresser?

The best place to start is at the beginning. The first two years of this profession are spent on training. The first five years you’re going to think you know it all. You don't! I don't care how great a stylist you think you are, the first five years are you’re "learning by trial and error years". You will know when you have reached your semi- best when you can get through than entire year without asking for help with anything, or having a single redo of any kind. Don't ever get too big for your britches. Just when you start thinking that you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread something will happen to knock you down a notch. Always stay humble. There was not a single year that passed that I did not learn something new. Sometimes from stylist with much less experience then myself!

The most important thing that I learned during my time behind the chair is that people want to be heard and acknowledged! Always, always, always, stand in front of the customer and look them in eye when asking them what they want. I cannot repeat this enough. This one little detail will take you further than all your hairstyling skills combined. Another thing to remember is that not everyone likes to talk. You need to learn how to read people, when to talk and when to be quiet.

When I go to the salon I always pick the least put together hairstylist. That one stylist that has done nothing to their hair, has short nails and grown out color. Why? Because this is the best hairdresser in the place! She/he is so booked with appointments that they don’t have time to take care of their own hair and nails. This however is not how a regular customer sees things. You must always look well put together no matter what! Customers believe that if you look good you can make them look good! Always look your best!

Remember that sh*t rolls downhill. You’re always going to get customers that are mad. Not mad at you per say, there just mad. They had a fight with their spouse, boss, or kids and they are now coming to see you, and you’re supposed to make their entire existence better with a haircut. When this happens always keep your composure, and remember that they won’t be in your chair forever. Once they walk out the door, forget them! Your next customer deserves your best.

My last and finial advice is the most important and should be sought after at all cost. Never wear cheap shoes, always take the best care of your feet that you possibly can. Standing daily for long periods of time can do serious damage to the bones in your feet. Always go for comfort instead of style. Find a good chiropractor and make them your best friend. You want to be in that office twice a month come hell or high water! A chiropractor is going to keep your hips and back aligned so you can extend your career further. Last but not least, always try to cut, perm or color with your chair as low as you can possibly stand it. Keeping your chair low to the ground will allow you to experience less pain in your rotator cuffs early on, stop you from getting pinched nerves in your neck between chiropractic visits, help relieve your tennis elbow, and allow you more years without carpel tunnel.

I don't want to make the beauty industry sound all bad because it’s not. I would have never spent that many years in the business if it had been. I tell everyone that if I could do it all again, I would not trade a single minute of my career. Even today as I write this article I cannot think of a better profession to go into. It's still the only profession I know of which cannot be off shored, done by a machine or ordered over the Internet.

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