On Becoming a Hairdresser

Female hairdresser
Photo: Depositphotos
The Basics
For many the art of cosmetology is a calling and for others it is merely a trade that can be counted on as a fall-back position. Whether you are the child who spent his days playing with the hair of dolls or brushing, braiding and fussing with the hair of any willing female who would let you, or are the sensible young woman who wants a skill that she can count on to give her the ability to be flexible in her life, being a hairdresser is a career choice that has as many variations in practice as there are hairstyles.
But let’s start with first things first: terminology. Over the years, the people who make it a career to cut, color, and style hair (and generally perform cosmetic enhancements to the appearance) have been called many names. My mother referred to the woman whose salon she visited every other weekend as her “beautician”. Years later, when chain salons popped up and both men and women could be found in salons in even numbers, the common term was “a stylist”. And yet, the technical term for the classification of the skill sets involved in this particular career path is “cosmetologist”.
It may seem a minor consideration, but the terms used today are often overlooked in their importance. The titles for the skill sets and licensing for Cosmetologists and other cosmetic and esthetic service workers indicate the degree to which they are trained and certified to provide specific services. The breakdown of these categories and the services which different titles refer to may vary from state to state in the U.S. and may be different in other countries.
For instance, in the U.S., three common cosmetic/esthetic service fields which require licensing are “esthetician”, “nail technician” and “Master Cosmetologist”. The nail technician is – as it sounds – someone who is trained to give proper manicures and pedicures and to generally care for the hands and feet. They are trained to be able to safely apply and work with artificial nails of different types. However, they are not allowed to perform other cosmetic procedures with a nail technician’s license.
The esthetician works with skin care and facials. These services can include body hair removal in the form of waxing, sugaring and epilating; the application of exfoliating and other skin treatments as well as make-up application. They are not, however, allowed to make any physical or chemical changes to the hair of the head.
The Master Cosmetologist, on the other hand, not only is licensed to cut, style and perform chemical treatments on the hair of the head, but is also trained and licensed to perform the services of an esthetician, and nail technician. It is a more comprehensive program of study at hair and beauty schools and therefore offers a broader base of ability.
What Makes A Good Hairdresser
The person for whom Cosmetology is a good fit is definitely going to be a people person. You can’t go into a service-oriented industry unless you enjoy working with people; at least, one-on-one. You need good social skills and the ability to make small talk and keep a conversation flowing when it’s appropriate.
Someone who makes their living serving the needs of others can’t afford to be cranky or have a bad mood. You may not always feel 100% or be totally happy, but you can’t put that feeling over onto your clients if you expect to stay in business.
A good cosmetologist also needs an eye for aesthetics, and be able to recognize what others might find appealing. This doesn’t necessarily have to be an innate ability, as you can learn the basic rules of design and can follow trends in magazines and learn to recreate popular looks.
It does help, however, if you have some artistic sensibility. A cosmetologist who can create and innovate new looks on his own, can really increase his earning potential. Plus a good sense of artistic aesthetic helps in working with hair color especially.
A good cosmetologist also needs to be organized. There are countless things to keep track of in dealing with a client base. You need to keep records of the services performed for various clients and the products used – especially since some products are not compatible and would result in unfortunate reactions if inappropriately or erroneously applied. For instance, if you don’t make a record of the hair color used on a particular client and use an incompatible shade the next time, you can create some unpleasant tints in the hair.
You must also keep track of scheduling your clients, and when to send reminders for follow-up services, as well as maintaining a working inventory of products and supplies so that you can always provide the services a client may desire.