In my work as a hairdresser, I’ve discovered that there are many things people assume (often wrongly) about my profession. I’m going to try and clear some of that up.
Hairdressers are professionally trained.
In every state, you must be licensed to cut or use chemicals on hair (and nails, and skin, etc.) In order to get that license you must first go to school. In most states, you need to log 1500 hours in school before you can even take the two tests – written and practical – required to get your Cosmetology license. There are a few differences in between states, but either way, school acts like a full-time job. It took me a year and a half to complete my education, and I was one of the few in my class to actually graduate on time.
Also, beauty school is not just girls* playing with each other’s hair all day. Obviously there is some work with hair because practice makes perfect. You may not realize, however, that we also learn sciences like anatomy and chemistry. This is what allows us to do our jobs reliably and effectively. This is the reason you pay us to do your hair rather than having your buddy cut & color your hair after a few drinks.
*There are some men in this profession as well, though I will admit it is generally a female-dominated trade.
Hairdressers get paid in different ways.
Depending on the salon (privately owned, franchised, or corporate), the pay scale varies greatly. Some are paid salary/hourly, some are commissioned, and some are a combination of both. There are also things to consider like booth rental and additional expenses. We generally have to supply our own products and tools, so everything we do costs us money and/or time. Did you know that a good pair of shears (i.e. the main tool of our trade) can cost from $200-up? The prices for services reflect this. Regardless of that, all hairdressers depend on tips.
Speaking of tips…
Yes, you should tip your hairdresser, just like any professional that performs a service for you. While the standard in the US seems to be 20%, please consider that we are performing a service for you that you can not do yourself. (You can try, but then it will end up costing you more money when we have to fix it anyway.) Don’t just whip out your calculator to figure out exactly 20% of the end price. Remember that we used our time, expertise, and products to give you a result that makes you feel beautiful. If you love your look, tip a little more to show your appreciation. Just like any service, repeat customers that tip well tend to get better service because we know you appreciate our efforts.
If you can not afford a tip, you can not afford the service (this also holds true for dining out, etc.)
Hairdressers encounter a lot of health problems.
Standing for 8 hours a day performing repetitive motions takes its toll on the body. Everything from cut fingers to varicose veins to carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis to torn rotator cuffs and neck/back/shoulder/leg problems. It is so common for hairdressers to have muscle problems that massage therapists know exactly which areas to work on without having to be told. If you see your hairdresser sporting a bandaid or a brace, remember that is one of the sacrifices we make for doing a job we love, but sometimes the injuries are severe enough that we need to miss work (and thus miss out on income, because most of us don’t get paid leave).
Also, most of us have to provide our own health insurance. Generally our profession does not include those benefits, even though we need them. Hopefully we have insurance if our health gets bad enough, but that’s another rant.
I don’t know if this article will change anything, but maybe it will inspire you to look at your hairdresser a bit differently. For many, Cosmetology isn’t just a “filler” while we try to get a “real job.” And please don’t have the stereotypical view that a hairdresser is a mindless ninny that should be on the first boat to another planet (thankyouverymuch, Douglas Adams). I for one, have two college degrees and didn’t start doing hair until I’d gained 30 years of life experience. That experience, however, is what led me into this career – which is a career that I enjoy very much.