Job Description (What the job involves)
A hair stylist (otherwise known as hairdresser, hair stylist or stylist) is a qualified hair professional that provides core hair services such as cutting, colouring, blow drying and styling.
Typically a stylist will have learnt to cut hair in different ways and to style hair for different occasions i.e. hair updo for wedding and proms. Hair stylists will typically also colour and highlight hair using different methods such as foils, balayage and ombre. And they may also use heat and/or chemicals to perm the hair or attach weaves and hair extensions for added volume or fullness.
Some hair stylists may also go onto develop other skills which are more specialised such as become a hair loss specialist putting in hair plugs for people that are balding or becoming a dedicated hair colour technician that only deals in colour.
An essential part of any stylists job is the client consultation where the hair stylist needs to establish what their client wants. Some clients will have a clear idea of what they want whilst for others the stylist may have to provide an album of hair shots for ideas and inspiration or give their own recommendation. No matter what the desires of the client it will be the stylists responsibility to gauge feasibility of their clients requirements and advise on suitability of their hair for proposed treatments, timescale and price.
Hairdressing is not just about cutting and coloring though. A massive chunk of the job is about client care, interaction and relationship building. Each stylist will be expected to build up their own client base and through excellent service and care generate repeat levels of business. Client loyalty leads to healthy columns and this in turn leads to better pay and commission.
As with any job in the hair and beauty industry the practitioner will need excellent knowledge of the ingredients and benefits of the products they use so that they can both use and prescribe the right hair products for their client to use as part of their home care routine.
Hours and Working Environment
Hair stylists typically work in salons, some of which will be dedicated to providing hair services whilst others will also provide nails, beauty and makeup treatments. Working environments for stylists tend to be informal, relaxing and trendy!
Although the working hours of a hairdresser can be fairly flexible it generally isn’t a 9-5 job and will often involve working some late evenings and Saturdays. Lunch and break schedules can be a little unreliable and have to be taken ‘on the hoof’.
A growing number of hair stylists work on a self employed basis either renting a chair or space within a salon or working in a mobile basis either within their own home or other peoples.
Upsides and Downsides
- The luxury of working in a fun, sociable and informal environment.
- The sheer satisfaction that comes from making your clients feel great about themselves
- The endless opportunities for exploring your creative side
- Useful trade to fall back on
- These days it’s incredibly useful to have a trade that you can fall back on and let’s face it there will always be a need for hair stylists.
- Physically demanding work
Hairdressing can be taxing on the body! You’re going to be on your feet most of each day and the repetitive movements used for styling and cutting hair can cause repetitive strain injuries and discomfort in the shoulders, neck and wrists.
- Potentially toxic environment
There are toxic components in certain hair dyes and hair straightening treatments. You just need to ensure your salon follows all health and safety regulations with regards to use of such treatments and that you work in a well ventilated area.
Hairdressers can also be prone to contact dermatitis characterised by itchy, flaky and cracked skin. This can either be caused by chemical sensitivities or allergy to handling bleaches and dyes or come as a result of doing a lot of basin work and handling clients wet hair. Stylists can help alleviate these problems by wearing protective gloves and use of moisturiser.
- Taking on other people’s problems
Some people tell their stylists the most intimate details of their daily lives and will quite literally unburden themselves onto them. Whilst maintaining neutral the stylist will often need to listen at length to their woes! Dealing with all this negative energy can be quite draining!
- Dissatisfied Clients
Even the best hairdressers at one time or another will have to deal with dissatisfied clients either because of unrealistic expectations, a treatment has gone wrong or simply they don’t like the look you’ve created for them.
Skills and Personal Qualities
- Good Communication skills
Hair stylists are dealing with members of the general public and this can mean dealing with men, women, children, people of different backgrounds and age groups and different personalities. It’s essential therefore that hair stylists are sociable, personable individuals who are really good at dealing with people. Communication and people skills are key!
As well as being good conversationally they also need to be good listeners and importantly also identify when their client may just want to sit in peace.
As a hair stylist you’re creating a look that doesn’t yet exist and for that you need the ability to visualise with a keen artistic eye for what will work as a look in terms of colours, shape and styling for your client.
- Passion and interest for hairdressing and fashion
The two often go hand in hand and it’s important that stylists have a passion for both. A good stylist will keep up to-date with the latest fashions and hair trends by perhaps attending fashion shows or browsing through magazines.
- Commitment to learning new skills
This is perhaps true of all professionals but certainly good hairdressers will want to push themselves continually to learn new ways of achieving a look and also adopting new ‘on trend’ hair treatments such as Brazilian Blowdry
- Customer service
Your goal as a hair stylist is to transform your client; make them look good and feel amazing about themselves. You need to genuinely care about your clients
- Multi task and time management
Hairdressers especially within a busy salon need to be able to effectively multi task which may mean manning the front desk, booking appointments and taking payments. Effective time management is also a key skill to have especially if you have a fully booked column.
- Detail Oriented
Precision with cutting and colouring and a keen eye for mirroring of hair angles and length
Learning the key skills required to be an effective stylist and building your column of clients takes time and for that you need patience and also stamina to view your career in the long term
To be considered a qualified hair stylist you’ll need an NVQ level 2 in hairdressing.
Your best bet is probably to enter into a salon run apprenticeship program where you can be paid to work and have day release each week to attend college. Some of the larger hairdressing chains like Toni&Guy run their own academies in conjunction with apprenticeship schemes.
Do not have the expectation that you can simply enter a salon and immediately start cutting people’s hair though. You won’t and for good reason as it takes time to learn the skills needed before being let loose on people’s pride and joy.
Apprentices start with the very basics; shampooing hair, sweeping up hair from the floor, fetching refreshments, washing and folding towels, cleaning equipment, going on the lunch run! You may feel like you’re endlessly running around after everyone but the salon cannot function without this vital work being carried out. And importantly you’ll be learning more than you realise, especially of dealing with the general public, learning to interact with different types of people and the benefit of customer service, along the way.
Time will be given so that you can learn hairdressing skills such as as cutting and colouring by assisting seniors stylists, receiving one-on-one tutorials and practicing learnt techniques on hair models.
Opportunities and Progression
Within a hair salon there is a career hierarchy that you can progress within. Stylists with several years on the floor experience can earn their title as a senior stylist, top stylist, master stylist. Essentially whatever the title it’s an indication that you’ve got the experience to be able to charge more for your services. Senior Stylists will often mentor trainee stylists, passing on their tips and skills. If this is something that interests you then you might want to progress to becoming a hair educator within a college.
Those stylists that thrive on their creativity may progress to becoming creative directors and decide to lead art teams that create wonderful styles for editorial work, photoshoots, runways and fashion shows.
And those looking to develop more along commercial lines may decide to go into salon management or the potentially lucrative business of owning their own salon.
And of course you’re not confined to the UK with many stylists taking their talent overseas. UK stylists are especially in demand in salons out in Australia and the UAE. And cruise ships are often on the look-out for adventurous stylists to work in their on-board spas.
It’s hard to imagine any town or village that doesn’t have a hairdressers and that’s for the simple fact that most of us have hair and it really is our crowning glory and can make or break our day. Hair stylists will almost certainly always be in demand.
Potential Salary and Benefits
The average pay range for a hair stylist is between £18,000 and £24,500 per annum