Hairdressing tools that pros swear by

Published on: 31 May 2017

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

No client wants to leave the salon covered in loose hair clippings so it is essential that you provide them with Personal Protective Equipment. A gown will cover their clothing and a cape and towel will catch any drips from the products you use. If you are working with chemicals such as bleach or dye you need to protect yourself too by wearing an apron, gloves and a particle mask.


We all have our favourite pair of scissors right? But which are the best? They are available in different lengths from 10cm to 18cm. Barbers prefer 15cm scissors while I prefer 18cm scissors as they are good for the “scissors over comb” technique and for doing detailed finishing work. It’s like using clippers without the electricity!

Texturizing scissors help to lift the hair, creating the illusion of fullness without blow-drying. You can also use them to create special effects on the ends of the hair.

Thinning scissors are used to remove bulk without removing length. Some are serrated on one blade and others on both blades. Scissors with notches on both blades remove less bulk. You can also get thinning scissors with different quantities and sizes of notches. More hair is cut away when the gaps are bigger.  You can use thinning scissors to create softer, less noticeable special effects than texturizing scissors.

Once you find the right scissors, don’t forget to keep them in shape. Brush loose cuttings from the pivot area and blades, wipe them with a sterile wipe and sterilise them in a light cabinet, autoclave or chemical disinfectant. Have them professionally sharpened regularly as there is nothing worse than trying to work with blunt blades.

Clipping and shaving

Electric clippers are used to create short haircuts and to outline shapes. They are best used on dry hair and work by oscillation which means that an upper blade moves from side to side while passing over a lower fixed blade. With each pass, the hair that is caught between the teeth of the lower blade gets cut and falls away.

Some clippers, known as variable taper clippers, have adjustable blades. These are very versatile as they can be set to a wide range of cutting depths. Otherwise, you can get detachable blades in different sizes for different purposes. The 000 blade is good for removing hair from outside the outline, while the number 1 blade is best for removing bulk.

You can also get clipper guards which do not cut the hair but can be used to grade the hair to different lengths. Guards are made of rubber or plastic and clip over the clipper blades, turning them into a safe, fast and reliable length guide.  They come in standard sizes from 0-8 grade or number.  0 is using the clippers with no guard for cutting around the edges of the hairline. Number 1 leaves the hair 3mm long and is often used for blending different lengths. Number 3 leaves the hair 10mm long and a little scalp may be visible unless the hair is very thick.

Trimmers are small clippers with smaller blades. They create a closer, finer cut with more definition and detail so they are good for cleaning up the hairline and sideburns or to create a bold look.

Take good care of your clipper and trimmer blades by removing any loose hair and wiping the blade carefully with disinfectant spray or sterile wipes. Once clean, oil the blades and adjust the blade settings to help lubricate the whole blade area. Check your blades regularly to make sure that they have not been bumped out of alignment so that you don’t cut your client.

Razors are used to shorten, thin and texturize hair or to tidy up hairlines. They can be used on dry hair but there is less discomfort and damage when used on wet hair. Open or cut-throat razors have a fixed blade while safety razors have a disposable blade. Fixed blade razors should be sterilised in an autoclave after use on each client.  

Brushing and combing

Brushes are useful for removing loose hair and increasing circulation to the scalp. They are typically used on longer hair but can be used on shorter hair. A flat brush is good for detangling tidy hair whereas paddle brushes are better for untidy hair and can be also be used to straighten. A round brush is good for styling and curling hair. When blow-drying you should use a brush that has boar bristles as they won’t get so heated and will leave the hair with a great shine.

Wide tooth combs are great for combing out tangles after shampooing but shouldn’t be used on dry hair as they destroy the hair shaft. Combs with a measurement scale marked on the side are really helpful for clearly showing clients how much length you will be cutting off.

Colouring and lightening

To colour or lighten hair you will need a reliable set of scales to weigh out peroxide and colour shades. I find a digital set to be the most accurate and easy to read. Tint bowls and a measuring cup are needed for mixing and tint brushes and spatulas are required for applying bleach or colour.

To section the hair you will need a highlighting comb that has a metal tip which is used to lift, separate and weave segments of the hair. Sectioning clips hold the hair in place and I find big plastic clips best for very long coarse hair.

You will also need foils, meche or foam wraps, depending on which you prefer. Foils are simple and easy to use for all highlighting and colouring techniques whereas meche strips give great close results to the roots.

Curling and straightening

Heated irons such as tongs, straighteners and crimpers change the structure of the hair with the help of heat.

A crinkled, deep wave effect can be achieved with crimpers, which come in different sizes with different depths of ridges on the paddles.

Tongs are available with different size barrels from 1.3 cm to 5.1 cm. Small barrels produce tight spirals or ringlets while larger barrels create soft curls and waves and can be used to give shape and volume to a style. The barrel can be cylindrical, conical or reverse conical in shape. The tongs might come with attachments or extra barrels. Spring-loaded tongs are the most popular and have a spring in the handle to work the barrel’s clamp. A Marcel style handle has a clamp which holds the hair in place and clipless tongs have no clamp – you just have to wrap the hair around the barrel but a heat proof glove is recommended to avoid burning your hands.

Straighteners are versatile as they can be used to straighten hair or create soft curls. They come in different sizes with ceramic material on their plates. Low-spec straighteners have a single coat of ceramic while high-spec straighteners have multiple coats or 100% ceramic. Some are fitted with an automatic shut-off to prevent fire hazards and some have adjustable heat settings.


Picking your perfect blow-dryer can be pretty overwhelming. There are so many to choose from and they all have different properties. One of the key factors to consider when purchasing a blow-dryer is how much heat it can produce. There should be enough heat to dry the hair quickly and enough airflow to pass rapidly through the hair for efficient moisture removal. However, the dryer must not become so hot that it burns you and since you will be using it a lot it needs to be lightweight and user-friendly.

A high quality, durable dryer should include tourmaline, ionic and ceramic technology. But what does that all mean?

Tourmaline is a semi-precious mineral which generates negative ions when heated. The ions break up water molecules to achieve a faster dry while reducing tension on the hair and leave locks lustrous and frizz-free. Ceramic is used in the body of heated tools to coat the inner parts. Infrared heat is created which penetrates the hair shaft and retains the natural moisture, leaving the hair smooth and sleek. Now that you are more familiar with the tools of your trade equipping your salon should be a breeze!