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Hairdresser  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotHairdressers cut, trim and style hair according to each customer's personal taste. They use a variety of tools, including scissors, razors, curlers, hairdryers, curling irons, hair dye, mousse, gel and hairspray to do their work.

dotHairdressers also shampoo, color and perm customers' hair, massage scalps and provide expert advice on the use of hair products.

"I see about 15 clients a day and they all seem to want something different, so I have to be ready for anything," says hairdresser Andrea Folk.

dotPeople skills are extremely important for hairdressers, because they work with many different types of people of various ages. Tact and good conversation skills are important tools for hairdressers in putting their customers at ease and building a strong customer base.

"If you have good communication skills with your client, that makes everything easier," says David Kohl, who owns his own salon.

dotHairdressers who own their own businesses are responsible for a variety of tasks in addition to general hair care. They may have to book appointments, order supplies and pay rent on their building.

dotThe toughest thing about being a hairdresser comes when you're just starting out, says stylist Debbie Boniface. That's when you're building your customer base.

"You've got to make a name for yourself, since a lot of your business will come from word of mouth," says Boniface. "One of the best things I did was walk up to people who had nice styles and tell them they had great hair, and give them my business card. That got a lot of people in for me."

dotEven with good communication skills and lots of patience, experts say there are always a few customers you'll never satisfy.

"People think you're God. They think you can fix anything," says Kohl. "Sometimes I have to remind them that I'm David Kohl, not David Copperfield [the magician]. I work with reality; I don't do magic."

dotYou'd better have good shoes and a healthy back if you're going to be a hairdresser, because you'll be standing and bending a lot. Being in good physical condition is essential to the job.

"Standing is the part I like least," says Jesse Briggs, a hairdresser to the stars in Florida. "It can be really hard on you over time."

People with back or leg problems would likely have a difficult time as a hairdresser.

dotBe prepared to work hard. The workday for hairdressers can vary depending on the number of clients one sees. For full-time hairdressers, it's a standard eight-hour workday. Many hairdressers work fewer hours than that, since a number of workers in beauty-related fields work part time.

Still, some hairdressers may find themselves working six days a week doing hair as well as answering phones, cleaning and learning new techniques.

Some hairdressers work on a freelance basis, visiting their clients' homes and cutting hair there. Often these clients are elderly or ill, and therefore unable to get out to a hair salon.

dotBarbers generally work in clean, pleasant surroundings with good lighting and ventilation. Good health and stamina are important because they're usually on their feet for most of a shift.

dotSome hairdressers also do makeup, manicures and pedicures on the side. Prolonged exposure to hair and nail chemicals may be hazardous and cause irritation.

dotKeeping up on new styles, products and techniques is also an important part of the job.

"I just got back from Europe last week and I couldn't believe the changes," says Kohl. "Every three months there are new products and techniques."

At a Glance

Cut, color and style hair

  • Hair color, weaves and extensions are spicing up the job
  • People skills are extremely important
  • You'll need to go to hairdressing school and get a license