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How to become a hairstylist in 2023 | Guide to becoming a hairdresser

Everything you need to know on how to become a hairstylist

Do you dream of transforming tresses and creating stunning hairdos? Wondering how to become a hairstylist and turn your passion into a profession? This guide is your backstage pass to the world of hairstyling. 

I'll unravel the secrets, explore training options, and unveil the exciting career possibilities. Get ready to dive into the captivating world of hairstyling and discover your path to success!

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What's it like to be a hairstylist

Now, we're going to step into the shoes of a hairstylist and explore the daily experiences and responsibilities that come with this exciting career. From the artistry of hair transformations to the interpersonal connections formed with clients, there's a lot to uncover. So, let's dive right in.

A glimpse into the world of hairstylists:

  • The creative canvas: each day in the life of a hairstylist is a journey into the world of creativity. Imagine having the power to turn a blank canvas of hair into a masterpiece. Whether it's crafting the perfect bob, giving a vibrant makeover with a bold color, or weaving intricate braids, hairstylists are the artists behind the chair.
  • Client relations: one of the most rewarding aspects of being a hairstylist is the relationships formed with clients. It's not just about the scissors and styling products; it's about making clients feel seen, heard, and confident. Building trust and rapport with clients often leads to loyal patrons who return for your expertise.

“Hairdressers are a wonderful breed. You work one-on-one with another human being and the object is to make them feel so much better and to look at themselves with a twinkle in their eye.”

Vidal Sassoon
  • Continuous learning: in the ever-evolving beauty industry, staying ahead of the curve is essential. Hairstylists are committed to ongoing education, attending workshops, seminars, and training programs to perfect their craft. Staying updated with the latest trends, techniques, and products is a key part of their journey.

What is the difference between hairstylist and hairdresser?

Now, let's clarify the distinctions between two terms that are often used interchangeably but hold unique meanings in the world of hairstyling:

  • Hairstylist: when you aspire to become a hairstylist, you're aiming for a versatile career that encompasses various hair services. Hairstylists are skilled in cutting, coloring, and styling hair. They may work in salons, spas, or even as freelance artists. Their broad skill set allows them to adapt to a wide range of client requests.
  • Hairdresser: on the other hand, becoming a hairdresser signifies a specialization in the art of cutting and shaping hair. Hairdressers excel in precision cutting and styling to achieve specific looks or styles. They are often sought after for their ability to create flawless haircuts and maintain them over time.

In summary, while all hairdressers can be considered hairstylists, not all hairstylists are necessarily hairdressers. Hairstylists offer a broader range of services, while hairdressers are known for their expertise in precision cutting and styling. Understanding these differences is crucial as you embark on your journey to discover how to become a hairstylist or how to become a hairdresser, depending on your specific interests and career goals.

Hairstylist salary in the US: the average U.S. salary for a hairstylist is $55,129 per year.

As you contemplate your path, whether it's becoming a hairstylist or a hairdresser, you'll find that the requirements and training have a remarkable synergy. These two fundamental aspects are intricately connected and will continue to intersect as you progress in your journey. With these insights, you're now better equipped to navigate the world of hairstyling and determine the path that aligns with your aspirations. In the upcoming sections, we'll delve deeper into the skills required, available training options, and the exciting career prospects awaiting you in this vibrant industry.

Skills necessary for becoming a hairstylist

In our exploration of the multifaceted world of hairstyling, we've uncovered the shared requirements and training principles that underpin both paths—hairstylist and hairdresser. Now, let's delve into the specific skills that are paramount for a successful career in this dynamic field.

Technical skills

Technical prowess is the bedrock of hairstyling, encompassing the hands-on abilities required to transform hair into works of art. Here are some essential technical skills every aspiring hairstylist should develop:

  • Precision cutting: mastery of cutting techniques, from classic styles to contemporary trends, is non-negotiable. Whether it's crafting a sharp bob, creating layers, or executing intricate fades, precision is key.
  • Color expertise: understanding the art of color is crucial for those looking to become a hairstylist. This includes choosing the right hues, achieving seamless blends, and addressing color correction challenges.
  • Styling mastery: proficiency in styling tools like curling irons, straighteners, and blow dryers is a must. The ability to create various looks, from sleek and polished to voluminous and tousled, is essential.
  • Texture proficiency: managing different hair textures, from straight to curly and everything in between, is vital for those aiming to be a hairstylist. This skill involves knowing how to cut and style hair to enhance its natural texture.

Chemical knowledge: for those delving into chemical treatments, a deep understanding of the chemistry behind perms, relaxers, and chemical straightening is necessary to ensure safe and effective results.

“To sculpt a head of hair with scissors is an art form. It's in pursuit of art.”

Vidal Sassoon

Interpersonal skills

While technical skills are the foundation, interpersonal skills are the glue that binds a hairstylist's success. Building strong client relationships and effective communication are paramount:

  • Active listening: clients often come with specific desires and concerns. Active listening ensures that you understand their needs and can translate their vision into reality.
  • Empathy: empathizing with clients builds trust and fosters a comfortable salon experience. Understanding their preferences and feelings contributes to positive interactions.
  • Clear communication: effective communication is a two-way street. Explaining procedures, offering advice, and discussing options in a clear and understandable manner is essential.
  • Problem-solving: not every hair appointment goes as planned. Being able to address challenges and find solutions, whether it's a color mishap or a style adjustment, is a valuable skill.
  • Time management: managing appointments efficiently ensures that clients receive the attention they deserve without unnecessary delays.

As you embark on your journey to become a hairstylist, remember that a balanced combination of technical and interpersonal skills will set you on the path to success. In the following sections, we'll explore the nuances of training and requirements specific to both hairstylists and hairdressers, helping you refine your path in this exciting industry.

How to become a hairdresser vs. how to become a hairstylist

In our journey through the world of hairstyling, we've explored the foundational skills and steps necessary for success in both hairstyling careers—hairdresser and hairstylist.

Hairstyling is growing faster than average profession (projected 13% growth from 2022 to 2032)

However, it's important to recognize that these two paths, while sharing many similarities, also have distinct characteristics. In this guide, we'll compare the steps required to become a hairdresser with those for becoming a hairstylist, shedding light on the differences and similarities between these captivating professions.

Obtain a high school diploma or GED

Both hairdressers and hairstylists begin their journeys with a common first step—obtaining a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. This foundational education equips individuals with essential skills in reading, writing, and mathematics, forming the basis for a successful career in either field.

Consider attending cosmetology school

For both professions, attending a reputable cosmetology school is a highly recommended next step. These institutions provide specialized training programs that cover various aspects of hairstyling, from cutting and coloring to styling and chemical processes. Hair stylist education requirements typically include completion of a cosmetology program.

The curriculum for hairdressers and hairstylists in cosmetology school often overlaps significantly. Both learn fundamental techniques and skills during their training, ensuring a strong foundation in the art of hair care and design.

Obtain a state-issued license

Here's where the paths diverge slightly. To become a hairdresser, individuals must obtain a state-issued license, just like hairstylists. 

Classroom training equips students with knowledge, but real-world experience is key. In most states, stylists'll gain this through supervised practice under licensed stylists, honing their skills in shampooing, conditioning, observing cuts and styling, and mastering client interaction. This, along with academic studies (mandatory hours) and passing exams, paves the way for a state license.

Expect to pay renewal fees and invest in ongoing education, as dictated by your state board's licensing requirements.

Vidal Sassoon

However, the specific licensing requirements may differ slightly depending on the state and the specialization chosen within each profession.

In general, both hairdressers and hairstylists must pass written and practical examinations to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. However, some states may have additional licensing requirements for hairdressers, particularly if they specialize in certain services like chemical treatments or texture services.

Get the necessary equipment

Both professions require the acquisition of essential equipment and tools to practice effectively. High-quality scissors, combs, brushes, styling products, and color kits are essential for both hairdressers and hairstylists.

The choice of equipment may vary based on individual preferences, clientele, and specialization. Hairdressers may invest in additional tools and equipment specific to their chosen area of expertise, such as perm rods or specialized color mixing tools.

Explore your career options

Whether you aspire to be a hairdresser or a hairstylist, you'll have a wide range of career options to consider. Both paths offer opportunities to specialize in cutting, coloring, styling, and more. The key difference lies in the specific services you choose to focus on within these broader categories.

For example, a hairstylist may specialize in precision haircuts and salon styling, while a hairdresser might specialize in chemical processes like perms and relaxers. Both professions also allow for specialization in areas like bridal styling, extensions, or hair restoration.

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Continue studying

Learning is an ongoing process in both hairstyling careers. Trends evolve, techniques advance, and products change. Both hairdressers and hairstylists must continue their education through workshops, seminars, and advanced courses to stay current and provide the best service to their clients.

In summary, while the journey to becoming hairstylist or a hairdresser shares many common steps, there are distinctions that set these professions apart. The choice between the two ultimately depends on your interests, passion, and career goals. Whether you're drawn to the artistry of precision cutting or the versatility of styling, both paths offer fulfilling and creative careers in the dynamic world of hair care and design.

Tips for being a successful hairstylist

In the world of hairstyling, success isn't solely about the skills you acquire — it's also about how you navigate your career and build lasting relationships with clients and peers. Building a thriving hairstyling career requires a combination of technical excellence, creativity, and business savvy. 

Keep up with trends and techniques

One of the keys to success in the hairstyling industry is staying current with the latest trends and techniques. Hairstyles and fashion evolve constantly, and clients often seek the latest looks. To meet these demands, continuous learning is essential. Attend workshops, seminars, and classes to hone your skills and keep up with industry trends.

For example, if balayage highlights are all the rage, make sure you're proficient in this technique. If there's a resurgence of retro styles, learn how to create vintage looks. By offering clients the latest trends, you'll not only satisfy their desires but also showcase your expertise and adaptability.

Develop a loyal customer base

A strong and loyal clientele is the foundation of a successful hairstyling career. Building trust and rapport with your clients is crucial. Always strive to provide exceptional service, actively listen to their preferences, and deliver results that exceed their expectations.

Encourage clients to return by offering incentives such as loyalty programs or discounts for referrals. Building long-term relationships can lead to repeat business and word-of-mouth recommendations, which are invaluable in this industry.

Network with other professionals

Networking isn't limited to clients—it extends to other professionals in the beauty and fashion industry. Establishing relationships with makeup artists, photographers, wedding planners, and fashion stylists can open doors to exciting opportunities.

For instance, collaborating with a makeup artist for bridal events or fashion photoshoots can expand your portfolio and introduce you to a broader clientele. Building a network of professionals can also provide insights into industry trends and help you stay informed about upcoming events and opportunities.

Additionally, attending industry events and joining professional associations can enhance your visibility and connect you with like-minded individuals who share your passion for hairstyling.

Avoid overspending and choose the right suppliers. 

Keep track of your inventory levels, anticipate demand, and only order what is necessary to avoid excess and potential losses.

Consider leveraging innovative tools like Suplery, an advanced inventory management software tailored for salons. Suplery streamlines your inventory management by offering a range of powerful features designed to transform the way you run your salon.

Some key benefits of Suplery include:

  • Preventing stockouts: set personalized reorder points and receive timely notifications, ensuring you never run out of essential salon products.
  • Optimizing inventory levels: analyze real-time sales data to make informed decisions about purchasing and reduce unnecessary carrying costs.
  • Streamlining ordering processes: access a wide selection of top beauty suppliers and their products all in one place, simplifying your ordering procedures.

Suplery's intuitive interface makes it easy to get started and manage your inventory efficiently from day one, allowing you to focus on what matters most: growing your business.

Final thoughts

In the ever-evolving realm of hairstyling, your path to success as a hairdresser or hairstylist is an exciting journey marked by creativity, dedication, and adaptability. From the initial steps of obtaining a high school diploma and embracing cosmetology school to mastering the latest trends and techniques, you've discovered that the road to becoming a hairstyling pro is filled with boundless opportunities.

Building a loyal clientele, networking with industry peers, and running your salon efficiently are essential elements that contribute to your thriving career. Success isn't just about your technical skills; it's also about the enduring connections you form with clients and fellow professionals.

As you embark on your hairstyling adventure, whether as a hairdresser or hairstylist, remember this: Embrace the artistry of hairstyling, stay current, and keep learning. With dedication and a commitment to excellence, you can craft an exciting and prosperous path in the vibrant world of hair care and design. Your journey has just begun, and the possibilities are limitless. Get ready to create stunning styles and make your mark in the ever-changing world of beauty. Your future as a successful hairstylist awaits, and it's bound to be a thrilling ride.

Frequently asked questions

What do you need to do to be a hairdresser?

To become a hairdresser, you typically need a high school diploma or GED, followed by cosmetology school and a state-issued license.

How long does it take to become a hair stylist?

Becoming a hair stylist usually takes around 9-12 months of cosmetology school.

What degree do you need to be a hair stylist?

A degree is not typically required to be a hair stylist; completion of cosmetology school and obtaining a license are the standard qualifications.

Is it hard to become a hairstylist?

Becoming a hairstylist can be challenging due to the required training and ongoing learning, but with dedication and passion, it's achievable.

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Last updated on Nov 02, 2023

“What Changed” in this article? Everything. It's packed with the latest findings, the ripest data, and a fresh analysis you won't find anywhere else.

A subject-matter expert wrote the content, and reliable, official sources support it. Recent research has been incorporated to maintain relevancy and accuracy. 

Top resources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics

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