Dan Thompson: Beauty Busted


Confessions of a Hairstylist: BUSTED!

Why A Complaining Stylist Should Be Avoided

Dan Thompson lets you know why if your hair stylist is complaining about any of these things, maybe it's time to go to a new salon. | Beauty | YummyMummyClub.ca

I have spent 23 years in the salon/spa/cosmetics industry.

I have managed corporate spas, salons, and yes, was even a partner in a large spa chain.  

I am a medical aesthetician, a make up artist, a certified instructor, and I used to hold an adjunct professorship teaching business and marketing as it relates to the industry.

I am proud to be a professional in the industry and I take my job very seriously.

So you can imagine my horror when I read an article, recently, about the confessions of a hairstylist.  It is these types of articles that give the entire industry a bad reputation and, let me say, insults my very profession.

Under no circumstances would I even allow a stylist, with these attitudes, on the floor of one of my businesses let alone allow them to interact with clients. As a salon/spa professional we should be held to a much higher standard and our jobs are to care for our clients; not harbor resentments about our chosen profession.

So let me bust some of the worst highlights form these so called confessions:

1. Sweeping up your hair is about as pleasant as you imagine it is. Seriously, it’s gross.

Ok that may be true, but a modern salon doesn't require stylists to sweep up hair. In fact one of the very first things I ask, when selecting a new salon, is what are their hygiene and sanitation practices. A modern salon, or even a salon which takes sanitation seriously, will have a specialized central vac system. And I don't mean like the ones in private homes.  There are industrial systems designed for salons. Quiet, invisible and very effective - in fact some of the systems are constantly sucking hair and hair particles out of the salon along baseboard vents and mulching the hair so it can be biodegrade faster.

If you look carefully, in a modern salon, you will see vent openings at every cutting station and also positioned around the perimeter of the entire salon. Seriously, watch carefully - in a hygienic salon, you will probably never see a broom on the shop floor.

2. But it’s not half as bad as washing your hair.  As assistants, we actively went out of our way to avoid washing hair, even though it was our main job.

This is outrageous. Washing hair is the first thing a stylist learns. The idea that washing hair is gross is just so unprofessional. In fact, without this step, most of the services offered would be for nothing. The only time hair should go unwashed in a salon is when a very specific style is being created which requires a level of natural oils to achieve (think updos). Washing hair isn't gross. It is how we achieve the results for which clients pay.

3. There’s a ~right way~ to wash your hair. There’s a reason why your hair feels so. damn. good. after a trip to the salon. It’s all about how we move our hands.

Yes there is a correct way to wash the hair but it has nothing to do with hand movements. It has to do with where shampoo is used. Washing the hair is actually more about washing the scalp. Shampoo should be applied in a way where the majority of the cleaning is done directly on the scalp and a minimal amount is done on the length of the hair. 

4. How little money we earn for the hours we put in can feel soul destroying.

Prices in salons are set by the number of chairs taking up space. A salon with 13 or more chairs charges an average price of $58 for a woman's hair cut (in Canada). A junior stylist will earn about 30% of the ticket price and a senior stylist will earn as much as 50%. So the average income, nationally, for a stylist is just under $48, 000+retail commission+tips. Tips can add another $8000 per year and, the industry average for commission on retail is another $1,400 per year. That brings the national average income, for a stylist to $57, 400. The national average for a Canadian employee (across all industries) is $49, 000 per year. Hair stylists are not underpaid.

5. But job freebies can help soften the blow a tad. We definitely could NOT afford a $30 shampoo otherwise.

Free products are a perk of the job - like any job has perks. They are not compensation, though. Free products are offered, by companies, to help the stylists properly use and learn about the products used in the salon. The idea is to help them be more educated so they cab better serve their clients. Any time I have ever had an employee who thought free products was their "pay," they didn't last very long on my team.

6. We LOVE it when you tell us you want something “a little bit different.”  After hearing endless cries of “don’t take off too much,” it’s nice to be given a bit of freedom.

The only job a stylist has is to deliver the result the client wishes. The idea that they are lacking freedom is so selfish on their part. A proper consultation and expert recommendations is all that is needed to keep a client's look current and within their comfort level. The job of a stylist is to satisfy the client, not satisfy their own need to be creative. A stylist who knows how to properly consult with a client will be able to do current work while ensuring the client is very satisfied.

7. But when someone with long hair comes in for “the chop”, we don’t know whether to get excited or scared.  The main goal is to avoid tears at all costs.

See point 6. The goal is not to avoid tears. The goal is to do great work. Only a lazy stylist is worried about tears. It means they aren't at all listening to their client. If a stylist is unsure as to what the client truly wants, they shouldn't be cutting the hair. Only after it is properly understood what the client desires should the cutting begin.

8. Working a quiet late shift often means a member of staff will leave with an entirely new ‘do'.

Seriously, a professional stylist will not get their hair done during scheduled work hours. In my salons, stylists made appointments and came in on their own time to have their hair done. Yes, they got the work for free or for a reduced rate, but they did it on their own time. Not the client's.

10. Whilst we love a good natter on the job, some clients go a little overboard with their sharing.

A professional stylist knows how to properly steer a conversation. In fact, a great stylist will spend more time educating their client on the look they are creating and how to maintain it at home. They shouldn't be gossiping with their client at all.

11. But chatty clients are way more entertaining than the ones who go silent as soon as they sit down.

This is such an unprofessional statement. If a client wants to enjoy some needed peace and quiet, she should be given that opportunity. Again, the whole process is about the client's needs.

12. And, of course, we all have a favorite client.  It’s usually the old lady who tips $10.

Seriously, stratifying clients by how large a tip they leave is probably the worst behavior of a stylist. Seriously, if the whole interaction is about how large a tip is being left, then the stylist has missed the mark entirely.  

14. Working for a salon that asks you to “push products” in exchange for commission feels all kinds of wrong, but it happens. There’s nothing we can do about it.

No salon asks a stylist to "push" products.  Yes, they are required to educate, demonstrate, and otherwise ensure the client has all the needed knowledge and tools (including product) to properly maintain their hair after they leave the salon, but that is not "pushing" - that is professionalism.  In fact, I do not see a stylist a second time if they don't teach me how to maintain my look. If I spend a lot of money on a great cut, I want to work with a professional who will ensure I look great even after I leave the salon. It's like when I buy a great suit and the salesperson insists I buy a proper hanger and a semipermeable garment bag to protect my purchase. The hair cut is not the only thing the client needs when they come to a salon, and any stylist leaving their client without knowledge and tools is only doing 50% of their job.

Overall, stylists should be professional, and that does not mean quietly being annoyed or fuming at the work that needs to be done. Professionalism means understanding the client's needs are more important than anything else. Professionals work with their clients, and together some great work can be done. When a stylist sees a client as an intrusion into their work day or creative process, they have lost sight of what it means to be a stylist.

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