Highs & Lows of Hairdressing

Hairdressing is a great career choice, being responsible for making your client feel truly beautiful while at the same time expressing your creative side can give you a career full of great personal fulfilment. Then you have one of “those” days, were everything seems to go wrong and you feel the complete opposite. As with any career, you experience times that are good and others, not so good. You may even at times ask yourself “What am I doing?”, or “Why am I here?”.

This is all perfectly normal and we’re here help you understand the highs and lows of being a hairdresser. To reassure you that it’s all part of the journey and something that we all go through at some stage.

One of the greatest highs of being a hairdresser is you get to work in a creative, dynamic environment where you get to experience something different every day. As a hairdresser you get to meet a lot of interesting people. You also have the power to not only transform the way your client looks but also how they feel about themselves. Each client in the chair presents a new challenge with their own unique wants and requirements. Exceed these and you will feel for yourself the greatest sense of pride and satisfaction that any career can give.

Hairdressing is also a very flexible career choice. There are plenty of work options available to suit your preference. From working standard salon hours, to taking appointments only on days that suit you or freelance and go mobile. Being a mobile hairdresser could be anything form visiting clients in their homes, being a session stylist on shoots or sets to travelling the world renting a chair in any destination you choose. As long as you’re willing to put in the hard work, all you need is your scissors, comb and sense of style.

Another perk is that you get to try an amazing variety of skills and techniques on a daily basis. For example you may give mostly haircuts, but also have some styling appointments, chemical services (such as colour, perms and straightening services). Some clients may even willingly encourage you to push the limits and are happy to be part of the process. Giving you not only great inspiration but an opportunity to add to your portfolio.

While working day to day as a hairdresser you’ll also develop people skills as you will regularly meet and engage in conversation with some very interesting people. Your social skills will become highly refined as you learn how to deal with some interesting personalities, you may even find yourself engaging in client psychology. Furthermore you have the opportunity to attend industry events which provide a fantastic opportunity to network and get in contact with like-minded professionals. These are real world interpersonal skills that are valuable to you not just as hairdresser, but any career path you may decide to pursue.

Employers in the hair industry see the benefit in upskilling and furthering the training of stylists in the salon. It is in their best interest to do so as it makes you more appealing to clients more valuable to the salon. Career development could include anything from small local training classes to interstate or even overseas industry events. Either way an employer’s investment in your future is in an investment in their own business.

Of course, as with any profession, there are the things that ae not so appealing, the lows. These make the profession more challenging, and should be considered before you decide to become a hairdresser.

While your decision to become a hairdresser should not just be about the money, it is an important to consider what effect can have an effect on how you may feel during the early stages of your career. When you’re starting things can seem very overwhelming. Not only are you dealing with being in a new environment, with new responsibilities, it can also feel like you are working very hard for long hours for a relativity small reward. That’s not to say that hairdressing can’t be a well-paid career, it can be once you break past this barrier, hairdressers have the potential to earn a very decent living. As you progress it can also be a very well paying career choice especially if you are career driven and always strive to be bigger and better.
Being a hairdresser is physically demanding, in fact as a hairdresser you’ll spend almost all of your time on your feet. This physical stress can lead issues such as sore feet and ankles, back aches, joint pain and fatigue. Often physical stress can lower the immune system making you more vulnerable to other undesirable conditions. You can learn more about fatigue and other occupational risk here.
While a lot of the time interacting with clients can be a rewarding experience, there are times you may need to deal with difficult clients. There is no pleasing some people which means you need to be extra careful when communicating with them. Even though as hairdresser, your intent is to get the best result for the clients. There are days when a difficult customer can catch you by surprise. Doubly you may be feeling flat or unwell, and having to deal with this additional stress can really get you down. Experience can play a big role in dealing with client issues.

Being a hairdresser you are taking on a big responsibility each time you work with a client. Let’s face it a cut or style, gone wrong is worst case scenario for both the hairdresser and client. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and despite the best intentions or efforts to minimise the issue, the client may still be left a less than desirable outcome.
As a hair professional you will no doubt be very particular about your hair, in the same way a lot of clients can feel the same about there’s. When they come to you for a haircut, colour service, or other procedure, they expect you to make them look their best. Accidents do happen, and hair does grow back, but this can spoil an otherwise great ongoing relationship with the client. It never feels good being made to feel responsible for an unfortunate situation.

Being a hairdresser can be very competitive. Each year there are any number aspiring and talented hairdressers who have just completed training. Many more are also upskilling and specialising in certain trends and products. This is not necessarily a bad thing as competition is good for the industry, however it means that your training as a hairdresser is never really over. There are always new techniques being developed as well as new products and processes that need to be learned to remain current with trends and styles.

The issue with this is that for clients there is no shortage of choice. You can even see your client base may slowly decrease as they discover other options. You will need to innovate and learn to adapt in order to remain the hairdresser or salon of choice. Good relationships with clients do go a long way, however even loyal customers are happy to switch if it is convenient for them, or if they think they getting a better quality service. It’s just the way things are and if you let this get you down or take things personally, you can easily become discouraged.
Lows aside, hairdressing is and incredibly rewarding career choice. Throughout your career you will experience some incredible highs and likewise some demotivating lows. The thing to remember is that understanding the issues you potentially face is not only useful for deciding if hairdressing is for you, but can also prepare you for dealing with typical setback you can face. Awareness is half the battle and sharing with other like-minded hair professionals goes a long way to dealing with the common issues you may face.

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Real World Experience

Nothing beats the advice from a person who has walked in your shoes, so we asked some of our subscribers to give a little information about their thoughts and insights into what life really is like to be a hairdresser or stylist in Australia. Here is what they have to say:

“My day starts with setting up the salon, I put the music on and get the atmosphere going, I make myself a morning coffee and go through the appointment book to see what’s on for the day and plan my schedule, I’ll see on average thirty clients a week as opposed to our third year apprentice will see about ten per week.”
Kate – Perth WA

“I was pretty surprised to discover that being a hairdresser required a lot more skills than just cutting and colouring. I had to build up my clientele as well as work on my social skills as I’m chatting with clients all day long”
Felicity – Melbourne VIC

My best advice for anyone pursuing a career in hairdressing is to stick With It and never give up on your dreams. My apprenticeship was hard at first and I wanted to leave so many times but I kept with it and it finally paid off for me in the end. Now I have just started in a new salon that recently opened, I’m so happy and doing really well.
Olivia – Bankstown NSW

We would love to hear from you, so please become part of our community and share your experiences with our other readers. Your insights can be a valuable tool for others starting out in the industry and looking to hear from industry insiders, so don’t be shy, <a/href=”mailto:[email protected]”>drop us a line today!

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Occupational Risks for Hairdressers

To many the hairdressing salon does not immediately seem like a dangerous place, nor does hairdressing appear to be a dangerous job. However it is important to consider the common types of occupational risks common among hairdressers, in order to have a safe and happy hairdressing career.

Some of the more commonly found issues affecting hairdressers include:

Chemical Irritation
While working in the salon you are may be directly or indirectly exposed to chemicals for example colour treatments, straightening products, style products, shampoo and conditioner, continuous hand washing etc. This can cause anywhere from mild eye and skin irritations or rashes, to more serious allergic reactions. This irritation of the skin caused by repeated contact with irritants or allergens is known as contact dermatitis

The extent and severity of these reactions deepening your own sensitivity and the or how strong the product strength or concentration. Sometimes the symptoms of these irritations can go often unnoticed and but can be seen as a rash or redness and swelling of the skin on the hands.

Chemical exposure can also cause respiratory complications. You may experience pain or difficulty breathing, or other episodes. It is important to limit exposure and understand the dangers of various hair-related products from cleansers to sanitation chemicals.

Ongoing exposure to these chemicals can have even have life threating effects if symptoms are ignored or undiagnosed. Some of these conditions are common and while nuisance level, are not life-threatening. It is important to read the warnings on all labels, wear gloves where etc., and limit exposure to new or harsher products until you understand the safety implications.

Latex Sensitivity
Latex gloves are the most widely available and cost effective of all disposable gloves. They also work very well. This is why they are so common in hairdressing salons. Unfortunately many hairdressers regularly use latex gloves can develop sensitivity to latex after a period of time. Latex gloves are often lined with corn starch powder, which helps to make them easier to put on. The problem is that the corn-starch powder absorbs the Latex proteins. This causes the skin to become irritated, and over time can lead to an allergic reaction. When the gloves are removed the powder can be released into the air sometimes inhaled.

Prolonged us of Latex gloves can lead to dry, raw skin, sustained dermatitis with blisters and even respiratory symptoms.

Low allergen, powder free gloves are available and are worth the investment to reduce the chance of a reaction to latex.

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is defined as “injury to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems that may be caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression, or sustained or awkward positions.”

As a hairdresser, you may experience times where your tendons can become irritated and inflamed by awkward postures or repetitive hand movements.

A good example of RSI among hairdressers is carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful disorder of the hand caused by pressure on nerves that run through the wrist. Symptoms include numbness, pins and needles, and pain.

If any of the symptoms above are observed or you or, it is important to take a break and perform an ergonomic assessment of you the way you work. It may be an early warning of something more painful and serious.

Burns and Shocks
Hair is primarily made up of Keratin, a fibrous protein that forms both the structure of hair and protects it from stress. Keratin is held together by hydrogen bonds, that if broken or weakened, will allow the hair to be rearranged. This can be done by applying water, however works best with heat. Once cooled the hair will remain in that position.

This is the theory behind the techniques hairdressers use to straighten and curl hair. It is also the reason why hairdressers are required to use electrical appliances, such as hair dryers and curling tongs, even in seemingly dangerous work areas where water may be present.

According to GHD Australia the optimal temperature for styling hair is 185oC. Anything lower will require too many passes to achieve the style, drying out the hair. Think about it, this is just a few degrees hotter than the average heated oven and poses a high burn risk to both hairdressers and clients. Burns from straighteners and curlers are very common price to pay for well styled hair.

Blow dryers and other electrical tools can cause shocks and electrocution if not used properly. They can also cause injuries if they are damaged and not repaired in a timely manner. Always check for frayed cords and other signs that electrical appliances are unsafe. Hairdressers should also avoid getting electrical appliances wet, as this increases the risk of electrocution.

Hairdressing roles usually involve being on your feet for up to eight hours a day and this can take its toll on your body and wellbeing. But there are some things you and your employer can do to combat this.

When the task permits use an adjustable or agronomical stool or chair to sit on. Perhaps the chair your client is sitting on is adjustable, ensure you take the time to adjust it so that you can comfortably reach your client without leaning over, twisting or straining yourself in any way.

Although a lot of women love to wear fashionable heeled shoes, in reality they are not that practical for a role like this when you are on your feet all day. Be kind to your feet and invest in a pair of low heeled comfortable shoes.

Ensure you take allocated breaks and lunch hours, you may want o work through to get the job done but these breaks are important for your mental and physical wellbeing. Also vary your tasks, doing the same task repetitively can cause strain on your body so break it up with other small tasks in between.

Poor Ventilation
Poor ventilation poses a big threat to the safety risk to hairdressers. Adequate ventilation is required to control fumes and odours from chemical substances used in the salon. A good ventilation system can be as simple as open windows or, combination air conditioning system and extraction fans. Ventilation is also useful for controlling the salon temperature to create a more comfortable working environment. A good example of this is the prolonged use of hair dryers and other heating equipment will generate heat in the work area, causing discomfort to both hairdressers and their clients.

Hairdressing scissors are purpose built precision instruments. They are sharp and effective and spend more hours in the hands of a hairdresser than any other tool. This puts hairdressers at a high risk for cuts and puncture wounds. The most important thing is to be aware of this danger at all times when in the salon. Ensure that when carrying sharp objects such as scissors, they are carried with the appropriate care and where possible the sharp end should be pointed toward the ground. This will greatly reduce the risk of cuts and punctures if the person carrying a sharp object should fall or bump into another person.

A far cry from the fashion and glamour that usually surrounds hairdressers is the reality of undesirable transmission of infections from clients. As a hairdresser you will be in situations that require contact with the skin, scalp and hair of many different clients.

Failure to understand the risk lead to increased exposure various infections of the skin and hair. These kinds of infections can be fungal, viral or bacterial, all of which are very common and easily transmitted when awareness in a salon is low.

Most of the time these fungal and bacterial infections can be visible on the client, however if you are not able to recognise the symptoms or are to relaxed when it comes to safety protocols, you are at risk of being exposing yourself and others to the infection as well. It is extremely important to ensure all tools improperly cleaned and sanitized to prevent any outbreaks within the salon from occurring.

Viral infections are not be visible in many cases and be extremely serious. Examples of virus infections include herpes, Hepatitis C and even HIV. It may be a good idea to visit your doctor about for advice on any precautionary vaccinations available.

If you are concerned or worried in any way it is important to ask your clients upfront about infections or illnesses they may have. Don’t be afraid to seem forward or worry about creating an awkward situation. It is always better to be safe than sorry, especially when you are putting yourself at risk.

As always you must always make sure all tools are sterilised. Politely and gently remind others in the salon if you observe any potential risks. Even the most seasoned and talented hair professionals can become complacent. If it comes from a place of genuine concern for their wellbeing, you will not get any argument regarding this.

If there is ever an incident where broken skin is involved, your first priority is to ensure you are safe and clear from any risk. If it can affect others in the salon, advise that person right ways to be extremely cautious. Next sterilise all tools. Do not take any chances, regardless of what you think you know about the situation.

As per the previously described many of the products used in a salon can cause an allergic reaction. Many products used in hairdressing are strong and can be dangerous if used incorrectly so ensure you read the directions and guidelines on each products and adhere to the instructions, if the products advises that you wear gloves to apply, then ensure you follow this protocol and wear the gloves. A person who is particularly sensitive can have a reaction that can lead to external as well as internal problems such as breathing difficulties and other respiratory distress.

Trip and Slip Hazards
Most salon tend to have a smooth slick finish on the floor, usually for durability and aesthetics reasons but add a days’ worth of cut hair and spray in products and you could have yourself a nasty accident. Combat this by ensuring that the floor is swept at every opportunity and definitely between each client. Also wearing sensible non slip shoes is a must to avoid a mishap.

Stay safe and ensure you:

  • Never use a damaged appliance or one that has impaired cords and never attempt to use a broken power point
  • Always keep electrical cords elevated and off of the floor
  • Switch your appliance off at the wall before you pull out the plug
  • Don’t piggy back appliances by using multiple appliances on one power point
  • Always disconnect broken appliances immediately and report them so no one else accidently uses them
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Cert II in Hairdressing

Certificate II in hairdressing is designed as a pre-vocational qualification to provide the basic skills to becoming a salon assistant for people who have the necessary skills to interact and engage in the workforce with colleagues and clients alike. This course will provide you with an overall representation of the role of a hairdresser as well as some real-world aptitudes in hairdressing.

Certificate II can act as a pathway to gaining an apprenticeship to Certificate III in Hairdressing, although cert II is beneficial to some it is not a necessity for everyone. Completing a pre-apprenticeship can show that you’re a dedicated individual and that you are serious about pursuing your career as a hairdresser.

During the course you will participate in workshops and work on mannequins and clients alike as well as participate in written work and group discussions. You will be trained in practical skills such as writing your resume, preparing for an interview and enhancing your communication skills as well as practical tasks such as:

  • Applying Shampoo and treatments.
  • Blow drying.
  • Styling.
  • Applying colour.
  • Braiding.
  • Massage.

The duration of this course varies for different institutes but generally can be completed in three months and you may also be able to apply have some of these units credited towards your certificate III Apprenticeship.

Certificate II is known as a Traineeship or Pre-Apprenticeship.

Click here to read about cert III in hairdressing via an Australian apprenticeship.
Click here to read about cert III in hairdressing via full time study.
Click here to read about cert IV in hairdressing.

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Building your Brand

Why do some people excel in their careers and other stagnate? Some people are naturally more driven than others and some people just don’t know where to start. We have compiled a few point to keep you on the right path and striving for excellence.

Throughout the course of your career you will no doubt be drawn to a particular field that you enjoy or excel in, or maybe you are still looking for that niche area. But once you find it, run with it and own it, don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet, if you are good enough people will recognise your skills and you will be rewarded.

Set yourself mini goals as well as long term goals, ask yourself where you want to be six months and where will you be in 5 years and make it happen. Believe in yourself and put your strategies in place. Don’t let anyone hold you back or tell you not to strive for what you believe you ca achieve.

It’s not what you know it’s who you know, it’s a well-known saying and true to an extent but of course you won’t get very far in the hair industry without having the necessary skills and talent behind you. But networking and connecting with people is a must for any would be entrepreneur or career driven individual.
Expand you circle by going to events and conventions, this helps you to make new connections and don’t be afraid to talk to people and make new acquaintances, you have to really put yourself out there and sell yourself. But it’s also listen to people too, everyone likes to talk and have someone to listen to their story and you can learn a lot from other people’s experiences.
Keeping an open mind and Staying open to new opportunities that are presented to you, it might not be exactly what you are looking for at that given point but you just never know what it could lead to in the future.

Don’t stop learning, don’t make the mistake of finishing your studies and thinking that you are done with the classroom, you’re not! It’s so important to stay abreast of current trends and to never stop trying to better yourself. Don’t be afraid to go back to studying to gain more knowledge in a particular area.
Build you brand and focus on selling and promoting your business. The best place to start is ensuring you keep a strong presence on Facebook, twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms, however we would definitely recommend Instagram as a good place to start by showing current trends and posting your latest styles to keep your followers interested.

Get yourself online, a good website design will really show off your personal style and accomplishments, not only is this the façade of your brand but you can use it to build your clientele using search engine optimisation (SEO) to gain traction on google and other search engines and set yourself apart from your competition. These days websites don’t need to cost you an arm and a leg, sites such as Wix lets you build your own beautiful website at a fraction of the cost of going through a professional web design studio.

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