Hairstylists perform a variety of basic hair care services for customers, like trimming, cutting, buzzing and styling. More advanced services might include braiding and hair colouring, highlighting and bleaching, and permanent waves, as well as hair and scalp treatments. A hairstylist might recommend various products and techniques suitable to the client that help with hair maintenance, like applying hair gel or mousse. Additionally, basic business tasks, like ordering supplies, cleaning up the shop, sanitising work stations and accepting customer payment regularly, require the attention of the hairstylist.
In most salons, the senior hairstylists and the more advanced apprentices cut and style hair. Apprentice hairstylists undertake routine tasks in the initial stages, assisting senior hairstylists with client preparation, shampooing, application and removal of simple hairstyling treatments, and sterilisation and maintenance of equipment. As apprentices gain experience, they carry out more complex tasks under supervision.
Hairstylists can study either full-time or part-time at a college, or do an apprenticeship with a qualified hairdresser, combining training towards a qualification while working at the same time. In order to study for a qualification, most colleges require a Grade 10 Certificate. Make sure that the institution is SETA-accredited and that a practical learnership forms part of the training. Graduates are required to take a compulsory national Trade Test set by the Department of Labour. Hairstylists are regulated by the Hairdressing and Cosmetology Services Industry Education and Training Board. It is highly important for hairstylists to keep up to date with new trends, techniques and products. Manufacturers sometimes run short courses on their hair care products.
Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended:
The Hair Academy of South Africa
Port Elizabeth FET College
Northlink FET College
Central Johannesburg FET College
College of Cape Town FET College
Learning Programme: Hair and Beauty
Certificate: Hair Care
Complete School of Hairdressing
National Certificate: Hairdressing
Serwalo Hair Academy
Certificates and Diplomas: Hairdressing
Terenzo International Hairdressing Professionals
National Certificate: Hairdressing
Quailtas Career Academy
The Hairdressing and Cosmetology Services Bargaining Council – www.hcsbc.co.za
Does your job entail more than just cutting hair?
Yes! You could say I run people. Hairstylists are all unique, so they require attention, and that is a job in itself.
What training did you undergo and where?
I trained at Terry Scott in Durban. I believe that hands-on is always the winning approach in this industry.
Describe a typical day on the job
A typical day usually needs a wake-up call that will prepare you for anything. I can definitely say that no day is ever the same.
What do you enjoy most about your line of work?
My clients, and the ability to be creative on a daily basis.
What aspects don’t you like?
Other people’s problems.
What hurdles have you had to overcome?
I have had burglaries and deaths, but the worst has to be competition that tries to drag you down.
In your line of work, is experience as important as formal training?
More so, training teaches, whereas experience brings out your own knowledge.
What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
I love my salon so much that sometimes I see it as a separate person!
Is there a type of personality best suited to this type of work?
Hairstyling requires hard work, constant patience, and flexibility, while still maintaining your creativity.
What are your future career goals?
New businesses, with staff as partners.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in hairstyling?
Go and find the most successful hairdresser you know and then spend a year working with them (possibly only earning tips).
Describe your job in three words
Awkward • Bizarre • Exciting
What training is involved?
Firstly, locate a reputable hair salon that needs an apprentice to train. This requires you to learn how to shampoo, clean, sweep, etc, and you’ll soon learn how a hair salon functions. Then, once a week for three years, you go to hairdressing technical college learning theory and practical, then writing exams. To qualify as a hairdresser takes three years, but after one year you could become a junior stylist, cutting and styling, and earning a commission.
What traits should a hairdresser possess?
You need to be gregarious, outgoing, a great communicator, have a creative mind and an eye for style and design. You also need a pleasant, friendly disposition.
Is experience as important as formal training?
Experience is very important. I guess it’s like most crafts… practise and practise and strive to be a master craftsman. Expertise can only be a achieved through dedication, and forever updating and refreshing, because hairdressing is closely linked to fashion and beauty, so it’s forever changing – new styles for new seasons. Constant upgrading on formal education is important: attending shows, courses and presentations and staying up to date with product info.
Describe a typical day
A typical day is exciting and challenging: seeing a new personality every hour, and creating newer, fresher looks. It can also be incredibly gruelling and draining – not for the faint-hearted! But it’s incredibly rewarding on many levels.
Which aspects do you love?
The fact that I communicate a lot and use my creative skills to help change the way people look and feel about themselves, in a short space of time.
What aren’t you keen on?
The intensity – generally every hour on the hour, five days a week, ten hours a day. Negativity in certain personality types is also very draining.
Any career highlights?
There have been a couple of highlights (excuse the pun), but the most memorable was early on, a famous American saw one of my cuts and before I knew it I was on a film set for five months in Namibia, employed as the lead actor’s hairstylist. I was paid a fortune, which further enabled a top education in London.
Advice for budding hairstylists?
Find a TOP hairstylist to apprentice to… you get hairdressers and hairdressers! Be prepared to sacrifice financially initially while you learn your trade to the best of your ability.