A hairstylist, or hairdresser, is someone who cuts and styles hair. He or she often offers other services such as coloring and hair extensions. Employment in this profession is incredibly varied, from high-powered salons which cater to the rich and famous to corner barbershops which offer basic haircuts at low prices. Depending on where a hairstylist works, he or she typically must get a cosmetology license from a certifying organization, to ensure that the hairstylist has fulfilled basic training requirements.
Hairdressers work in a very old profession. People have been styling hair for thousands of years, and the personal retinues of many monarchs and prominent individuals included hairdressers as far back as Greek and Roman times. Just like their ancient counterparts, modern hairstylists keep up with hair fashions, popular trends, and new techniques for cutting and styling hair.
A good hairstylist has an excellent fashion sense, along with a keen eye for looks which will be attractive on a specific client. He or she can use various tricks to cut and texture hair for a desired look, and a hairstylist may also add color to the cut, if desired. Some people use the services of hairstylists to do their hair for major events, like weddings and balls, relying on the experience and skills of the hairstylist to get a sleek, fashionable look.
In some cases, a hairstylist may choose to focus on a specific subfield of hairdressing. For example, some hairstylists specialize in coloring hair; coloring is extremely complex, and it is easy for a dye job to go wrong, so the services of a professional colorist are often in high demand. Others specialize in ethnic hair, receiving special training so that they can address the specific needs of people with unique hair types. Some focus on using all natural products, or offer other cosmetology services in addition to hairstyling, like nails, makeup, and facials.
Employment prospects in this field are generally good, since many people find cause to go to a hairstylist now and then. Compensation rates vary widely. Many hair salons rent chairs to their hairstylists, allowing each individual to set personal rates and take in clients as desired in return for a set monthly fee. Others pay their stylists by the hour or by the client, and some hairstylists prefer to work on their own, although the set-up costs for a salon can get expensive.
If you are interested in becoming a hairstylist, you should look for a cosmetology school which offers training. The school will help you meet training requirements for licensure, and the staff often help their students with state-mandated cosmetology tests; some schools also offer placement assistance to recent graduates.