When working in the beauty industry, it can seem like education is everywhere. While the types of education range from virtual seminars and online tutorials to in-person classes, events and even to social media posts/videos, the accessibility of education today makes learning a non-negotiable for stylists— regardless of their skill level or stage of their career—and raises the question of “Does learning ever really stop?” “Education is the lifeline of growth and our future in the industry,” says Terry Ritcey, director of education and events for Redken. “Think about anybody who’s acquired any type of certification and the comfort you get from knowing that they’ve kept their skills up. For the hair industry, education is a constant, and really necessary for moving forward.”
While education varies for stylists based on the different career stages they’re at, when looking at the hair industry as a whole, it’s clear that continual learning plays a vital role in growing the industry. “As trends change, stylists must adapt and change, as well,” says Deanna Spielman, Canadian education leader for Wella Company. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing hair for two years, 10 years, or 30 years—we’re forever evolving and changing and that’s why education is so important.”
“I’ll always be a believer in ongoing education and learning no matter what age or level of one’s career,” adds Terri Schwendemann, director of education and creative development for Oligo Professionnel. “There are pivotal points in our professional growth where we need to stop and re-evaluate where we are, where we came from, and where we want to go.”
While the desire to learn and grow may come natural to those who are newer to the industry, it’s important for all stylists to remain open and willing to glean from others (even those who are younger/newer to the industry), and to realize that there are always new trends and techniques to be discovered. “Education provides stylists at all levels career satisfaction and passion that will keep them striving for more,” says Kathy Reilly, associate director of education for Kao. “It’ll also allow them to continue to experience success not only in the areas they’re focused on but also in the financial realm since education is the number one justification for price increases. It’s the education and knowledge to back up your prices.”
“FOR NEW HAIRSTYLISTS, THE NUMBER ONE THING TO DO IS TO GO INTO EDUCATION WITH THE MINDSET THAT YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO STOP LEARNING. WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT LIKE THAT, THERE IS NEVER GOING TO BE AN END TO YOUR EDUCATION JOURNEY, WHICH WILL HELP YOU GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR CAREER.” — KATHY REILLY, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION, KAO
Lessons for New Stylists
Even if a stylist has just completed beauty school or a salon apprenticeship, it’s vital that they continue to develop their skills and build on their knowledge. “The old saying ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’ is valid and I think that the real learning begins the day you finish school—not the day you walk in,” says Ritcey. “In my case, it wasn’t until after I started working in my first salon that I really realized how much I had to learn.”
“In school, you establish a great foundation from a technical standpoint but when you leave, you’re working with real salon clients who have a variety of different needs and goals, and continuing education allows you to build on your knowledge with more real-life skills that allow you to flex, adapt and be like a chameleon for every client’s hair needs,” adds Reilly. “It’s not a one-size- fits-all industry where you learn a set of skills and apply them to every client. You need different skills for different clients and different situations, and continuing education really helps to develop all of those.”
When it comes to more technical skills, it can be a good opportunity for new stylists to experiment with different learning methods to identify what works best for them. “A lot of different brands offer education both virtually and in person, so identifying what type of learner you are can be a really great place to start,” says Spielman. “Then, seek out the education that you want. You can go to a brand educator who’s working in the field and they can help guide you to where the best education is, and from there you can build a growth plan that determines where you want to be in five years and how to get there.”
With the abundance of education available at the click of a button, it may be intimidating for new stylists to determine which option to choose. “My advice is to research the resources each manufacturer offers,” says Schwendemann. “This may encompass digital education, academies, events, and even what’s offered through their distributors and sales consultants.”
While it’s likely that newer stylists may not know where they should start— apart from what they’re interested in— it’s important that they feel comfortable with asking their salon owner or a more senior stylist/colleague to help guide them in the right direction.
“In addition to furthering technical skills, new stylists should also prioritize learning more about how to deliver great customer service in the salon,” says Reilly. “No amount of skill is going to be worth anything if you don’t know how to deliver a wonderful in-salon experience to your clients.”
“I THINK WHEN LEARNING STOPS, YOU STOP. EDUCATION IS A CONSTANT AND IT’S A STATE OF MIND. IF YOU BELIEVE YOU’RE AT THE POINT WHERE YOU’VE LEARNED EVERYTHING THERE IS TO LEARN, I THINK THAT MEANS YOU’RE PRETTY CLOSE TO QUITTING IN THIS INDUSTRY.”— TERRY RITCEY, DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION AND EVENTS, REDKEN
While the cost of attending in-person or virtual classes may limit the amount of education new stylists can participate in, there are also a plethora of free options available that can help stylists grow their skills. “I always believe it’s best to invest in a mannequin head,” says Ritcey. “Use that as your model or your test subject. You can do multiple layers of hair colour, can cover it, and even start again.”
Education for Intermediate Stylists
As stylists move forward in their careers and start to gain more confidence and experience, they may start to believe that they no longer need to participate in education. However, experts say that learning at this career stage can be more important than ever. “I believe education is more critical at this junction because people tend to get comfortable,” says Ritcey. “Sometimes clients go to the salon and really like what their stylist is doing, but that stylist may never offer their client new style or colour suggestions. And since it’s really easy for a client to see something on Instagram and go to a new stylist to get it done, it’s vital that intermediate stylists keep themselves educated and continually offer their clients new and trending ideas.”
“Realizing that you’re not going to know everything is crucial,” adds Schwendemann. “Education helps you discover new trends and techniques so you can continue to develop and grow as a stylist. It keeps that inspiration and excitement about standing behind the chair going, which can be challenging both physically and mentally. Education really can benefit your career longevity.”
Often at this stage of a stylist’s career, they may be ready to take on a new challenge and decide it’s time to venture out and open a business of their own. “One of the things that isn’t taught in hair schools or apprenticeship programs is the business elements of education, such as the principles of consultation, communication strategies, revenue through retailing, social media, leadership skills, and other administrative things such as taxes,” says Ritcey. “At this point in a stylist’s career, the creative and technical education are of course still critical, but so is business education.”
While most intermediate stylists have heard of or attended education classes throughout their career, now might be a good time to try alternative forms of education. “Right now, we’re saturated, in the best way possible, with visibility to many different artists,” says Schwendemann. “The digital space is full of stylists who are relatable and they’re sharing information that’s valued and relevant, and that space gives you so many opportunities for education both outside and within your manufacturer. Exposure to them is a great resource.”
“I see a lot of intermediate stylists participating in classes that allow them to hone in on their foundational skills—whether that be renewing their basic law of colour knowledge or cutting skills,” adds Reilly. “However, I’ve also been seeing a lot of intermediate stylists moving towards classes that focus on current consumer requests, which help them stay on top of their clients’ requests and remain informed on new trends in the industry.”
“I think the key at this stage of your career is openness,” adds Schwendemann. “It’s important to be open to learning new things and new ways of doing things. I would also suggest selecting a vein of education that you’re going to fully immerse yourself in. You can learn a little bit about everything, but if you don’t fully immerse yourself and really understand the full scope of one of those things, you end up with bits of knowledge but not full understanding.”
Advanced Learning for Advanced Stylists
Even after spending a decade (or longer) behind the chair, experienced stylists should prioritize keeping up with education by not only staying current on industry trends, but also seeking out other types of advanced education to help push their boundaries. “Education is vital at this stage in maintaining inspiration and excitement, and it helps you look for something new and different that can keep you evolving,” says Schwendemann. “We can’t ever say that we know absolutely everything because new trends are always emerging and it’s important to have that mindset to keep us young and relevant in this industry. There’s always a new way to look at something, and realizing that you’re on a journey that never ends will allow for endless opportunities of growth.”
Depending on when a stylist enters the industry, the standard or expectations of a stylist can (and do) change. “That’s because the expectation at the time those stylists entered the industry is different,” says Spielman.
“As an experienced stylist, you have to keep up with the ever-changing trends, stay current and be thinking of areas you can grow in. For example, social media and learning how to grow your online presence may be something to focus on.”
It’s also likely that stylists with a vast amount of foundational and experiential knowledge are looking to share their insights with junior stylists, which benefits individuals and the industry as a whole. “I’ve noticed that many stylists at this level want to take classes that allow them to develop their mentorship skillset,” says Reilly. “It’s the responsibility of experienced stylists to mentor the younger generation and show them that education continues throughout their careers. We have to be an example to new stylists and highlight the fact that a focus on continual learning will benefit them in the short and long term.”
Aside from attending classes to further their own development, experienced stylists should also start thinking outside the box to find the right education options for their teams, as well. “Focus on bringing a top educator or artist into your salon and creating an in-salon event or class, which can be tailored to meet whatever needs you have,” says Ritcey. “You can learn while your team learns, and this will foster unity, which is so needed today.”
In addition to investing in team- building experiences that cultivate camaraderie, experienced stylists should also consider participating in competitions—like the Contessa Awards!—that push their creative boundaries. “I would challenge experienced stylists, if they aren’t already doing so, to start creating and competing,” says Schwendemann. “Doing photo shoots, creating collections and participating in competitions can help them push themselves and their abilities. When you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone and attempting new techniques and trends, you’re educating yourself; it’s just another way to learn and it enables stylists to grow their skills while being inspired by others.”
The Power of the Collective
Expand your textured hair skill set with this new (and free!) online education program.
Creating an inclusive salon environment for all clients and stylists is top of mind for the beauty industry. The Power of the Collective (POTC) is a free online education program designed to help stylists build and grow their textured hair skills while also providing diversity and inclusion training.
POTC was created to support Canadian hairstylists who are looking to elevate their cutting and colour skills and techniques to work with all hair types. Powered by the L’Oréal Group, the new education program is available to all Canadian hairstylists—regardless of the brand they work with.
For its first year, the program begins with four modules that focus on haircutting, teaching stylists cutting techniques for hair types ranging from 1A to 4C, and will feature online lessons with international artists—each with their own hair type specialization—including James Valiant (1A-1C), Rodrigo Araneda (2A-2C), Jamal Edmonds (3A-3C) and Michelle O’Connor (4A-4C).
According to Stephan Arsenault, president of L’Oréal Canada’s Professional Products Division, the brand is “strongly committed to diversity in the industry and are fully mobilized to help hairstylists diversify and enrich their expertise. With the objective to train over 10,000 hairstylists in Canada, the potential reach is significant, and we collectively have the power to bring a real change to the Canadian hair industry.”
The program concludes with an exclusive livestream with award-winning celebrity hairstylist, Philip Wolff and will feature hands-on techniques and a Q&A. Upon signing up, stylists will gain access to lessons (including new teachings, hands-on videos and a practice assignment), and receive text message notifications whenever a new lesson is available.
In addition to each of the international artists’ lessons, POTC members are offered additional resources, including an introduction to consultations and foundational terms and techniques. Upon completing year one of the program, stylists will be certified as allies and receive an in-salon allyship decal highlighting their accomplishment.