When it comes to hairstyling, education is key to mastering techniques, improving one’s craft, and staying up to date with industry trends. While education was once most commonly accessed in person via masterclasses, workshops and demos at trade shows, the pandemic caused a shift that resulted in more and more educators experimenting with digital education. Whether it was live classes on Microsoft Teams or Instagram, Zoom webinars, YouTube tutorials or shorter videos on TikTok that cater to a specific demographic, it’s no surprise that digital education continues to be on the rise.
“Hairdressers tend to be tangible, hands-on, visual learners,” says Erinn De Luca, national education manager for Schwarzkopf Professional. “It’s our way of expressing art, so I think that there is a need for digitalization, but there’s also a need for the creative outlet, and the two need to work together in this blended learning experience.”
“AS A HAIRSTYLIST MYSELF, IT’S ABOUT THE TYPE OF CONTENT THAT’S BEING DELIVERED AND SHARED IN A WEBINAR FORMAT. IN TERMS OF TIMING, IT CANNOT BE TOO LONG, FOR EXAMPLE. IT SHOULD BE QUITE INSPIRATIONAL AND ACCESSIBLE ANYTIME. ” — ALAIN LAROCHE, DIRECTOR OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, L’ORÉAL PROFESSIONNEL
While some may argue that in-person education reigns supreme, overlooking the benefits of digital education can be a missed opportunity since more and more hairstylists (especially aspiring ones) are turning to social media for inspiration and education.
“I think the stylist communities have embraced education in all forms,” says Kim Proal, senior director of global education, academy and digital, for Moroccanoil. “The beauty is that there’s so much content to consume, and the hairstylist community wants to stay educated. They know that if they just need that dose of inspiration or education, they can quickly activate that.”
Going the Distance
In terms of accessibility, digital education has paved the way for those who may not have had the opportunity to travel outside of their cities or provinces to attend in-person classes and has allowed for education as a whole to become more accessible to a wider range of beauty professionals.
Alain Laroche, director of professional development for L’Oréal Professionnel, believes that while digital will never fully replace the need for in-person learning, there are benefits to both, including convenience for those who live outside of big cities and have less access to in-person education.
“I would say over the past couple of years now, we’ve seen a shift,” he says. “People were asking a lot more about in-person learning, but they got a taste of what digital learning was all about and saw how easy it was to gather information from the comfort of their homes and just be in their own environment.”
For Moroccanoil Academy in New York, the brand thrived on offering digital education during the pandemic, which enabled hairstylists from outside of the state (and country) to be able to participate in its educational courses. For this reason, Moroccanoil continues to emphasize its digital education to make it accessible to more professionals in the industry.
“We’re really focused on our on-demand education,” says Proal. “It’s bite-sized, on the run [education] for when you can’t fly or travel or you just can’t get to that class. You have access to education at your fingertips.”
“We’ve had really good attendance levels,” adds De Luca. “Our in-depth look-and-learn academy programs required people to sign up but were recorded to be able to be viewed later. They were very successful and engaging. We had an amazing turnout from that, so we’re actually bringing that back to our calendar this year.”
When it comes to learning more hands-on skills, such as hair extension installations, Chelsea Lovequist, coowner and CEO of Philocaly, says digital education has exceeded their expectations. “We thought it was going to be a temporary thing,” she says. “Based on the popularity and overall feedback we were getting about how easy it was to learn over Zoom and digitally, we’ve just carried on with it and it’s been one of our most popular sellers—sometimes even more so than our inperson classes!”
One approach to education that more brands are adopting is a hybrid method that combines live and digital elements. While some have noted a dip in interest around digital education on its own, several agree that incorporating both into curriculums allows for greater flexibility for participants who prefer to learn at their own pace and on their own terms.
“Moving forward and over the next few years, people are going to get more adjusted to a hybrid [model], which is online and offline [education], because online will not replace the offline,” says Laroche. “In the future, we will see a perfect marriage between online and offline.”
De Luca also believes that while digital education is an important tool, it will never be able to fully replace handson education. “We recognize that there’s always going to be a place in the hearts of hairdressers for in-person, hands-on education,” she says. “I don’t think that it can ever replace the screen, but what digitalization has allowed us to do is provide 24/7, on-demand education whenever the hairstylist is ready for it. I think that it allows you to really absorb the information at your own pace and from the comfort of your own home. We’ve actually done handson digital classes as well, in which we’ve shipped products and mannequins to people and they were able to follow along from their own salon.”
With all the advancements in the world of digital education, Proal says it isn’t about trying to replace in person education. “I don’t think you can ever compete with in-person classes and experiences,” she says. “I don’t think digital education is trying to; it’s trying to enhance education. There are in-person and digital opportunities, and they all come together to ultimately serve the goal of continuing to educate the professionals.”
Tips for accessing education as a freelance or independent beauty pro.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, some hairstylists and beauty pros decided to take the leap and go the independent route. All four experts agreed that digital education is a great way to reach independent artists since it’s something they can do at their own pace in the comfort of their own homes.
Proal says that, since the pandemic, there has been a lot more digital education that targets independent hairstylists specifically. “I think [digital education] is great for the independent stylists who are taking the leap from being in a salon and going freelance,” she says. “There are even a lot of curriculums on how you can support that. I think we’re speaking a lot to hairdressing techniques and looks but also about business planning and strategies. I’ve seen the freelance and independent stylists really gravitate toward that, which is wonderful.”
While education, particularly digital, is generally accessible to all hairstylists, one way that it can benefit independent hairstylists is by being an affordable alternative to in-person classes. “Obviously, there’s a larger cost associated with education, and we’ve tried to make it obtainable for everyone—from full salons to freelance stylists—by offering up a ‘buy now, pay later’ option on our website,” says Lovequist, adding that they understand education is an investment and not everyone has the money to pay for classes upfront.
Among the additional portals where independent hairstylists can seek education is L’Oréal Access, a platform that was launched by L’Oréal Professionnel a few years ago. “Access is a digital learning platform that enables anyone to subscribe and offers access to any content in relation to everything that L’Oréal Canada adds,” says Laroche. “Access is the number one tool that we’re going to be promoting and putting a big focus on because anybody can access it on their mobile phones, laptops and iPads.”
“It depends on the aspect of their learning objective,” he adds. “For example, if they want to master colour, we will invite them to go on Access for a series of colour modules. This is the way to do it in terms of enabling people to remember the information and then they get certified at the end of that.”
Take Your Pick
When it comes to keeping hairstylists engaged in digital education specifically, it’s important to keep things fresh and exciting to remind them that it can be just as innovative and informative as hands-on learning.
“Offering variety is number one, for sure,” says Laroche. “People want lots of variety, just like with streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. You have categories with lots of content for everybody’s desires and needs. We need to do the same thing, and that’s what we’re working toward. That’s where I’m going to make it a lot more exciting for people to log in to the digital world. They want to see lots of variety and different content pertaining to their needs, desires and interests— whether they’re a junior stylist, student, senior or master—and whether they like doing balayage, cutting, styling or learning more about business.”
De Luca says that Schwarzkopf Professional has also worked with various digital platforms to cater to individual hairstylists and their needs. “We’ve taken the approach where we are working with different digital platforms for different learning preferences and/or the capacity that they can dedicate time to education,” she says. “We have digital options through Microsoft Teams, live events on our Instagram page and our online academy. The way our educators are using this is that they are able to provide some of the really necessary ‘meat-and-potatoes’ of how to work with our brand and then maximizing our time in person in front of the hairstylist—in the salon or on stage—really focusing on techniques and creative things and knowing that really important product knowledge has already been obtained through digital means. That’s sort of like our holistic approach: a blended learning experience where we are embracing digital but still very much respecting that time between the educator and the hairdresser that’s in person.”
In addition to offering a variety of content, Proal says that the keys to success for digital education are finding the sweet spot in terms of video length and delivering the right type of education to the right hairstylist. “I do think it’s about finding the right formula—the secret sauce to keep the hairstylist engaged,” she says. “When it’s the right formula, it touches on all the curriculum and education points you want to without it being a superlong video when it’s on demand.”
According to Lovequist, Philocaly uses Zoom for all its online education due to the interactive aspect of it, which she feels is key when trying to keep hairstylists engaged. “I think people were nervous that they wouldn’t get the same experience,” she says. “But now we’ve proven that you can actually learn it just as well digitally as in person. We opted for this over only prerecorded videos because we really feel it adds that element of what they would receive in person, which is where they can actually ask questions and feel like they can interact with our educators. We’re looking at offering some sort of membership where they continue their learning for years to come after taking a class. We’ve also had people that wanted a one-on-one mentorship with our educators, so that’s something we’re looking to incorporate, where you could possibly shadow one of our educators behind the chair and really learn what a master extensionist is.”
“PEOPLE DON’T JUST WANT DIGITAL EDUCATION. THEY UNDERSTAND THAT THERE’S A VALUE TO IT. FOR EXAMPLE, SHORTER SNIPPETS OF CONTENT YOU COULD SQUEEZE IN BETWEEN CLIENTS OR BEFORE YOU GO TO BED. I THINK THAT’S SOMETHING HAIRDRESSERS CRAVE BUT I DON’T THINK [DIGITAL-ONLY EDUCATION] IS SOMETHING THAT THE INDUSTRY IS READY FOR OR WANTS.” — ERINN DE LUCA, NATIONAL EDUCATION MANAGER, SCHWARZKOPF PROFESSIONAL
Switch Things Up
While having a variety of videos and content streams to choose from is a good start, it’s important to also keep hairstylists engaged and interested enough to dive deeper and learn as much as possible.
“What we’re developing right now are satellite academy locations across the country so that digitalization doesn’t necessarily replace what would have happened at the academy,” says De Luca. “We’re now taking that live component throughout the country at different satellite locations so that the hands on portion will be easily accessible for people in all provinces.”
Proal says that while Moroccanoil still utilizes Instagram and Facebook live feeds, where hairstylists can be interactive, the brand is also shooting a lot of ondemand education, too. “We have an app that educates on our hair colour, which launched last year,” she says. “You can really pass a lot of education in shorterform videos and support those with step-by-steps and technique guides.”
Lovequist says that having the option to access to a library of pre-recorded videos can help hairstylists stay motivated. “We also use Vimeo to hold all of the back-end videos that people can rewatch afterward,” she says. “We’ve had a lot to promote the classes, but we’re working on being able to promote that more, so people actually see what it means to get that back-end access after they take their course and get excited about that side of things because I think there’s so much opportunity there.”