What is Hairdressing?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2019
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Hairdressing is a profession which involves cutting, styling, and dressing both men and women's hair. People who work in this profession may be employed in salons and hair studios, may work out of their homes, may travel with people who need hairdressing services, or can work in settings such as film and television, preparing hair for shoots and other events. In many regions of the world, hairdressing is regulated, and people must go to school and pass an exam before they can work as hairdressers.

Hairdressing is one of the most ancient professions. Evidence at archaeological sites shows that many early human cultures dressed and ornamented their hair, especially for ceremonial and ritual occasions. Evidence of hairdressing can also be seen in works of art depicting hairdressing activity, and in tools of the trade which have been uncovered at various sites. In cultures like Ancient China, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, wealthy members of society had personal hairdressers who would style their hair in elaborate fashions.


The tradition of maintaining private hairdressers stayed fashionable in many cultures as hair styles became more elaborate. Personal hairdressers would curl, cut, and style hair, in addition to working with wigs. At various points in history, hair has climbed to rather dizzying heights. The French pompadour, for example, was a painstaking style to craft, and some traditional Japanese hairstyles also require the hands of a skilled hairdresser. Over time, people began setting up shop as hairdressers, providing services to clients in storefronts or by traveling to their homes.

Modern hairdressers engage in a range of activities. Most cut, curl, and trim hair. They can also style hair for special occasions, as seen when a wedding party goes to the hairdresser for styling. Coloring and performing other chemical treatments on hair such as relaxing, straightening, and perming are also services a hairdresser may provide. Many can also work with wigs; in some cultures, wigs are still traditionally worn and hairdressers fit and style them, and hairdressers also work with people who have lost their hair to medical issues such as alopecia and cancer.

Hairdressing is often a highly segregated profession. While men and women both work as hairdressers with clients of mixed genders, there tend to be racial divides in hairdressing. In part, this is because many hairdressers focus on the needs of specific hair types. Someone who is accustomed to working with clients of European descent, for example, may have difficulty with clients of African descent. Some hairdressers attend additional training so that they can offer multiracial hairdressing services.


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Post 4

I've gotten pretty good at hairdressing over the years, though I'm not a professional. I have very long hair, and I have experimented with many styles.

I have had perms, straighteners, and coloring, but nothing can compare to natural hair. It is stronger and shinier than chemically treated hair, and it holds up better to heat styling tools.

I use the blow dryer and the curling iron a lot, so I always spray my hair with a heat-activated conditioner before styling it. This provides some protection.

I know how to do a variety of updos and braids, and I have learned many hair tricks because I have so much hair to work with. I even do my friends' hair sometimes. She comes to me instead of a real hairdresser because I can do basically the same thing for free.

Post 3

@cloudel – I would think that social training would be a part of hairdressing courses. I don't see how they could skip it.

My friend went to hairdressing school, and while I don't know the details of everything that she learned, I do know that she has to keep her education current. This means that she has to go through additional training now and then to keep up to date on current hair trends and fashion. She must complete these courses in order to renew her license.

Also, when you own a salon, there are many requirements that you have to meet in order to stay in operation. My friend got an unexpected visit from an inspector who found that she didn't have the right type of garbage can, and he wrote her a citation for it. She had to get the kind with the rotating lid that automatically closes when you release it.

Post 2

Do hairdressing classes teach social skills as well as hairstyling techniques? I just wonder, because every hairdresser I have ever been to has been very outgoing and good at starting and maintaining a conversation.

People who go to a hairdresser to get a perm have to spend an hour sitting in the chair while she curls their hair around rollers. It would be very awkward to have to endure silence for that long.

I have never met a shy hairdresser. I suppose that would be a bad profession for an introvert, since they would be dealing strictly with people all day, every day.

Post 1

My best friend is a hairdresser, and she has loved styling hair ever since she was a little girl. She is so lucky to get to do what she loves all day long.

While this profession is rewarding to those who love styling hair, it can be very tiring physically. My friend has to wear special shoes designed for people who work on their feet all day, because she has to stand for hours at a time. On some days, she is so busy that she doesn't even get a lunch break.

I think that she makes pretty good money at it, because her salon is located in the middle of town. Other hairdressers who work from a shop in their yard out in the country don't do nearly as well financially as my friend.

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