Most stylists go into hair because they feel a passion for the industry and a pull to help others, yet it’s those very qualities that make it easy for hair pros to forget the essential practice of self-care. Serving clients every day can be challenging—both physically and emotionally. We tapped experts for their top tips on how to work smart at the salon.
Make Meals Matter
“Fast food won’t give your body what it needs to stay healthy so you can crush it at the salon,” says Maggie Hancock, Schwarzkopf Professional artistic team member and owner of Moxie Salon in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Consistent meal prep requires commitment, but investing the time and energy to prep meals will make you nourished without feeling rushed.” Set aside a day to plan your meals, create a grocery list and shop for the upcoming week. Many stores and online services (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, Publix, Amazon Fresh) deliver, if you find yourself truly in a time crunch. “Make the experience fun by prepping with a friend,” suggests Hancock.
Research foods that can be eaten cold or on the go—delicious options abound online. “Pack protein-dense foods with high vitamin concentrations and healthy fats to help boost energy,” says Hancock. “I find most recipes on Pinterest.” Possibilities include roasted almonds or chickpeas, fresh berries, overnight oats with chia seeds, almond butter balls, and sliced avocado sprinkled with your favorite seasoning. If your salon has a fridge and cubbies, bring meals for the week. Nonperishable snacks can be stored on shelves, while a few properly packed lunches take up minimal cold space. “That eliminates the anxiety of potentially forgetting to bring the food you worked so hard to prepare,” says Hancock. Finally, book time in your schedule. An extra 15 minutes between clients means you can hydrate and eat a snack.
Stay a Cut Above
The way a stylist stands and positions his or her hands can mean the difference between a pain-free career and potential wrist, muscle or tendon injury. “Align your body in an ergonomically correct way,” says Brian Hickman, creative director of Local Honey salon in Nashville, Tennessee and owner of e Growth Patterns education program. Practice good posture by keeping feet shoulder-width apart, with your hip and ankles facing forward. Lean at the hip when bending over a client, remembering to keep your spine straight. Most importantly, relax! Hair is fun, so try not to tense up during a service. “When you’re rigid or incorrectly aligned, the possibility of contorting to achieve proper positioning is greater,” explains Hickman.
Arms deserve love, too. Hold them at your sides, loose and close, and don’t raise elbows higher than 60 degrees for long stretches, which can strain muscles. “With shears, try to use your thumb exclusively while the rest of your hand remains stationary,” recommends Hickman. is helps combat pain or numbness in hands and wrists. Blowouts are a prime opportunity to practice becoming ambidextrous. “Switching tools from hand to hand keeps your dominant grip from contorting due to overuse,” says Hickman. The result? Longevity sans injury. And remember, good habits begin early. “Be mindfully cognizant of correct positioning at the start of a career, so it becomes natural as you grow more experienced,”
Learn How to Say "No'
“Not every guest is a perfect fit for every hair pro,” says Nina Tulio, a salon business coach based in Los Angeles. “It’s fine to recommend a colleague when a client wants a service in which you don’t specialize or feel comfortable delivering.” Start with a thorough consultation, aiming to discover detailed info about hair texture, lifestyle, styling habits and future goals. If your expertise is balayage and a guest wants a fashion color, refer her to a stylist who does vivids. Likewise, should a client request for platinum blonde to be achieved in a single session after you’ve explained that three minimum visits are required to protect hair’s integrity, apologize and say you’re not the person for the job. “Never compromise your business, expertise or reputation to please a customer,” advises Tulio.
Set a schedule that honors both guests’ needs and your own, then practice setting boundaries if outside-hours requests interfere with personal time. “By nature, we are people-pleasers,” says Tulio. “Stylists should ensure their clients are taken care of, but it’s important to draw the line when that interferes with date night or your child’s soccer game.” Make time to read a book or listen to a podcast, go for a walk or spend time with family. “Setting boundaries is a form of self-care,” continues Tulio. “Time to refuel, recharge and refresh is required, because we all know you can’t pour from an empty cup.”
[Images: Courtesy of Francis Cole Cameron; Local Honey; Johanna Falk; iStock]