Top Beauty Educators on Inspiration and Ongoing Education

 

All stylists remember that moment: when the brain said “a-ha,” and every classroom lesson suddenly clicked into place. Behind each luminous occasion is an educator responsible for making it happen. We asked teachers from top beauty brands to share their thoughts on mentorship, inspiration and the importance of ongoing education.

Angel del Solar, 18.21 Man Made Grooming

How I Became an Educator: I started by working with Pivot Point in Spain in the late ’80s. After moving to the US, I launched my own Seattle-based salons, where I hired stylists fresh out of beauty school. Education came naturally.

Best Part of Teaching: A lot of people can cut hair—but that’s not how you make money. I love helping students learn that it’s essential to build clientele. Start with one customer who loves what you do, and watch that small base grow.

Recipe for Success: Get good at consultations, referrals, pre-booking, and retail. Invest three to five years to kick off your career.

Heather Butterworth, Affinage

Best Advice for Grads: Get comfortable with the word “why.” Every time you mix a formula, place a foil or section strands for freehand, you must be able to explain why you’re taking that action. Habits that skip the thinking step make you a stale colorist.

My Favorite Class: Affinage Essentials. I’m a nerd and get truly excited about basic color theory—maybe because students experience “light-bulb moments” where I get to see the pieces suddenly come together. When it clicks, creative possibilities are endless.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Explaining to TSA why I have heads in my bag.

Robertina Martinez, Aloxxi International

Recipe for Success: Confidence, which you gain by attending classes throughout the years. And energy, which I get from coffee. My Favorite Class:

Design on the Edge. We play with technique to create current looks in a fraction of the time.

Best Advice for Grads: Be at the salon even when you don’t have clients booked. Watch a hair tutorial, test new styles and products, or post work on social media. You must completely immerse yourself in the world of hair.

Salvatore Leonetti, Alterna

Best Part of Teaching: Witnessing the spark that information ignites in students’ brains. Walls come down. The connection between creative forces is an amazing thing to experience.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Wearing various hats. I’m a stylist, teacher, mentor, friend, husband, dad, financial advisor … Some days I come home and forget my own name.

Recipe for Success: Hard work is always the secret. I’m also thankful when my wife pushes me outside my comfort zone, because what happens there is usually pretty special.

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Mike Sharkey, American Crew

Why I Became an Educator: I knew education would make me a well-rounded stylist, and I wanted to share what I learned about men’s grooming with anyone who’d listen.

My Favorite Class: International All-Star Educator Update Training. I get to be in a room with instructors from around the world, talking about new collections.

Importance of Ongoing Education: It stimulates imagination. You can’t put a price on creative energy.

Nogodar Martinez, Aquage

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Early call times and flight delays. But once I’m at a show, all those challenges become irrelevant as I get to work with A-Team creatives.

My Favorite Class: The Art of Aquage, which is the blueprint for our products. Students learn to treat hair like a fabric, increasing its pliant strength or transforming texture.

Importance of Ongoing Education: It’s not important—it’s a must. You wouldn’t go to an accountant who’s unfamiliar with new tax laws, and the same goes for our industry. We must constantly keep pace with emerging trends, technology, products, and tools.

Kevin Kirk, BaBylissPRO

How I Became an Educator: I got serious after winning the Bronner Brothers “Hair Battle.” I wanted to share my experience and knowledge.

Best Part of Teaching: The testimonials. I love hearing that I’ve impacted lives in a positive way.

My Favorite Class: Visual Arrest, which unites the artistry of color, cutting and styling. I call it the “triple threat.”

Sara Caroline Gault, Bosley Professional Strength

Recipe for Success: I didn’t take a true vacation for three years. While my peers partied, I went to every class I could find, came in early, stayed late—and loved every second of that hard work.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Understanding that we live in an era when most communication is done via a screen. Students are less outwardly expressive in small classroom settings, which can make it tough to read a room.

My Favorite Class: FineOmetry by Bosley Pro, our cutting system designed specifically for fine-haired clients.

Brett Atkinson, Celeb Luxury

Why I Became an Educator: Growing up, I wasn’t the best student—I think many artists can relate. I believe every person learns in a unique way, and I love finding that key.

Recipe for Success: Success comes from chasing fear. If I’m scared of doing something that means it’s important. One day I literally woke up and said, “Any opportunity that knocks, I’m saying yes to.”

Importance of Ongoing Education: Stay on-trend in this industry, or run the risk of growing stagnant.

RELATED: Celebrity Colorists Share their Most In-Demand Formulas

Lynn M. Cote, CND

Best Part of Teaching: Learning something from my students.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Understanding how different people grasp information. One attendee might catch on quickly while another requires in-depth explanation. Some are visual, others are verbal. I work to tailor my message for every participant.

My Favorite Class: CND Master Painter. I enjoy the science-based intelligence and core color theory. It’s an eight-hour class, so I also get to know my attendees.

Phillip Wilson, ColorProof Color Care Authority

How I Became an Educator: I launched my career as a hairdresser in London’s trendy West End, training with masters from all over Europe. After coming to the US under Vidal Sassoon, I’ve been able to work as an educator and platform artist. It’s the coolest thing you can do—but you need a creative edge!

Best Advice for Grads: Explore different methods. Trying various techniques demonstrates that you’re bettering skills through education, which keeps clients loyal.

My Favorite Class: The Modern Shag: lessons on how to craft an asymmetrical bob with dynamic color placement and a sexy short look.

Marilyn Garcia, Cuccio

Best Part of Teaching: Traveling to different countries and giving women with few resources or opportunities the tools to change their lives and forge careers by doing nails.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Grasping the specific circumstances of other techs so I can provide the correct direction to help each grow a business.

Importance of Ongoing Education: The more you understand the chemistry of products, the faster you can work and the more lucrative you’ll be.

Amanda Jenkins, ECRU New York

Most Challenging Work Aspect: I care a lot about what my students get from the experience so I won’t stop until I know everyone has left the class with expectations met.

My Favorite Class: The Razor’d Edge. As a tool, razors are often mishandled. My students master their use with integrity and precision.

Best Advice for Grads: Set both short- and long-term goals: one year, five years, 10 years, and beyond. Write them down so they become tangible, and revisit them often to keep focused and on track.

Mirza Batanovic, Eufora

Importance of Ongoing Education: My mentor, Don Bewley, always said, “Never be a master, always be a student.” That’s been my motto.

Recipe for Success: Get a mentor—or five. Whether for professional or personal growth, mentorship is a beautiful thing. Learn from someone who’s had the experience and can help guide you in the right direction.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: This year, I’ll have 39 weekends of travel under my belt. Airports and airplanes are so chaotic.

RELATED: Celebrity Stylist Vernon Francois on the Inspiration for Amandla Stenberg's Top Looks

Dominica Szwajnos, Grande Cosmetics 

Recipe for Success: Don’t give up, even when it feels like life or the people in it are against you. Perseverance and determination can help move you past the negative.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Trying to stay creative when working with repeat products or returning students. You must find new ways to make the same information stick.

Importance of Ongoing Education: There’s info all over the Internet and not all of it is correct. Continued courses provide students with legitimate learning.

Nanci Lee, Great Lengths USA

Best Part of Teaching: Traveling, exploring new cities and meeting fellow stylists from around the world. It really is a small, tightknit community.

My Favorite Class: Our three-day Certification Class with a focus on the Cold Fusion 5000 machine. It gives stylists experience with our most creative tool so they can address clients’ hair challenges and gain financial benefits.

Importance of Ongoing Education: An old employer used to say, “When you’re green, you grow. When you’re ripe, you rot.” I try to always remain green.

Grant Gunderson, HairMax 

How I Became an Educator: I was running the medical side of a hair-restoration clinic, and my job included educating staff and patients on treatment options. It felt great to help people make the right decisions for their care. Teaching evolved gradually.

Best Part of Teaching: Watching students become successful and helping clients reverse hair loss.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Getting people to understand that they must be compliant with the products they’re using in order to see results.

Daniel Keane, Hot Tools Professional 

Why I Became an Educator: Early in my career I started going to shows and seeing educators on stage, and initially I thought, “I want to be that star!” As I grew, I learned that real fulfillment comes from the simple act of sharing experience.

Recipe for Success: It’s 90 percent about showing up every day. Even more important, come with a plan and purpose. It’s amazing the disguises opportunity will wear. Keep eyes open and be present.

Importance of Ongoing Education: I still learn every chance I get, even when teaching, because when we stop learning, we stop growing. When we don’t grow, we wilt.

Sharon Medina, Inoar Professional

Recipe for Success: Hard work, hard work, hard work! I said yes to unpaid volunteer gigs for years.

My Favorite Class: Smoothing treatments, because they show how to alter texture without changing hair’s structure. And cutting, because with one hour and one amazing cut, you can change someone’s life.

Best Advice for Grads: Get involved with a salon that offers continued education and assistant programs to consistently nurture growth.

RELATED: Nikki Lee Dishes on Her Top Shades for Actress Emma Roberts

Ivan Zoot, Jatai 

Best Part of Teaching: Having a student say she raised her haircut price because of me.

Recipe for Success: The secret is there are no secrets. I will work harder than the other guy.

Importance of Ongoing Education: The game changes. Grow, or be yesterday’s news.

Zoe Carpenter, Joico 

Why I Became an Educator: I realized my work was starting to be admired in the salon. Sometimes when I spoke about how I’d achieved a look, I’d get a blank stare back. I have knowledge in this craft that doesn’t necessarily come naturally to other professionals, and it became important to share it.

Best Part of Teaching: I can’t forget when I asked a question in high school that was perceived as stupid. I never want my students to feel the way that teacher made me feel. When I explain chemistry and technique in hair color, I make it palatable for everyone.

Best Advice for Grads: Never make a promise you can’t keep. You may put in sweat, blood and tears to achieve a color correction, but if you compromise hair integrity in the process, it’s your name you’re jeopardizing.

Wesley Boyce, Kenra Professional

Recipe for Success: I’m a firm believer in the cliché that everything happens for a reason. I applied more than once for the position I currently hold, and whenever I failed, I knew it just wasn’t my season. The path you’re on may take an unexpected turn, but you can still arrive at your desired destination.

My Favorite Class: Mastering Kenra Color. It’s an in-depth look at the science, schematics and chemistry behind hair color, with segments on the power of a thorough client consultation, plus advanced tips and formulations for gray coverage and blonding.

Best Advice for Grads: Enjoy the ride!

Garrett Roach, Keracolor

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Getting through my fear of public speaking. I’m nervous before any class or speaking event, but that turns to confidence with practice and time.

Best Advice for Grads: Focus on real, tangible goals: clients, finances, career milestones. Follower counts are less important.

Importance of Ongoing Education: Now that everything is digital, our industry is evolving faster than ever.

Valérie Lachance, Keratherapy

Best Part of Teaching: I’m new to teaching, having joined the Keratherapy team in spring of 2018, but I love working with people—talking to them, taking care of them, learning about their lives. Everyone is different—just like their hair.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Trying to change mindsets. Keratin products aren’t just for straightening curls or frizz—a common misconception.

Importance of Ongoing Education: It keeps you motivated. There’s excitement in knowing how to handle situations and consistently get top results.

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Wendy Bond, Lakme

How I Became an Educator: My husband, Oscar Bond, was already an educator when we met. Traveling and working with him inspired me to do the same.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Understanding why a student feels frustrated, or not being able to meet expectations.

Best Advice for Grads: Examine the culture of a salon: Does it value teamwork, education, the client experience? If owners don’t care enough to maintain their salon aesthetic, they likely won’t bother with you.

Anthony Barnhill, Malibu C 

Recipe for Success: Make a lot of mistakes, learn from them and understand how to fix or prevent them in the future. In that way, mistakes aren’t a bad thing.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: I’m always striving for perfection, even though I know there’s no such thing. But it does make me work harder—and then work even harder still.

My Favorite Class: Perfecting Placement, which revolves around the core Malibu C education tenets of color theory and hair lightening.

Danielle Keasling, Matrix 

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Constantly multitasking. I like to focus on one thing at a time, yet often I’m pulled in many directions. Being on the road globally while staying present with what’s happening in the States is tough. In fact, I’m writing this as I sit on a plane to Uganda!

My Favorite Class: Hair Mapping, because it provides simple “hair maps” for executing the majority of upstyles, from basic to complicated.

Importance of Ongoing Education: You’re only as good as the people with whom you surround yourself.

Luis Alcocer, MOP 

Why I Became an Educator: Becoming an educator was my dream since age 17, when I first entered the beauty industry. I’m self-taught, so I wanted to help those who struggled the same way I did early on.

My Favorite Class: The Basics of Balayage, which helps simplify techniques that can feel overwhelming, without compromising end results.

Importance of Ongoing Education: Hair is like medicine—a new discovery seems to happen almost every day!

Shelby Connell, Moroccanoil  

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Paperwork and planning. I’m 100-percent creative-minded. Give me a head of hair, I can go for hours. Give me a spreadsheet, and I’ll need a glass of wine.

My Favorite Class: The series of braiding classes I teach because that’s a skill I struggle with, yet the styling doors open once you master braiding.

Best Advice for Grads: Set constant goals so as to never grow complacent. That’s when you lose passion.

Cherry Petenbrink, Olivia Garden 

How I Became an Educator: A consultant approached me 19 years ago after noticing my high retail salon sales. She said, “You should be teaching others how to use and sell products.”

Recipe for Success: Accountability. I deliver on my promises, stay loyal and give more than I take.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Maintaining balance. All work and no play is unhealthy. Sometimes you must say no in order to prioritize family or friends over work obligations.

Kien Hoang, Oribe 

How I Became an Educator: It started when I hired my first in-salon apprentice. That led me to reflect on my first mentor, and how important having expert insight is when starting out.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Speaking publicly while presenting live demos and trying to keep the audience engaged.

My Favorite Class: Journey to Mastery Essentials. The techniques are building blocks of style that enable students to excel in any situation.

Colin Caruso, John Paul Mitchell Systems 

Why I Became an Educator: I saw Robert Cromeans and Stephanie Kocielski present at IBS New York in the early 2000s, and they were so inspiring. My goal became to partner with a company that loved me back, and pay it forward to the next generation of stylists.

Best Part of Teaching: Figuring out how to be a communications expert. We learn a lot from our interactions with students and guests, and that translates to better relationships with friends and family.

Best Advice for Grads: Always be recruiting. If you see a woman with amazing style, offer her a complimentary blow-dry. Be humble but aggressive.

Melody Larissa, Pravana 

Recipe for Success: This quote sums it up: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I’d been doing hair since age 16, but for the longest time I couldn’t find my place in this industry. Pravana feels like family.

My Favorite Class: It’s a tossup between ChormaSilk Color Theory for Beginners, and VIVIDS, which offers a unique hands-on experience.

Importance of Ongoing Education: The day you decide you don’t need continuing education is the day your career ends.

Melissa Johnson, Product Club 

How I Became an Educator: I started in 1998 because I wanted to help raise beauty industry standards by providing access to a higher level of learning.

My Favorite Class: Beyond Basic Foiling—so much more fun than basic foiling!

Best Advice for Grads: It’s not always about the cut or color. Forge connections to make every guest feel special.

Lydia Sarfati, Repechage 

Why I Became an Educator: I recognized a gap in post-license education and proper method instruction, so I launched Repechage in 1980 and opened a skincare academy for continued hands-on training in advanced aesthetics with business-building techniques.

Best Part of Teaching: Being an instructor for over 40 years has allowed me to meet aestheticians from around the world and connect with people who share my passion.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Debunking misinformation. Here’s a big pet peeve: aestheticians offering peels without educating about negative post-sun exposure effects.

Natalia Ferrara, RevitaLash 

Why I Became an Educator: As a native Brit, I was anxious about being well-received by American audiences during my first Premier Orlando stage appearance. But I sold $60,000 worth of color cosmetics in 10 minutes, and found my calling as an international educator.

Recipe for Success: I’m grateful for my early days as a struggling performer and beauty therapist because they taught me discipline, spirituality and determination.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Maintaining my own well-being. In order to give my best to others, I must find ways to manage travel stress and sleep deprivation.

Marlo Steenman, Revlon Professional

My Favorite Class: Curls Gone Wild. It’s my life in a class! As a little girl, I felt uncomfortable with my own hair. This course gives voice to every woman who didn’t feel her curls were beautiful.

Best Advice for Grads: Dress the part. You’re in the beauty industry so represent yourself in the best way possible.

Importance of Ongoing Education: Imagine going to a doctor who got his education 50 years ago and then never learned anything new. It really is that scary.

Takashi Kitamura, Rusk 

Why I Became an Educator: From the start, I wanted to do more than just work behind the chair.

Best Part of Teaching: I love learning something new each time I teach.

My Favorite Class: Hands-on cutting classes let me be side-by-side with attendees so that I can share their excitement as they take their skills to the next level.

Sharon Tranter, Schwarzkopf Professional

Recipe for Success: I don’t allow my inner fear dialogue to stop me from bettering myself each day. Carving out daily time to learn is critical.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Understanding that not everyone is open to learning even though they’re in my class.

Best Advice for Grads: Fifty percent of what you do is technical, and 50 percent is how you make people feel. Human connection is as important as learning to cut or color hair.

Katie Nielsen, Scruples 

Why I Became an Educator: I was originally going to be a high-school music teacher, so teaching is in my blood. Fifteen years ago, I gave a presentation at Haircolor USA and got the beauty bug.

Recipe for Success: You can’t fake it. Genuine interest in helping others is essential.

Best Advice for Grads: Tracking—I know it sounds boring! But track your income and inventory. It’s hard to plan for the future if you don’t know where you are today.

Roshan Tayefemohajer, SEVEN 

Recipe for Success: Have a team mentality: Share and collaborate with other stylists, which I do while holding myself to high technical and professional standards.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Setting boundaries. I love what I do, so saying no is hard.

My Favorite Class: Technical courses offer very clear markers of improvement. Step by step, I can watch participants grow.

Rafe Hardy, Sexy Hair 

How I Became an Educator: While still in beauty school, I discovered I had a knack for sharing information with other students. My instructors encouraged me to seek teaching opportunities with manufacturers.

My Favorite Class: Structure in Motion, the proprietary haircutting system I co-created 20 years ago. It changes how stylists approach both hair design and business.

Best Advice for Grads: Associate with successful, talented people. You can be good, or you can be great; it’s a choice.

Wayne Grund, Surface 

Recipe for Success: Caring about others and developing artistic, business, and personal trainings for success, then presenting them in ways that are easy to understand and implement.

My Favorite Class: Tied between Core Cutting System and Five Keys to Success. Both offer building blocks for how to be a thriving stylist and salon owner.

Importance of Ongoing Education: It’s said that “Knowledge is power”—please know that isn’t true. Knowledge without action brings nothing. Education provides the fuel.

Maria Amodeo, Trissola 

Recipe for Success: My secret sauce has been communication with clients and students, plus consistency in my techniques and brand.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Not being able to clone myself. I teach eight salons or stylists per month, and would love to double that number!

Best Advice for Grads: Stay humble, keep an open mind and follow your passion.

Victoria Thurman Hall, Wella Professionals

Why I Became an Educator: I am someone who has learning disabilities, so throughout my schooling I felt at a disadvantage. I had to work harder and do things differently, until I met that one teacher who hooked me and changed my life.

Recipe for Success: Practice. I own my craft, but I don’t experiment on clients. I never go into a seminar without first thinking through each step.

My Favorite Class: Color Craft Essentials. Teaching the foundation doesn’t sound glamorous, but without a solid base, the rest is guesswork.

Shunta Cromartie, Zotos Professional

Why I Became an Educator: After 20 years behind the chair, I wanted to step outside the salon and share the information I’ve acquired.

Best Part of Teaching: Having others trust me to impart valuable knowledge and wisdom.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Watching people choose to not take advantage of information that could be beneficial.

Alicia Iannone, Hairtalk 

Best Part of Teaching: Changing perspectives. Stylists are often intimidated by extensions, believing they don’t have the correct type of clientele for this service.

Recipe for Success: This industry is a hustle! I’ve never turned down a client.

Importance of Ongoing Education: You literally have free education at your fingertips, via social media. From immediate access to tutorials and influencers’ insight, there’s no excuse not to engage.

Star Rummelt, Natulique 

Recipe for Success: Patience, passion and love for expression.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Balancing the various learning needs of every student.

My Favorite Class: Color Correction. It forces stylists to bend and flex the imagination. Showing how well the color line performs is consistently eye-opening for pros from different brand backgrounds.

Kathy Simon, Neuma 

How I Became an Educator: I was 19 when I got called to the Sassoon Academy to substitute for a teacher who was sick. The first thing I taught was the Acadmey’s Contemporary program.

Best Part of Teaching: My weeks are never the same. I’m in classrooms, developing programs, and then traveling to educate at a show or event.

Best Advice for Grads: Don’t scatter yourself in too many directions. Rather than gain experience, it just makes things confusing.

Melissa Fiorentino, Hotheads 

Best Part of Teaching: Sharing with others something that comes naturally. None of it feels like work to me.

Most Challenging Work Aspect: Staying true to my own style while still trying to keep others happy.

Best Advice for Grads: Be true to yourself. Remain fresh and current.

Joel Calfee, WetBrush 

How I Became an Educator: The salon I worked for in 2008 nominated me to host client evening events to promote a new brand. That opportunity opened a path to education.

Best Part of Teaching: It’s like I know this amazing secret, and I want to share it with everyone I meet! I find myself doing it everywhere I go, and most of the time I’m not aware—it’s innate.

Best Advice for Grads: Early in my career, another stylist and I liked to play a game called “Ten Minute Challenge.” We’d find an upstyle in a lookbook and try to quickly recreate it. Use free time and a mannequin to test Instagram styles, which you may not be able to try on clients.

Sam Villa, Redken 

Why I Became an Educator: My father was a barber. The day he took me to my first Vidal Sassoon hair show was when I realized I wanted to be a platform artist and teacher.

Recipe for Success: Success is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it alludes you. But focus on the task at hand, and success will land softly on your shoulder.

Best Advice for Grads: It’s all about time management. Set that alarm one hour earlier so you can spend it posting work on social media. Successful people do things while others are sleeping.

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