Many salon owners know offering services that cater to people experiencing hair loss or thinning hair can grow and sustain their client base. However, you can’t offer the services unless you have stylists who can deliver them.
Stylists who choose to further their education in these HAIR+ specialty areas can be valuable assets to salons and, more importantly, to their clients. Industry experts offer an overview and suggestions for stylists looking to progress their education and career.
Personality: Compassionate, studious, self-starter
Where to find education: Trade shows, online certification programs. Programs through the International Association of Trichologists combine at-home study and education with in-person clinical training, all culminating in a test that you must pass to become certified.
Adjacent specialty: Extensions
A few years ago, Karen Gordon was ready to take her career to the next level. She realized that many of her clients were experiencing hair loss, and she knew there was more she could do for them.
“I felt really ill-equipped to give them the answers they needed,” Gordon says.
In response, Gordon began working toward becoming a certified trichologist through the International Association of Trichologists (IAT). Trichology is the study of the scalp and hair. It’s a scientific approach to understanding scalp and hair concerns.
Stylists who are interested in trichology must be compassionate. It takes a caring stylist to work best with clients who are losing their hair, which can be a personal and emotional ordeal.
“Hairdressers are nurturers by nature,” Gordon says. Having that nurturing personality helps clients to feel more comfortable in your chair, and they are more likely to return to you because you made them feel at ease.
Gordon encourages those studying and practicing trichology to connect with others in the specialty area. Trichology is still a somewhat isolated specialty in the United States.
“It can be a lonely sport because it’s a growing and emerging field,” Gordon says.
She encourages stylists to attend the HAIR+ Summit to find other trichologists in the field in order to build community. Stylists who specialize in trichology might also be interested in extensions, as they can serve as a solution for the hair loss or thinning that trichologists identify.
Above all, Gordon’s advice for salon professionals interested in trichology is to do your research to learn more. Go online to learn about what certification programs entail, and decide if you have the time and resources to dedicate to those programs.
“If you’re not sure if you want to go whole route, try shorter courses or attend classes and seminars at trade shows,” Gordon says.
Personality: Creative, confident, detail-oriented
Where to find education: Through manufacturers, at trade shows
Adjacent specialties: Hair restoration, wigs
A client can turn to extensions for a number of reasons: wanting thicker hair, replacing hair that has been lost or any other variety of concerns. Stylists who choose to specialize in extensions can offer solutions for clients looking to create a new or updated image with their hair.
Brent Hardgrave, extensionist and creator of the Brent Brush (designed so clients with extensions could have the proper tool to brush their hair and maintain the life of their extensions) says that stylists working with extensions have to be confident and need to let clients know they care. This will build trust and camaraderie with the client.
Specializing in extensions requires attention to detail. It’s imperative for stylists to educate themselves on how to apply the products in which clients are investing. Most manufacturers have educational information readily available for stylists.
For example, Hardgrave is an artistic educational ambassador with Aqua Hair Extensions and is featured in online videos that are accessible to stylists.
Extensions allow stylists to help clients reinvent their appearance, and adding them can change a person’s life.
“The moment when you see a person feel beautiful again, they stand up straighter, their eyes open up—it’s a metamorphosis,” Hardgrave says. “It’s not just about hair. They can love themselves again.”
COLORING THINNING HAIR
Personality: Problem-solver, empathetic
Where to find education: Through manufacturers, independent classes
Adjacent specialty: Trichology
Case study: Sheila Wilson, owner of Master Design Salon & Wellness Studio in Memphis, TN
Sheila Wilson has been in the salon industry for more than 40 years. As a hair colorist, her priority is ensuring the integrity of hair.
When clients come to Wilson and want to color their thinning hair, she treats it like a mathematical equation.
“You have to know in the beginning where you’re heading,” Wilson says. “You know where you are, you know where the client wants to go; now you have to figure out how to get there.”
There are tricks to coloring thin hair so it appears full and healthy. Use a variety of tones to create dimension, and pay attention to the pH level of the color.
Stylists who want to specialize in coloring thin hair must be sensitive to their clients’ emotions. People experiencing hair loss will come to you upset about hair loss and looking for color that will help reduce the appearance of thinning. Colorists must be empathetic and able to comfort clients experiencing these emotions.
Wilson encourages stylists to ask manufacturers questions to better understand the color products they use.
“How does it really work?” Wilson says. “How does it affect the integrity of the hair? Can it be removed easily if they don’t like it?”
Getting answers to these questions allows colorists to reassure their client that they are in good hands, and ultimately, the client will leave feeling confident both in their stylist and in their new look.
WORKING WITH WIGS
Personality: Passionate, patient, problem-solver
Where to find education: Through manufacturers, from other wig experts
Adjacent specialties: Extensions, hair restoration
Case study: Linda DiFronzo, owner of Hair for You in Highland Park, IL
If you’re a stylist considering expanding your selection of services, Linda DiFronzo, owner of Hair For You, says the need for wig specialists is huge.
Before moving to Illinois to open her own wig salon, DiFronzo was cutting wigs at a salon in south Florida and learned from other experts. She’s confident that she’s one of the best wig specialists out there, and she’s now licensed to teach other stylists.
The key to working with wig clients is remembering every case is unique. No head is the same size, and no client’s needs are the same. DiFronzo likens the intricate process to fit each of her clients with their wigs to hand-tailoring a pair of pants.
Fit is incredibly important because DiFronzo says a client won’t wear it unless it looks natural. Wigs might need to be re-fitted after weight changes or hair loss.
“You have to care enough that you’ll do whatever it takes to make it look good on them, whether it takes 10 minutes or 14 hours,” DiFronzo says.
Patience is essential for wig specialists for that very reason. Although it can take hours to craft the perfect wig or hair piece for a client, the end result makes it worthwhile.
Hair loss is an emotional experience, but being able to create a hair piece that clients love is rewarding.
“Hair helps with the healing process, no matter the background behind the hair loss,” DiFronzo says.