A trip to the cosmetologist can feel like going on a relaxing vacation -- you go in feeling a little bedraggled and in need of some tender loving care and after a shampoo, scalp massage and a haircut or different style emerge feeling like a new person. To work her magic, a cosmetologist must be skilled in all facets of hair styling and treatment, have good administrative skills and be comfortable standing for hours at a time.
Hair Styling and Cutting
Of all of her responsibilities, the cosmetologist spends the most time cutting and styling the hair of her clients. Typically, she'll begin a cutting and styling session by discussing the client's style with her. She may, by looking at the client's face shape, features and hair texture, offer her own style suggestions, perhaps showing her client examples from a hairstyle magazine or book. She then uses a variety of styling tools such as scissors, clippers, blow dryers, and curling irons to create the hair in the agreed-upon style. The cosmetologist may also shape her clients' eyebrows and remove facial hair and for male clients, shave them and trim their mustaches and beards.
Hair Coloring and Other Treatments
Part of creating a new hairstyle might involve a color or texture change and the cosmetologist is well-versed in using special treatments to make this happen. Permanent waves or "perms", colors, tints and frosts, and keratin and other conditioning treatments are all a part of the cosmetologist's styling repertoire. Most treatments are chemical-based and the cosmetologist must know how products may interact with one another and most importantly, how to carefully handle and apply each treatment to ensure her and her client's safety.
Advising the Client
Besides being an artist of sorts, a cosmetologist also acts as an adviser. To help her client create their hairstyle on their own at home, the cosmetologist offers tips on how to brush, dry and style the hair and may recommend styling products and ideas on how to use them. If the client has an uncomfortable or unsightly scalp, hair or skin condition the cosmetologist may refer the client to a dermatologist or doctor, so a good cosmetologist will recognize the symptoms of the most common conditions so she can make the appropriate recommendations.
Maintaining Health and Safety Standards
Regardless of the type of service the cosmetologist provides, the safety of her client must be her top priority; if she doesn't pay careful attention to the way she maintains the tools that she uses on clients, she could put a client at risk for infection. As a result, the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology has set stringent standards regarding the type of cleaning solutions that the cosmetologist use in disinfecting her tools, and standards for how newly-cleaned tools be stored. The cosmetologist must also follow take specific actions should she accidentally wound a client -- besides providing first aid to the client, she must follow special blood spill procedures to protect herself and any other clients from exposure to the blood.
Part of successfully running a cosmetology business involves taking care of the related administrative tasks. The cosmetologist must respond to clients' phone calls, schedule appointments and handle such bookkeeping duties as recording sales and making bank deposits. She may use a computer to manage her financial records. As she may sell beauty products to customers and certainly uses a lot of products in her daily work, she must keep an eye on these supplies and order replacements when needed. Sweeping, doing laundry and organizing her work station are an ongoing part of her daily work.
Since 1995, Jan White has written instructional pieces in the areas of career development, higher education, and accounting and finance. She utilizes her professional expertise as a career counselor in writing and editing career-related articles online. She has a master's degree in career development from JFK University and a bachelor's degree in business administration from Concordia College.