Should all hairdressers be required to get a licence?
You don’t have to go far to find someone who has had a bad experience with a salon or stylist. I myself have suffered with the “It doesn’t look how I thought it would” blues and the “She cut it shorter than I wanted” pains. Some would argue that those experiences are just part of the gamble you take when you choose a new hairstyle and I wouldn’t entirely disagree.
The negative experiences that are most concerning are the ones that occur as a direct result of incompetence on the part of the stylist. I use the word incompetent not as an insult but in its ordinary dictionary definition – Incompetent: lacking qualification or ability; incapable.
So let’s talk about qualifications. Do you really need a qualification to know how to style hair? Isn’t a lot of it creativity and honing your technique which you can do without a qualification?
Being a stylist is undoubtedly a creative occupation but also a very technical one. A job that particularly within the afro hair industry can require the use of harsh chemicals and potentially dangerous equipment. It is also a job that most definitely requires an in depth knowledge of the science of hair.
So with this in mind, would you feel comfortable knowing that your hairdresser or stylist had no qualification or certification of competence?
This for many of us with afro/curly hair is a reality and often not something we pay much attention to. As there is no legal requirement for someone to have a qualification or licence to operate as a hairdresser in most countries, many hairdressers and particularly afro hairdressers have chosen not to. A good proportion of these people have worked successfully and safely for many years without any such documentation – So what’s the issue?
The relationship between a woman and her stylist can be unshakeable, one built on trust and the ability of your stylist to bless your hair with her Midas touch and enable you walk out of the salon feeling like the word fleek was made for you and your hair alone.
It can be a wonderful relationship… until the trust is broken.
Here are some examples of some of the atrocities I’ve come across in my time which have resulted in the complete and utter break down of the sacred relationship:
Serious burns/scars on faces, necks and scalps from curling tongs and straighteners;
Irreparable heat damage caused by inappropriate use of hair dryers and curling tongs and other high heat;
Scalp burns and bald patches from incorrect application of harsh chemical such as relaxers and dye;
Traction alopecia from tight braids, weaves and wigs; and
Looking like a hot mess as a result of the stylist attempting and failing to recreate the photo you showed her.
Reading reviews and speaking to others who have used a particular stylist is of course one way to avoid being in this situation, but wouldn’t it be nice to not have to feel like you were gambling when you chose a hairdresser and to not have that sinking feeling of doubt and/or regret as you place you buttocks into the chair?
I for one would champion the idea of a requirement for hairdressers having to receive a certification of competence before they can practice commercially. A test or assessment which they would have to pass before they could formally render their services to the general public at large. This wouldn’t necessarily have to be for all treatments and hairstyles but at the bare minimum for the ones where the risk of damage to hair and skin is high.
This would give the customer some assurance that the hairdresser has the necessary level of skill; the same type of assurance you get with a bus driver, dental hygienist and most paid for services. It would also hopefully reduce the number of occasions where we sadly fall victim to incompetence.
This is by no means a dig at hairdressers. I salute those have taken the time to perfect their craft, understand their own limitations and understand that hairdressing isn’t only about aesthetics but also about teaching healthy hair practices.
There are many qualified afro hair stylists and specialists out there and others who would easily pass any professional assessment whether or not they have had formal training. Sadly, it is often a case of you get what you pay for, and that we as consumers continue to go for is the cheapest option, which isn’t always the best, and indirectly fuels the idea that being a hairdresser is something that anyone can do. I assure you, it’s not.
Don’t get me wrong, I love saving money – free and cheap are two of my favourite words! Saying that, as with most things in life, we should always consider the balance of quality versus cost and I’m yet to find a deal that is worth me losing all my hair.
I do not propose to stop one from doing their mate’s hair in the comfort of their own home and even charge them if they must. That is very different to deciding to offer your services to the general public, and asserting that you can do something that you may not be sufficiently competent to do.
Unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers and I’m keen to hear your thoughts. Do you think all hairdressers/stylists should be required to be officially certified before they can offer their services?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and experiences.
by Lola @africanremy
01 NOV 2016