Hairstyling School: Where Science & Art Collide

Hairstyling and makeup client preparing for a wedding

Interested in learning more about hairstyling school? Did you know that both science and art play a role in cosmetology? From pH balance to hair anatomy, science plays a significant role in hairstyling. Whether you are considering a new hair color or using intuitive improvisation, hairstyling is an artistic expression.

Science of Hairstyling

Science is probably not something that you immediately think of when you think about how you wear your hair. Hairstyling is certainly a cosmetology profession, but that doesn’t mean that it is purely superficial. Expressing personal style through a hairstyle requires some scientific knowledge. With just a little bit of science know-how you can help bring any hair fashion to life with surprising precision. Here are some of the ways science plays a part throughout this creative career.

The Effects of pH Balance on Hairstyling

The pH scale is used to measure how acidic or alkaline something is and uses a scale from 0-14. Measurements between 0-6.9 register as acidic. Substances that measure 7.1-14 are considered alkaline, which leaves 7 as the neutral point. Hair is typically on the more acidic side of the scale. It usually measures a pH somewhere between 4.5-5.5. This acidity helps by keeping fungi and bacteria to a minimum and helps to keep cuticles healthy. Making sure that your hair or your client’s hair has the proper pH balance is critical to keeping hair healthy enough to style as many ways as possible.

Hair Anatomy and Growth Patterns

Understanding how hair grows as well as understanding the direction of hair growth can be the difference between styling success and style struggle. You will likely come across clients that look to you for tips on stimulating hair growth as a part of their long-term styling goals. They may want your opinion on products or home remedies, or hair growth tools they have seen advertised. They may ask you if there are any professional treatments that can help facilitate their hair growth. The point is that you will need to be informed about the anatomy and growth cycle of hair in order to give them helpful advice and meaningful recommendations.

The direction and density of hair growth both affect how hair should be cut, how color will present once it is dyed and dried, and whether the hairstyle will cooperate with certain styling techniques. There can be swirling growth patterns as well as hair loss patterns that need to be considered before styling decisions are made. Familiarizing yourself with the way your client’s hair grows can take you from fumbling to effective.

The Physics of Styling Hair

There are different reasons that a client might ask you to style their hair. They may have a special occasion they are attending or working on a project such as a photo or video shoot. Whatever the case, styling hair for these elevated moments means knowing how to provide a variety of styles that can stand up under various conditions. For example, if you are styling someone’s hair for an outdoor event you should consider how wind and other elements might affect your work. You will also need to know how different textures of hair lay when you cut, curl, straighten or braid them. Basic physics may not seem like a science that applies to the hairstyling, but any good stylist takes it into consideration.

Chemistry and Coloring Hair

Knowing how to change the color of hair means beginning with the basic knowledge of how hair is naturally colored in the first place. Eumelanin and phaeomelanin are the proteins responsible for the color expression of hair. The more eumelanin in your hair the more brown or black it will be. If you have more phaeomelanin you will have more of a gold or red color. The combination of these proteins will help determine what chemical approach you will use to change a client’s hair color. You will need to know how to remove the natural color from hair before you can successfully transform it with new color(s).

A process called oxidation is typically how this is done. There are several ways you can do this but the most common within the industry uses either ammonia or peroxide as the oxidation agent. Then you will need to know what ratio of dye or synthetic pigment the newly color-stripped hair should absorb. Combining and mixing these dyes to produce the right colors means precise ratios of various ingredients and pigment. Chemistry is an exact science, even in the hair world.

Art of Hairstyling

Art is a difficult thing to define, but we often know it when we see it. Art can be something meaningful that resonates with you or simply something you find visually memorable. Expression through fashion and personal style can be empowering and moving for the people how wear it and the people who see it. Complicated hairstyles are worth pursuing if they help express personality and creativity. It is certainly important for any hairstylist to have a scientific understanding of their profession if they want any kind of long-term success in the field. However, there is simply nothing that can replace creativity and artistic vision when it comes to beauty and hair. Here are some of ways that art influences and informs hairstyling.

Color Choices

The color palette of any artist is the foundation of their masterpiece. It is the easiest way to grab attention visually and direct the eyes in whatever way they want them to go. A strategic flash of bright color can make a bold statement in a subtle way. Blended color, transitional color schemes and ombre fades can be both understated and captivating all at the same time. Fully saturated color is a loud, unapologetic look that grabs gazes no matter where you are. What colors you choose, the shades of those colors, how much color you use, and where you put that color is all part of you and your client’s collective artistic vision. However, as with all art, in the end the artistic success or failure of a hair coloring job is up to interpretation.

Structure and Sculpting

Different cuts and styling techniques can help give hair different shapes. They can also provide different textures and effects when applied correctly. This can happen through diminishing or increasing the perceived volume of the hair by cutting it in a certain way. So, if you want to give hair an asymmetrical look you could make one side appear to be fuller than the other. Styling techniques such as straightening, and curling can also have an effect on how the structure of the hairstyle appears.

There is more to styling hair as a professional than the obvious, everyday artistic expressions through a client’s daily hairstyle. There are also uniquely creative opportunities within the industry to expand and exercise your visionary artistic hairstyling skills. There are hair shows, fashion shows, photo shoots, music videos and cinematic hairstyling opportunities to name a few. These are platforms where you can feel more comfortable putting your hair sculpting talents on full display without the restraint often required from salon work. Being innovative, daring, unusual, and even provocative in your stylings can help you distinguish yourself in the professional hair community. It may even get you recognized for other creative opportunities in the future. Having a steady, dependable salon job doesn’t mean that you can’t seek out the appropriate platforms for artistic expression and experimentation, too. It is also important to keep in mind that if the opportunities for this kind of edgy art aren’t available, you can always think about making your own opportunities to showcase your artistic talents.

All-Around Presentation

The style of someone’s hair is just one of the many components of their hairstyling and fashion art. Personal style expression can make every one of us feel creative and artistic in a way that uniquely identifies to us. However, being a hair professional means that you must help people achieve that unique artistic visions. If you hope to be a hairstylist who does this well, you will try to always look at the whole picture. Seeing and understanding how your hairstyles will interact with and affect other style elements is crucial to the success of the entire look or project.

If you are helping someone look their best by styling their hair for a special event you may consider what kind of event it is, what they will be wearing and where the event is being held. If you are the hairstylist on a project such as a photo shoot you will have to consider the lighting, set, and the mobility of the model before deciding on an artistic direction for the hair. Being able to pull back and look at your part in the bigger artistic picture as a hair artist is extremely important. It allows you to demonstrate your ability to work with, not against, other artists to help create a cohesive aesthetic.

Intuitive Improvisation

Hairstyling can easily be compared to other visual art forms. Sculpting and painting come to mind for many because of the hands-on similarities in the art forms. What you may not know is that hairstyling shares similarities with other art forms, as well. Hairstyling can be a lot like live performance art. As with art forms like stage acting and live music, hairstyling doesn’t always go as planned. Even when you have planned, practiced and prepared there is still always a chance that something unexpected will happen and throw your art into chaos. It will be your creative intuition and ability to improvise using various techniques that will allow you to thrive and succeed in these surprising and often stressful situations. Preparation, practice, and planning can help you avoid a great deal of difficulty. However, you are going to need some live performance skills that help you perform gracefully under the spotlight, even when the unthinkable happens.

Want to Learn More?

Did learning about what you will learn in hairstyling school interest you? Need to get your undergraduate certificate in cosmetology? At Minnesota School of Cosmetology, we are dedicated to helping our Cosmetology program students develop a solid foundation and a flair for style through hands-on training in basic and advanced industry techniques. You will learn how to cut, color and style hair, give manicures and pedicures, provide spa treatments and perform various skin care techniques from industry-experienced instructors in a professional salon setting. We keep our class sizes small to make sure you get the individualized instruction you need and attention you deserve. You will graduate with everything you need to be a versatile artist in an exciting industry, including a cosmetology diploma from a respected college.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a hairstylist and starting a rewarding career in the beauty industry.

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