How to Become a Professional Hairstylist

Professional hairstylist holding a hairdryer

Everyone wants to put their best foot forward, especially at work or while attending a special event. For this reason, many clients book appointments with professional hairstylists and cosmetologists to enhance their appearance and boost their self-confidence.

Hairstyling is a fun and lucrative field which allows licensed cosmetologists to use their skills to help clients improve their personal appearance. Read on to discover more about this exciting career field, as well as what it takes to become a professional hairstylist.

How Do You Become a Professional Hairstylist?

To become a professional hairstylist and work with clients, you must first attend and successfully complete a cosmetology program. Upon graduation, it is required to obtain a license to work with clients in a professional capacity.

How Long is a Cosmetology Program?

Attending a cosmetology program full time takes as little as eleven months to complete the required coursework. Then, you would be ready to take the license exam and become certified if you choose.

What Does a Professional Hairstylist Do?

One of the benefits of becoming a professional hairstylist, is the sheer number of services that you can specialize in and offer clients. The following are some of the most common services provided by professional hairstylists.

Wet Hairstyling

Wet hairstyling is the technique used to cut down on frizz and help hold the style throughout the day. Although most people are familiar with the idea of applying moose, hairspray and other treatments into damp hair, many hairstylists apply product to hair that is completely soaked. This technique helps to hold the style throughout the day and creates hair that looks sleek, shiny, and healthy. Many hairstylists offer this service to their clients, especially if they have a special event which requires a style that will last through the evening.

Finger Waving

Finger waving is a styling technique that was popular throughout the 1920s and has steadily gained popularity again during the last few decades. This technique involves shaping and molding the hair into a distinctive pattern that resembles the letter “S.” Hairstylists use a particular type of hair gel to create this look, as well as their fingers and a comb.

Pin & Roller Curls

Often considered one of the oldest styling techniques, pin curls are set by clips to create cascading spiraled ringlets and romantic waves. It is important to choose a high-quality setting cream to allow the curls to set for at least twenty minutes, depending on the length of hair. This style is often requested by brides for their wedding day. Pin curls work with any length or hair texture and are a fun way to spice up a client’s look.

Rollers create a softer and wavier curl than pin curls. They are available in a variety of sizes and can create a tighter curl or accentuate the client’s natural curl pattern. While rollers often come in Velcro or foam options, Velcro works best in a salon since it is easy to use and can set faster.


Blow dry styling and blowouts are popular services that hairstylists provide their clients. If done correctly, a blowout style can last for as long as five days with proper maintenance and care. Blowouts can take as little as forty-five minutes, and are achieved using a professional ceramic blow dryer, a diffuser nozzle, a high-quality boar bristle brush, and a heat styling aid to protect the hair. Professional blowouts leave a client’s hair looking sleek, shiny, and healthy.

Hot Tools

Flatironing is a popular salon service that uses a heated ceramic iron to straighten a client’s hair, leaving it soft and smooth. Depending on the client, a flatiron may be a better choice than a blowout to achieve a perfectly straight ‘do. Other times, a blowout can be performed and the hair can be finished with a few swipes of a flatiron.

Curling wands give straight hair more volume, allowing a stylist to create large and dramatic curls or looser beach waves in a matter of minutes. To know the best way to achieve a client’s desired look, it’s important to look at the texture of their hair. This will help determine the size and heat setting to use on the wand.


There are many types of braiding services that hairstylists can provide. Depending on the type of braid requested, a hairstylist will either use their client’s natural hair to achieve the desired look, or they can incorporate synthetic hair to create looks like box braids or other protective styles. Additionally, hairstylists can provide French braids, plait braids, rope braids, lattice braids, and a variety of other popular braiding styles.

Wigs and Hair Extensions

Many clients desire extra length. However, they may have issues growing their natural hair. Wigs and hair extensions are a popular alternative for those who would like longer hair but cannot grow it naturally. Wigs and extensions are often sewn in and considered a semi-permanent option which can be taken out or altered every six to eight weeks. With extensions, the client can choose partial or full extensions to achieve their preferred look. Wigs and extensions can take anywhere from two to six hours to apply, depending on the look the client desires.

Hair Coloring Services

Hair coloring involves the use of chemical dyes and activating agents to permanently alter the client’s hair color. Salons offer a variety of coloring services, including highlights, bailage, full color, root touch-up, and other specialty coloring services. Hairstylists also provide color corrective services for clients who may have had undesirable results from an “at home” box dye. Depending on the client’s hair color, coloring services can take several appointments spread throughout a few weeks to achieve the desired look.


Many full-scale salons offer facial services as an “add on” experience to a client’s appointment. While in cosmetology school, hairstylists will learn how to identify a client’s skin type, as well as which facial services are recommended for each skin type. Facials use a sheet mask or topical treatment designed to address a client’s particular issues (diminish the signs of aging, reduce redness, eliminate acne, improve hydration, decrease pore size, or restore texture).

Professional Makeup

Whether it’s a bride’s special day or a festive night out, everyone wants to look and feel beautiful for their special event. Professional hairstylists receive steady work throughout the year, however, business increases during certain seasons. During wedding and prom season, hairstylists often provide many additional services to help their clients prepare for their big day.

Professional makeup application has become one of the most requested services offered by hairstylists, especially since certain looks can be hard to achieve, especially if a client is unfamiliar with makeup application techniques. Hairstylists provide a wide range of looks, and clients often come to their appointment with a good idea of what they are looking for. Hairstylists perfect a variety of techniques while in cosmetology school, including contouring, bronzer application, smoky eye looks, bold lips, and other show stopping trends.

Manicures and pedicures

While most services provided by professional hairstylists involve working with a client’s hair, some hairstylists may prefer offering additional services to expand their clientele and add variety to their salon. Many clients prefer a “one stop shop” type of experience and enjoy the ability to receive their hair care services, facials, professional makeup application, and manicures all in one place, without spending hours driving around town. During their cosmetology program, hairstylists learn the basics of providing a high-quality professional manicure and pedicure, including shaping, filing, buffing, changing polish, and providing additional nail treatments.

Where Does a Professional Hairstylist Work?

Professional hairstylists can work in a variety of settings and enjoy flexible hours. While many hairstylists prefer to work at local salons or national franchises, there are others who take a different route and work at spas or luxury hotels. Some hairstylists eventually go on to open their own salons, or even perform house calls to bring the salon experience to a client’s home.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a professional hairstylist is a great opportunity for creative people to enjoy a career with a wide variety of benefits. By taking the first step and enrolling in a professional cosmetology program, you will be well on your way to a wonderfully fulfilling career path that enhances the lives of others.

Want to Learn More?

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.

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

Find out what Minnesota School of Cosmetology can do for you

10-month Cosmetology Diploma |

13-Month Massage Therapy Diploma |

5-Month Esthiology Diploma

By checking the box below, you are giving your express written consent for Minnesota School of Cosmetology to contact you regarding our programs and services using email, telephone, or text - including our use of automated technology for calls and periodic texts to any wireless number you provide. Message and data rates may apply. This consent is not required to purchase goods/services and you may always call us directly at 651-432-4635.

Yes, you may send texts to this number

  View Privacy Policy

Submitting this form constitutes your consent to be contacted by email and/or phone from a representative of the school.