What Are the Typical Duties of a Cosmetologist?

Cosmetologist performing her typical duties of drying a clients hair.

Do you like helping your family and friends with their hair? Enjoy watching YouTube videos about beauty? Then, becoming a cosmetologist might be the right career path for you. A cosmetologist is a beauty professional that’s licensed to provide beauty care services to their clients. While there are many duties of a cosmetologist, they may receive training to work exclusively in one area or in a salon that provides an array of different services to clients.

Cosmetologists must complete a training program and earn a diploma from a vocational school to prepare for a state’s cosmetology license exam. Most cosmetology classes prepare students for their state’s licensing exam. As a result, cosmetologists must hold a license from the state to become a licensed cosmetologist.

What Does A Cosmetologist Do?

The origin of the term cosmetologist is from the Greek language. Translated, it means to beautify. The main elements of cosmetology are hair, nails and makeup. Depending on the career path you pursue, the duties at a salon can vary from one day to the next. Cosmetologists are known for their skill in hair care. They learn an array of techniques for cutting, styling, and coloring hair during a cosmetology program. Each element of cosmetology is an essential part of what makes a great cosmetologist. The main elements of a cosmetologist’s job include hairstyling, haircutting, hair coloring, shampooing, nail care, pedicures, manicures, facials, makeup, and wig cutting and cleaning.

Duty #1: Hairstyling

Cosmetologists understand that a beautiful or elegant style says a lot about a client’s character and personality. It can improve their client’s self-esteem. Furthermore, the style of a person’s hair can influence other people’s first impressions. Here are some of the styling tips you will learn during your ten-year as a cosmetologist:

  • Multiple shampoos may be needed. At a salon, the cosmetologist usually washes the client’s hair twice. The first shampoo is to loosen any buildup on the hair shafts. Following, the second shampoo is to give the hair and scalp a thorough cleaning.
  • For anyone who’s blonde or has blonde highlights, cosmetologists often recommend a clarifying shampoo for at-home use. The ingredients in the shampoo bring out the highlights and give it a shinier and brighter appearance.
  • When the hair is damaged from the sun or products that are too harsh, cosmetologists use moisturizing hair masks to provide the nutrition it needs to make it healthier.
  • The perfect haircut should last anywhere from two and a half to four months. A cosmetologist should be able to manage the density and length of the hair, so it doesn’t have to be cut more frequently.
  • A great cosmetologist can customize a cut to the preferences of their client. They can better understand how to cut a client’s hair if the client explains what they don’t like rather than what they want.
  • Cosmetologists usually recommend that their clients have their hair trimmed approximately every ten weeks, or a little sooner if their hair grows out faster. A trim gets rid of the split ends and allows the hair to grow.

Duty #2: Haircutting Techniques

Cutting hair involves different techniques depending on the client’s preferences. Cosmetologists learn haircutting techniques as part of their training. Professional cosmetologists may suggest a specific style to a client that enhances their facial features or gives their hair more body. The most popular techniques for cutting hair are graduated, layering, point cutting, slicing, slide cutting, and razor cutting.

Graduated – used to achieve an inverted bob-style. The cosmetologist cuts the hair gradually from a longer length in the front to a shorter length in the back. The cut works well on hair of medium thickness. However, it’s not recommended for very thick hair because it creates a lot of volume.

Layering – one of the most commonly used hair cutting techniques. Layering the hair is an excellent way to add texture and volume to thin hair and keep thick hair under control. Layered cuts are a versatile way to add emphasis to any hairstyle.

Point Cutting – a technique that cosmetologists use to soften the appearance of a blunt cut. This kind of cut can be used on all hair types, from thin to thick.

Slicing – also known as feathering, gives the hair more texture with a feathered appearance. This cut can be used on all thicknesses of hair.

Slide Cutting – a technique that’s used on thick or naturally curly hair because it gives the curls more definition. The slide cut eliminates some of the weight of thick hair and gives facial features a softer appearance.

Razor Cut – adds movement and bounce to the hair, so it has the appearance of being fuller. This type of cut also gives the facial features a softer look.

Duty #3: Hair Coloring

One way to achieve an entirely new look is with a new hair color. One of the duties of a cosmetologist is to advise their clients on the best type of color for their hair. When a client wants to change the color of their hair or add highlights, a good rule of thumb is to consider the client’s eye color and skin tone. The hair color can make or break the look a client wants to achieve.

Anyone who has blue eyes and a light complexion can achieve a dynamic look with colors that have a dominant warm tone. On the other hand, if the client’s complexion is on the rosy side, warmer tones will give the complexion a red tinge. A blonde looks great during the summer months with bright highlights but may want a little more depth and color in the winter to avoid the washed-out look.

A cosmetologist has the training to educate clients on the right color for their hair. Here are the hair coloring techniques that cosmetologists use and the effect they have on a client’s hair, They include balayage, baby highlights, ombre, sombre, splashlights, and silver blonde.


Balayage – a process that involves sweeping or painting highlights on the surface of the hair, so it has a sun-bleached appearance that looks natural as it grows out.

Baby Blonde or Baby Light Highlights – a very subtle highlight that involves coloring small strands of hair to give it the appearance of highlights children have in their hair when they’re very young.

Ombre and Sombre – techniques that involve creating contrasting shades of darker hair at the roots and lighter highlights at the ends.

Splashlights – involve dyeing a section of the hair a vibrant color while the sections above and below are a color that’s similar to the client’s natural hair color.

Silver Blonde – one of the most popular new methods of coloring hair. The hair is dyed to a nearly white shade followed by a rinse of purple toner to remove yellowish tones in the hair. Then the cosmetologist applies a mixture of grey hair dye, depending on the look the client wishes to achieve.

Duty #4: Shampooing

Shampooing the hair is one of the duties of a cosmetologist. Some cosmetologists shampoo the hair before they do the haircut, so they’re working on a clean scalp and hair. Other cosmetologists prefer to cut the hair dry and then wash and style the hair. It may depend on the cut and personal preferences.

Duty #5: Nail Care, Pedicures, and Manicures

Other cosmetologist duties is to perform manicures and pedicures. The cosmetologist must be skillful in shaping and trimming nails. They can be creative in decorating a client’s nails with gems, glitter, varnish, and transfers. Another of the ways a cosmetologist can decorate the nails is by using an airbrush technique. Cosmetologists should be knowledgeable and advise clients about the proper care of their nails and hands.

Duty #6: Facials and Makeup

Clients may request facials to improve the appearance of their skin. Cosmetologists require training to properly care for the client’s skin and use products to achieve that goal. One of the services cosmetologists provide for their clients is applying makeup. Many clients schedule appointments with their salon before special events like photo shoots, proms, and weddings. Many brides even plan pre-wedding photo-ops before the big day, and everything must be perfect.

Duty #7: Wig Cutting and Cleaning

A client who wears a wig should always have a cosmetologist clean and cut their wig. The client doesn’t have the training to do a proper cut, and the wig may end up with a choppy appearance or even be ruined. Special hair products are designed for use on wigs, and a cosmetologist can advise on the most appropriate products to use.

Additional Duties of a Cosmetologist

A cosmetologist has other duties and responsibilities in addition to traditional hairstyling, cutting and nail care. These are duties that are typically learned during a cosmetology program and include sales of products and services, setting appointments, creating a clientele, and managing light accounting, to name a few.

Duty #8: Sales of Products and Services

Many vocational cosmetology programs will teach students proper sales techniques and small business management. This is important because cosmetologists may get a commission based on the number of products and services they offer their clients. It’s essential to keep up with the newest trends.

Duty #9: Setting Appointments

Cosmetologists that work in salons are responsible for setting and canceling appointments and taking payments from clients. As part of their duties, they must also keep the front desk area clean and make sure their workstation and all the equipment they use is sanitized.

Duty #10: Creating a Clientele

One of the essential aspects of working in cosmetology is building a clientele. For a salon to flourish, the cosmetologist must spend time building their clientele. This takes time but it’s worth it when there are repeat clients and customer referrals. Being proactive is one of the most effective ways to build a business.

Duty #11: Managing Light Accounting

Although most of the duties of a cosmetologist revolve around providing services for their clients, they must have the management skills to handle the finances of the salon. Keeping a record of supplies, re-ordering, and keeping on top of the cash flow are all essential. QuickBooks can come in handy when managing light accounting for a salon or small business.

Final Thoughts

A successful cosmetologist must be detail-oriented and listen actively to their clients. The goal is to give the client a look they want. Excellent customer service is what will keep clients coming back. Have confidence when advising clients on their hair and makeup, especially if they’re uncertain about trying something new, is essential. Keep up with the latest hair and makeup products and be creative, especially when a client is preparing for a special event. Becoming a cosmetologist is challenging but are helping others daily if you have a sense of pride in what you do. Cosmetology is more than a job, it is a rewarding career.

Did learning about the typical duties of a cosmetologist 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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