First, if you haven’t seen The Reset yet, go watch it right now. Seriously, right now. Until you have, you won’t understand what I’m referring to in this post. Go on. I’ll wait.

I’ve been asked (and by “asked” I mean “hounded”) for my assessment of the documentary. Here it is. I have lots of words, and not all of them are nice.

The Reset is broken into several categories. I’ll be addressing each in order.

I. EDUCATION

“Beauty school right now is broken.”
-David Thurston, Salon Owner, Founder of Butterfly Circus (Encino, CA)

“If you’re going to school to be a hairdresser, you should be studying hairdressing.”
-Laura Boton, Salon owner, Stylist (Chicago, IL)

“If beauty school went the way that it should go, it should take about three months.”
-Wendy Maddox, Former stylist, Small business owner (Los Angeles, CA)

The first segment of The Reset tackles beauty education, with commentary criticizing the wide-ranging state standards and the curriculum’s focus on outdated, irrelevant information. These are statements most of us can agree with.

On the surface, Wendy Maddox’s three month time frame for cosmetology school completion may seem absurd, but I don’t believe it is, if it’s approached the right way.

A few years ago, I wrote an article for publication regarding ways we could restructure beauty education. In it, I suggested several things:

  1. National Standardization and Regulations: A no-brainer. Each state should have the same licensing and education requirements, and identical cosmetology regulations. Licensees should not be restricted from practicing by state borders.
  2. Expanding Continuing Education for License Renewal: When your license becomes due for renewal, that packet should not only cover AIDS/HIV, bacteriology, and chemical theory, but should also include the IRS’s Guide to the Cosmetology and Barbering Industry, and an FLSA handbook. We know wage theft and misclassification are rampant issues in this industry, so we should be taking steps to ensure professionals know their rights.
  3. Module Education: A module-based education system would allow beauty professionals to spread out their education. Certain modules would be required as a prerequisite to others, and competency in each would be determined by both written theory tests and hands-on practical exams. This would allow professionals to customize their career tracks.

To start, professionals would be required to complete 40-60 hours of “core” education, which would include employee rights, public safety, personal protection, professional behavior, and basic assistant-level skills (like shampooing).

From there, professionals could choose to take modules on natural hair care (cutting, styling, braiding), natural nail care (basic manicures and pedicures), basic esthetics (excluding chemical peels, dermabrasion, machine facials, and the use of faradic/galvanic).

After a short apprenticeship and exam, professionals who feel confident enough to do so would be able to take other modules to further expand their skills (taking modules on chemical hair services, nail enhancement technologies, or advanced esthetic techniques), or they could continue to specialize in their current roles as natural stylists, nail techs, or estheticians.

Senior licensees who oversee these apprentices would be required to ensure their competency. There would have to be a checks and balances system in place to ensure apprentices have access to a wealth of reputable senior licensees, and aren’t mistreated or used (as some are in Michigan, which licenses via apprenticeship).

To me, this system makes sense. It allows professionals to get their core education without spending tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of their time in schools that may not adequately educate them. It puts them into salons where they can learn under proper direction, and gives them time to attain competency in the basics before diving into more advanced topics. They won’t be learning concepts they won’t be using, and by spacing out their education, we’ll eliminate the epidemic of extreme student and private loan debt many professionals accrue during their time in school.

To be clear, I absolutely do not regret my education. I graduated from a private Pivot Point academy and felt very well-prepared for my career. As both a student and later as an educator, I see tremendous value in a thorough, proper education. Unfortunately, my experience was an exception. The process through which our education is delivered could definitely use radical change.

Moving on…

“If we could license our students. They go through our program and we qualify them…”
-Zak Mascolo, Creative Director, Americas, Toni & Guy

The problem with Zak’s solution is that it exacerbates the original problem, which is that beauty schools are operating as nothing more than diploma factories, churning out unqualified or severely underqualified graduates so they can collect grants, loans, and federal aid money. Unethical schools will abuse the privilege to license their own graduates, as nail schools did in Florida (which, for some ass-backwards reason still permits schools to administer state board examinations themselves, without the oversight of a neutral, unaffiliated proctor).

I’d love to live in a world where all beauty school owners share Toni & Guy’s commitment to providing quality education and producing spectacular graduates, but that’s definitely not our reality right now.

“The PBA have been fighting a losing battle for years because we as hairdressers don’t give them any support.”

“The only way we can change it is if we’re a unified industry. So that if it’s salon owners and school owners, manufacturers–we have the most impact of any industry and yet we haven’t come together to drive a common agenda.”
-Reuben Carranza, Board Chairman of the PBA

I completely agree that we have to be unified, but disagree that salon owners, school owners, and manufacturers have the most impact. Professionals vastly outnumber these entities, and the direct involvement of even one quarter of them in each of their respective states would make a tremendous, immediate difference, which brings me to my major complaint with The Reset.

The general theme of The Reset is that we need to work together “as a unified industry,” but the last time I checked, this “industry” didn’t revolve solely around stylists.

To exclude or fail to include professionals from all facets of the business doesn’t serve the movement. Personally, I found myself irritated by the fact that nail technicians and estheticians weren’t included in the dialogue. I’m tired of people in this business pretending they don’t exist. It’s demoralizing and marginalizing to act as if the struggles they face aren’t our struggles also, especially when the earning potential of hairdressers so far exceeds the earning potential of other professionals in the industry.

Until all beauty professionals are recognized, respected, and included, this industry will always be a house divided.

II. TECHNOLOGY

It’s not all doom and gloom. This portion of the documentary is entirely on point. Stylists have to maintain control of their retail. With so many companies selling out, stylists have to find new ways to compete.

In terms of marketing and salon management, the tools technology has afforded us have immense value. Salon owners who fail to recognize that value or take advantage of it do so at their own peril.

III. BUSINESS MODELS

“Hairdressers are becoming more independent, and they’re moving increasingly towards a non-commission business model.”

I completely agree with Kathy Hawken, State Representative of North Dakota. While some professionals excel independently, overall this fragmentation is not a positive for the beauty industry whatsoever.

However, I take tremendous offense to Wendy Maddox’s disdainful commentary, comparing lease salons to “somebody popping open a nail shop or something.” Seriously, what the fuck do you people have against nail technicians? Please do dismount that high horse.

You want to unite the industry? Stop dividing us into warring factions and looking down on other professionals as if they aren’t your equals.

From my perspective, the rise of booth rental can be traced along the decline of ethical salon management. If salon owners maintained their positions as leaders and talent developers, this exodus wouldn’t have happened. Instead, many salon owners are abdicating their responsibilities, forcing their employees into the position of part-owner, expecting more of them than is reasonable, or legal.

Salon professionals are having their wages stolen, aren’t being properly compensated, and are being failed by salon owners over and over and over again. While disappointing, the rise of independence is not a shock to me whatsoever.

IV. MILLENNIALS

As a manager, I’ve experienced the same frustrations Gen X and Boomer owners complain about when referencing Millennials. As a Millennial myself, I disagree that they are lazy, have short attention spans, or refuse to follow rules. A good deal of Millennials are extremely driven, industrious, and motivated.

To me, this segment of the documentary directly contradicts much of the Technology segment, where Millennials are praised for their social media prowess and innovative thinking, and reaffirms my belief that a.) people don’t sufficiently understand the immense harm of absurd discrimination and stereotyping, and b.) are finding more and more ways to divide us than unite us.

Millennials aren’t the problem. Your attitude about Millennials is the problem.

I’ve dealt with Boomer and Gen X employees who behave terribly. I’ve had to reprimand stubborn forty-year-olds for tardiness and laziness, fire fifty-year-olds for repeated dress code violations, and suffer through salary negotiations with entitled sixty-year-olds who believe they’re worth more pay simply because they’ve held a license longer than their coworkers.

Those issues certainly aren’t generational.

V. BRANDS

“It’s really up to the hairdressers to partner with like-minded brands, brands that will actually support you.”

When a salon owner makes an investment in a brand on the promise of salon exclusivity, only to find that trust violated when the product suddenly appears on drugstore and supermarket shelves, it’s absolutely devastating–not only because we’ve bought into these lines, trained our staff on them, and have heavily promoted them to our clients, but because we’ve been betrayed and sold out by an entity that promised us their support. We feel used, and we have good reason to feel that way because we have been used.

These companies enlist salon owners and professionals under the false pretense of exclusivity, having us market their products and build their brand’s credibility to ensure maximum payout when they go retail. (Long ago, I began encouraging nail salons to deviate from retail and make service their focus, since it’s just not profitable in our businesses anymore and even if we were offered exclusivity from a vendor, the sheer volume of comparable competing products on drugstore shelves makes the entire endeavor pointless.)

Unfortunately, there’s no good way to predict this or protect ourselves from it. As far as I can tell, only John Paul DeJoria has done anything to confirm his commitment to professionals. (He ensured that all JPMS products remain salon exclusive for 360 years by placing his entire interest in JPMS into a trust.)

VI. FEAR

“What’s preventing people from raising their prices is fear.”

By far, the most poignant quote from The Reset is this one from Dr. Gilda Sheppard, a sociologist and documentary filmmaker: “You will not lose a client just because of the prices; you will lose a client if your lack of self-worth is rendered onto them.” (If Dr. Sheppard had a talk show, I would watch it every damn day. I love her insight and the way she speaks.)

Wade Weigel, co-founder of Rudy’s Barbershop, absolutely killed it with his commentary also when he stated that veteran professionals don’t deserve to charge more simply because they’ve done more time. (In my book, I’ve said the same. Technical performance matters; not seniority.)

Price stagnation has been a huge problem for many salons, but this fear is completely unwarranted, and The Reset does a great job of communicating that.

VII. RESPONSIBILITY

“It’s not just about the hair.”

No, it’s not, but it’s also not just about product, education, emerging technologies, the rise of independence, or about deregulation. Our problems go so much deeper than that.

We do have to fight for better education and against deregulation. We have to abandon product lines that don’t value us. We have to adapt. But more than anything, we have to start taking care of each other.

Salon owners must take back their positions as leaders, innovators, educators, and guardians of the creative professionals they employ, and professionals must actively work to defend and promote our industry. That means joining the Professional Beauty Association, assisting with The Beauty Industry Working Group‘s efforts to standardize our education and licensing nationally, and including everyone in the effort.

These problems aren’t just about the hair, and they’re not just about the hairdressers.

14 COMMENTS

  1. As always you are spot on and why I worship at the Tina Alberino cult of common sense! It’s not rocket science but and why ,on the surface,the state regulators,beauty schools and the industry as a whole doesn’t get it hurts my head and my heart .
    I thought stepping out from behind the chair and going into teaching I could help make changes but ,as you said,in Florida there’s no oversight with Nail or Esthetics licensing and it seems every school is a “diploma mill ” focused on how many butts they can get in seats and how much they can charge for tuition (while short changing the students as much as possible ) and will pretty much hire anyone to teach (Florida leaves it up to the schools to qualify teachers-sigh).
    At this point I’m too disillusioned to go back into a salon and too disheartened to teach .
    Something has to give and hopefully petty disagreements can be put aside and changes can be made !

    • I completely agree. As recently as a few years ago I heard several schools in Tampa were shut down for outright selling nail licenses. You think after the first time in the 90s, the state would have learned their lesson and implemented proctored exams, but I guess not, lol.

  2. Our Model is Dying.When Salon profits are coming solely off the Retail shelves and we no longer have honest exclusivity. It is a very tall task to ask salons and hair dresser to compete with buying power and selling expertise of huge retail corporations. It is no wonder the only way to survive is from Booth or Studio rentals. we have to lessen our over head. just my 2 cents!

  3. I have been in this industry for 20 years. I am an esthetician, manicurist, massage therapist, and lash technician. I sold my business in October and now manage a salon and spa.I got out of ownership because taxes were killing me as a small business and managing the high cost of doing business was killing my bottom line. Our salon recently moved to team based pay and I found it interesting that it wasn’t mentioned at all. I was under the impression that this is now becoming the new industry model of pay. I also find it interesting that Paul Mitchell touts that products found outside the salon are counterfeit. They can be found in EVERY Walmart, target, Walgreens, cvs you name it. I really don’t understand how that can be!! We are a Paul Mitchell focus salon and we are constantly trying to tell our clients that these products are not guaranteed elsewhere but it’s hard to convince people when they are everywhere.

    • Superstores buy diverted product through salons they own, without technical permission to resell. (A Walmart purchaser told me that they would buy all retail pro-exclusive hair products through Smart Style). I haven’t seen their contracts, but I’m willing to bet they’re legally permitted to do what they’re doing, or we’d see more aggressive lawsuits from manufacturers. Where DeJoria stands apart is that he is extremely vocal about discouraging consumers from buying JPMS from anywhere but a salon. He loudly proclaims the value of a professional’s expertise and has done whatever he can to secure the brand as much as possible. Before OPI sold to Coty, George Schaeffer was also aggressive about stopping diversion, regularly having stores like Target, Publix, and Giant Eagle served with C&DS, and even sending in educators to buy out the entire store’s stock. There’s no way to eliminate diversion, but the fact that they try is commendable.

      I was also a little shocked to see that team-based pay wasn’t mentioned, and that the problems which stem from the two structures that were mentioned weren’t discussed at all. (Then again, that boring tax, labor, and payroll stuff is my fun hobby, and definitely not for everyone, lol.) Personally, I’ve been seeing a massive shift to hourly with commission bonuses. Over the last two years, I’ve been contacted most frequently by salon owners who want my help restructuring their compensation to that system, but I always say that we each experience our own versions of the beauty industry, so maybe my experience isn’t reflective of theirs. You know how it is, each area is so different.

  4. I have so much to say on this topic but I’m getting to start my day so I’ll have to come back to this. I have never heard of team based pay please explain. Also I would like to buy your book Tina, can you provide a link.

  5. I’m an esthetician, and I actually felt like my state requirement for an esthetician education should have been LONGER. In my state it was 750 hours (about 6 months). In most states it can be shorter than that. I felt like the education should be at least a year, or possibly longer and should spend more in-depth teaching about each skin condition (different types of acne, rosacea, ect) and also more time on skin care ingredients.

    My education felt extremely rushed, we spent a lot of time learning about things that were entirely irrelevant to the skin. And not only that, but I felt like I only got a 3 month education even though I paid for a 6 month education because our teacher was absent the last few months and the school never provided a substitute.

    I also agree that every state should have the same educational requirements, it doesn’t make much sense that each state is different. I also think that you should have a license to be a makeup artist because of the rampant contamination of brushes and spread of disease, especially in retail stores.

    I also think schools should be much more cautious of who they let into their schools. At my school I met two scam artists (its a LONG story) and most of the other students there were extremely mentally ill and it distracted from the learning experience. In a class of about 10 people, I was the only person who got my license if that tells you anything

  6. And to clarify, when I say “mentally ill” I am not trying to be derogatory of make fun of anyone in any way, I simply am talking about students who were a danger to themselves and others, and also students who brought a lot of negativity and drama into the classroom and it ruined the learning experience.

    • Anyone who says they haven’t come across at least one person in this industry who wasn’t at least a little mentally unbalanced is lying or clueless. It’s a sad statement about the way our country stigmatizes mental illness and fails to legitimize it as a serious problem. I’ve met hundreds of professionals struggling with psychological problems, from eating disorders, drug and alcohol dependencies, plastic surgery addictions, depression, and bipolar disorder. This industry attracts artists and eccentrics–people who feel deeply and experience life powerfully. At one salon I managed, an employee locked herself in the bathroom with her shears and threatened to open her wrists. Another overdosed on pills and nearly died. I’ve had coworkers spend time in and out of rehabilitation programs for anorexia, cocaine, and severe depression. It’s important for us to recognize those problems and support those who suffer from them. To fail to mention those problems as legitimate issues or pretend they don’t exist would be a huge disservice to them, so I don’t think anyone would judge you for mentioning it. I certainly wouldn’t.

  7. Just found your blog, and I have whole-heartedly agree with most everything you’ve said except the part about unifying the 3 industries (although I definitely agree that the nail salon comment was way below the belt). As a person who graduated from a state requiring me to perform both nail and esti services with absolutely no interest in either, I actually wish the three industries would not always be considered a jack-of-all-trades type of package. I think the issues that face each of our industries is really quite different, and although they shouldn’t be looked down upon by any other, there might be some power in not treating all three of them the same. Nail technicians face issues of licensing and price-cutting in unsanitary environments, Esti’s really might never face diversion or the boom of instagram, etc…

    Maybe your view is different because you do have an interest in all three areas, but as a licensed esti and nail tech who couldn’t apply an acrylic nail to save my life, I can see why people who might have been around in the days of Vidal (or at least the downfall of his brand) might want a little elbow room from the other two incredibly valuable and no-less-important industries.

    Just a thought; thank you SO much for all of your hard work on this blog!!

    • Thanks! 😀
      I guess I should clarify more. I didn’t mean unifying us in the sense that we should all be considered Jack and Jills of all trades (I actually agree that there’s no reason stylists should ever have to sit though classes they’ll never use). I just mean that when it comes to pushing for change in the beauty industry, all beauty professions need to work together since we are part of the same industry overall. We definitely face different challenges, but there’s enough degree of overlap that we could benefit from each other’s support (especially with regards to deregulation, since those bills are proposed to deregulate all of our professions). It’s more about being a force with the numbers to make a difference than it is about us being considered the exact same profession. 🙂

  8. Hi Tina,
    I’m so glad I found you! OK I’ve been in the business for over 40 years and have worked in every type of salon setting you can think of. Now for the last about 7 years I’ve been working in senior living facilities because it’s what I love.
    I need to know about my current employment situation. The girl I’m currently working for (she’s also from a foreign country) now says, I’m NOT employed by her because I have do the 1099. Okay she rents out salons in quite a few facilities and has about 4 employees. She has total control of when we work, the pricing, she supplies everything…and I mean everything. We’re not allowed to bring anything in the salon that she hasn’t provided. We don’t even make our own appointments,! and let me tell you, how hard that makes it. The facilities pay her, when they get paid from the residents and she in turn pays us weekly. We get 55% commission and she works us to the bone. I don’t know the other girls but I know we all work alone in the different places. And everything seems sooooo secretive! It’s so wrong! What can I do? I’m at my wits end with this!

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