When preparing for your career as a cosmetologist, most people focus on the skills and experience they need to succeed. However, cosmetology does not just require technical skills -- life as a hairstylist means you will also be managing a salon’s physical demands. You will be bending, reaching, holding your arms above your waist, and standing for most of the day. In this article, we’ll be covering topics like what to wear, recommended muscle groups to strengthen, how to stay energized on the floor, and suggestions for how to approach each movement you make in the salon.
Here are some tips for managing the physical demands of being a cosmetologist:
The shoes you wear matter. This should be an obvious one, but the shoes you choose are going to determine your comfort throughout the day. Standing for long periods of time is strenuous, but you are sure to experience a significant difference in your endurance depending on what shoes you choose. Invest in shoes that are comfortable, have good arch support, and can be worn with a variety of outfits without diminishing your style. The health of your back is directly affected by your footwear -- as is your long-term career.
You will need your upper body strength. As a hairdresser, you will spend a lot of time with your arms raised in unnatural and unusual positions, sometimes while holding tools in your hands. Knowing this ahead of time, practice strengthening those muscles. Pilates, yoga or martial arts have been popular choices for working out because they pair whole-body movements and strengthening exercises with beneficial mind practices, like breathing and focus. All essential skills and abilities you will need on the salon floor!
Don’t forget to stretch. Prevent your muscles from becoming tight and increasingly sore by remembering to stretch throughout the day. Stretching out both your upper body, legs and back at the beginning and end of every day means your muscles will be relaxed and ready for whatever is in store for you next. You will be establishing good habits, be less likely to injure yourself, and extend your career life overall.
Feed your body good fuel to get through the long days. It is no secret you will be spending long hours on the salon floor. Maximize your energy and strength by making sure you have healthy and filling meals. An easy way to do this is by meal prepping, as well as hydrating regularly and having healthy snacks on hand. The easiest way to set yourself up for failure is by skipping meals or eating junk food which will not keep you full or energized on the floor. Some snacks that will keep you full for longer amounts of time include trail mix, hummus (great with chopped veggies!), almonds, and berries. Keeping a canteen of water around your workspace is also a great way to visually remind yourself to keep drinking.
Pay attention to how you use your wrists. As someone who works with your hands, you will be controlling many of your movements with your wrists. Practice good habits by keeping them straight and engaging your entire body in every task to avoid tiring out too quickly or overworking one set of muscles. You may find repetitively curling your wrists while cutting or styling hair can cause muscle strain. If you are experiencing pain, practice changing your wrist motions and stretching more. Never push through a pain threshold -- stop, adjust, and find a motion which works for you.
Remember to breathe while you work. It is easy to get into the habit of holding your breath while you are working. Students, who are more likely to be nervous, often hold their breath when they are first learning. If you find yourself struggling to breathe normally while you are in the salon, consider doing breathing exercises or yoga regularly to practice your breathing technique. This will not only affect your energy level and strength, but it is a good practice to breathe purposefully throughout the day and keep both your mind and body grounded.
Make sure you are unwinding mentally after the day is done. Stress, in addition to affecting your mental state, can also affect you physically. We often store the stress we experience in our bodies, so keeping your brain healthy and relaxed as a hairstylist is just as important as doing it for your muscles! If you find yourself heavily relying on alcohol to relax or endlessly overthinking what happened at work that day, there is a good chance you are not remembering to actually “leave work”, rest, and recharge. It’s important to switch off the stresses of the workday once you have left. Give yourself a break! Find the way you relax the best - it could be watching a nature documentary, some light television, reading, exercising, or spending time with people you love - and let it take your attention. Having a good work/life balance is good, but make sure you are using your time away from work to ACTUALLY unwind.
Have a purpose for every movement. Engage the philosophy of working smarter, not harder. Make sure you’re moving with purpose and being efficient with every task. Strengthening your body and using the good techniques you’ve learned will help you conserve energy, build endurance, and make you an overall more skillful artist. A hairdresser who can move purposefully on the floor will be able to offer more to their clients and maintain an excellence that will last their entire careers.
Any good beauty school should be teaching you how to manage your time, your clients, and the physical demands of your work. At Taylor Andrew Academy, our cosmetology courses will teach you how to best manage your physical needs as a hairdresser and offer tricks for managing your movements behind the chair and for your overall career. Looking to learn more about cosmetology? Learn more about choosing the right beauty school for you. Get more info on Taylor Andrew Academy’s upcoming class schedule and start learning with us.