If you are brave, on a budget, and still looking for stylish hair, head to your nearest beauty school.
Beauty school haircuts are one of the easiest ways to save on haircuts and hair treatments. For example, my regular stylist charges $60 total, including tip, for a wash, cut, and blow-dry. The expenses add up quickly. At the beauty school I went to (thanks to Revanche for the introduction!), a cut is $12 by first-year students and $15 by second-year students.
A simple cut takes about an hour and a half, including a very relaxing wash, the actual cut and then the styling at the end. A teacher walks around the salon and supervises the students. The first time I went, my stylist was a chatty petite lady who apparently was a very good student – when she asked the instructor to examine my layers, the instructor measured my hair on both sides and made sure they were even, but she didn’t have to fix anything.
At the end, I gave my stylist a $3 tip, bringing the total cost of my haircut to $15, or a quarter of what it had cost at the salon I used to go to. I really love my cut, and to be honest, I couldn’t tell a difference in the result between what the student did and what my very talented stylist had done.
Still, beauty school haircuts aren’t for everyone. If you go, you should:
- Know thyself. You can get a bad haircut anywhere, but at beauty schools the chances are greater. Even though students may be well-trained, they are still less experienced than stylists working in salons. If the prospect of a less-than-perfect haircut makes you feel sick to your stomach, then beauty school haircuts aren’t worth the stress.
- Be clear about how you want your hair to look. If you don’t communicate what you want, the student may exercise his or her right to be creative. This may or may not be a good thing. Tread carefully.
- Have a flexible schedule. Most schools only cut during school hours (i.e. during the work day), although some schools have night-time classes. If night sessions are offered, they fill up quickly.
- Understand you can’t have a specific student. If you go to a school once and you love your stylist, that student can very well have graduated by the time you come back for another cut. This is what happened to me. I loved my first stylist, whom I really thought was a superstar. My second stylist was slower and less confident, but in the end she did an OK job.
- Have patience. My cut was straight-forward: simple round layers and two inches to trim off the ends. It still took almost 2 hours to finish (and I declined the blow dry at the end). Many times the student has to wait for instructor approval before he/she can move on to the next layer. If the beauty school had been busier, it may have taken even longer.
- Be realistic. If your hair is very curly, very damaged, or has a texture that even pros have had difficulty cutting well in the past, don’t risk beauty school haircuts. Go to a trusted stylist. I have fairly run-of-the-mill wavy hair, so I was fine with a student wielding scissors behind me.
- Relax (at least a little). In the end, hair is just hair. As long as the student don’t burn it off or give you a drastic bowl haircut, a bad cut can always be fixed. Enjoy the process of beauty school haircuts – and the savings!
A version of this article was first posted at BlogHer.