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Beauty School Haircuts: Style for the Cheap and Intrepid

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.

  • indiana insurance - I liken this to having your teeth cleaned at the university dental school, it's a great way to save money when you are in a pinch. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - I see your point. Personally, though, I wouldn't go to a dental school. A student gives me a bad haircut – I'll be sad and look like a Martian for 2 months, fine. But a student does something wrong to my teeth, and that's a lot of pain, anxiety, and money to fix it. ReplyCancel

  • Penny Frugalista - I've thought about going to a local beauty school for a haircut, but it's the amount of time it takes that puts me off. Perhaps if I were more patient… $15 vs. $50 might encourage me! ReplyCancel

  • L.A. Daze - I've done this before…cut and color. It took forever. The student also got my color completely wrong (my hair turned ORANGE) so the instructor had to take over and fix my hair. 4 hours of my life lost, and I have CRAPPY graduation pics to show for it. Yup, that's what I get for trying to be cheap. Never again. And it wasn't even that cheap! ReplyCancel

  • Fig - I've actually done it a few times and it worked out really well.

    As far as the dental school thing, I definitely think it's okay especially for a teeth cleaning. I wouldn't get any major work done there, but the teeth cleaning process is fine. They are supervised and it is a lot cheaper. I went once when my friend was going through dental hygiene school and needed a patient. She did a great job. ReplyCancel

  • Jaime - I go to the JCPenney salon and my stylist charges me $40 cut, blowout, flat iron my hair. I really don't see the need to try out a beauty school, although if I wanted to get by cheaper I'd go to Great Clips. I'm just too scared for a student to work on my hair.

    I most definitely wouldn't go to a dental school, I've always had bad teeth and had extensive work done on them, I finally found a great dentist that I like and I only like going to her. In fact even though I moved out of state I still plan on flying back and for her to continue working on my teeth. Although it helps that my parents live in that state as well, so I get to see them and get work done on my teeth. ReplyCancel

  • laura - I've recently found someone who will come to my house and cut my hair for £10, {my daughters friends mum is a hairdresser} much less than the £35 I was paying at the salon. ReplyCancel

    • alex - what I get for trying to be cheap. Never again. And it wasn't even that cheap! ReplyCancel

  • Hindenburg Omen Tripped Again. Does It Foreshadow A Market Crash? Yakezie Post Roundup - [...] Beauty School Haircuts: Style for the Cheap and Intrepid [...]ReplyCancel

  • Nunzio Bruno - I totally do this and it works for guys too :) I have a community college very close to where I work and every once and a while I swing through and get my hair cut in the beauty school. It's a huge cost saver and I like to think I'm giving back. Granted I don't really need that much "styling" as it's pretty much a clipper job but if it helps them learn, makes them feel good because I appreciate their efforts, and saves me money then it's a win-win. I will honesty admit to taking advantage of the manicure service as well – what can I say I'm a firm believer in good grooming and everything I already said applies. There's no shame in a gentleman taking pride in his presentation and appearance right?! I mean when I'm meeting clients for Financially Digital I have to look sharp right :) ReplyCancel

  • Styling classes - I’m really glad I have found this info. Today bloggers publish only about gossips and web and this is actually annoying. A good website with exciting content, this is what I need. Thank you for keeping this website, I will be visiting it. ReplyCancel

  • How much do you spend on skincare products and services a year? | Well Heeled Blog - [...] deal. Memories of bad skin when I was young is why I am so willing to spend money on skincare now. Hair? I will get $15 haircuts at beauty schools. Makeup? I spend around $200 a year, though I haven’t purchased any new cosmetics in the [...]ReplyCancel

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