Hairdresser vs. Hair Stylist – What are the Key Differences?

Hairdresser styling his client's hair in the salon.

A hairdresser specializes in coloring, washing, cutting, texturizing, and styling hair to maintain or change their client’s image. On the other hand, a hairstylist is an individual who makes decisions about hair designs such as updos, perms, and curls. However, some sources state that the two are the same because they perform the same duties. This is not particularly true, but in general, the occupation entails styling and cutting hair.

The term hairdresser was primarily used to refer to females, but it is a gender-neutral term since men are also dominating the hair industry. However, the term hairstylist is encompassing and is also used a lot more these days. When you visit a high-end salon, you will notice a difference between a hairdresser and a hairstylist.

Both can either work independently or as employees in a salon. It is worth noting that both a hairdresser and a hairstylist can offer a wide array of hair care services to their clients that will maintain or transform their image.


A hairdresser is a skilled professional who is trained to cut, process, and style hair. The term hairdresser covers all genders, so when you visit them, they will ask what kind of look and cut you would like before they start working on your hair. They usually recommend some of the haircuts that will best suit the texture of your hair and the shape of your face.

They could also recommend services and products that can be of help to you. Services offered by hairdressers include treating, shampooing, cutting, straightening, coloring, washing, and curling hair. They often keep up with all the latest trending styles and haircuts.

Pros of Being a Hairdresser

  • You get the chance to work in different settings like film sets.
  • It is a flexible profession because you can have a mobile hairdressing business where you go to your clients or even rent a chair in a salon.
  • The salary or earning is quite competitive, especially once you have established yourself.
  • The profession offers you job security, especially if you already have a list of clientele.
  • There is always an opportunity to learn and advance your skillset.
  • There is no dull day since you get to meet people with different personalities every day.
  • You can easily make a name for yourself since multiple channels can help you achieve this.
  • You will learn interpersonal skills from managing and interacting with your clients.

Cons of Being a Hairdresser

  • It is a physically demanding job since most of your day is spent on your feet.
  • You work with dyes and chemicals that could irritate your skin and eyes.
  • The pay is not the best, especially when you are starting.
  • Hairdressing equipment is pretty expensive.
  • You have to interact with people every day, which is not great for anyone with little patience, not forgetting that some clients are hard to deal with.
  • It is quite a competitive profession since your skills are what will get you, clients.
  • There is no room for mishaps because a client who is not a regular will poorly rate your services, losing you potential customers.

Job Qualifications/Earnings/Education Needed

Hairdresser doing haircut.

You need a high school diploma or an equivalent if you would like to be a hairdresser, and you need to complete a cosmetology or beauty program from a reputable school. As a hairdresser, you can work in different places such as film sets, fashion shoots, salons, and spas. You can specialize in a specific area once you have advanced in your career. For instance, you could become a cosmetology instructor, or you could manage or open your salon.

Alternatively, you can start at your local salon by doing general tasks and learn on the job. However, this may take some time because you may have to start with a menial job like sweeping. You also need to note that this may not qualify you to be employed in high-end salons. Therefore, it would be best for you to get the proper training needed to become a hairdresser, especially if you would like to pursue it as a career.

How much hairdressers earn may differ from individual to individual since multiple factors can affect this. For instance, a hairdresser working in a large city in a high-end salon will not earn the same as a hairdresser who works in a small town. Factors like experience, skills, expertise, services offered, and the salon’s location may affect how much a hairdresser earns. However, a hairdresser can generally earn around $50k plus annually. The lowest-paid hairdresser can make about $20k in a year.

Other than having skills as a hairdresser, you will also need additional skills. This includes excellent personal grooming, cleanliness, attention to detail, excellent teamwork skills, friendly nature, and excellent communication skills.

Hair Stylist

Professional hairdresser doing haircut.

As mentioned earlier, the term hairstylist is all-encompassing and is a more popular term these days. You mostly get to encounter hairstylists when you visit high-end salons. A hairdresser in such a salon will color, cut, and shampoo your hair. Then the hairstylist will work on the style you would like, such as a perm, curls, or an updo.

Hairstylists will help you have the perfect hairdo for your special occasion and help you decide what look you should go with. Hairstylists are also often referred to as stylists, but that is an umbrella term since it can mean a beauty stylist or even a fashion stylist. The term hairdresser and hairstylist depend on where you are. They can refer to the same person in some cases and different levels of hair professionalism in others.

Most individuals who are also highly skilled, have created a name for themselves, have a clientele base, and tend to work with celebrities are often referred to as hairstylists. Hairstylists also offer consultations for hair styling.

Pros of Being a Hair Stylist

  • You get to be your boss. In most cases, hairstylists often own their business.
  • You get to interact with clients from different backgrounds and age personally.
  • You are exposed to more entrepreneurial opportunities since you can manage and build your own business.
  • It is a satisfying job because you can help change your client’s appearance and give them a hair makeover that makes them feel confident about themselves.
  • You get to travel a lot, both as an individual and more so if you are a celebrity hairstylist.
  • You get to decide your working hours.

Cons of Being a Hair Stylist

  • You need to have a license, and it is worth mentioning that different states have different requirements.
  • The wages can be pretty low when you start, and you may need a second job to supplement your hairstylist job.
  • The job is physically demanding since you are on your feet for the most part of the day.
  • The industry is competitive and despite being skilled, making a name for yourself is easier said than done

Job Qualifications/Earnings/Education Needed

Hair stylist ironing woman's braided hair.

To become a hairstylist, you need to have completed your GED or have a high school diploma. It would be best to be licensed from a reputable cosmetology school and have some experience as a colorist or hairstylist.

You need to be proficient with blow dryers, curlers, and hot irons and have a wide pallet of coloring and styling techniques. Other additional skills include physical stamina, excellent communication skills, a good eye for design, creativity, and good interpersonal skills.

As with hairdressers, hairstylists can earn anything between $20k per year to $50k plus in a year. Where you work, the clientele you work on, and where you are based can affect how much you make. For instance, a celebrity hairstylist and a hairstylist working on a film set or performing art companies are likely to earn more than one in personal care services. Therefore, there is no standard earning for a hairstylist since what you earn is based on various factors.


Where do professional hairdressers and hair stylists work?

They can work in different settings such as spas, hair salons, performing art companies, fashion shoot sets, side gigs such as bridal hair services, nursing homes, and employment services. They can also run their own salon business or rent a chair in a salon.

What are the job duties of a hairstylist and hairdresser?

Tinting, dyeing, bleaching, styling, cutting, and washing are some of the primary job duties of these professions. Essentially, they help change or maintain their client’s image.

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