Maybe you are the girl in the dorm everyone comes to for a cute Homecoming week hairstyle. Perhaps you used to braid every guy’s hair in your neighborhood. Or, maybe you are the head hairstylist for a TV show, making $1,800 a week. From products to stylists, ethnic hair care is a billion-dollar industry. But who makes more money – a stylist in a salon or the in-home hairdresser?
Many people say salon stylists make more because there are more people coming in the door, but esthetician Nicole Stewart, 22, still prefers to do hair from home.
Black salon culture has been celebrated in movies like “Beauty Shop,” but Stewart says the atmosphere is not for her.
“You’re gonna make more money in a salon, but it’s gonna cost more too,” said the senior business student from Cleveland, Ohio. “Not only are you paying booth rent, but you’re paying to maintain an image.”
Stewart said in her home she can dress comfortably, even in tennis shoes or pajamas if she likes, but this attire is not acceptable in a professional setting.
“It’s like a code of ethics, you have to abide by unspoken rules that come with the salon,” Stewart said.
Some people enjoy the gossip dished in a salon, but the other end of that, in Stewart’s experience, everyone is in the stylist’s business.
Because salons may endorse certain professional product lines, Stewart said stylists may be forced to use the line, even though it may not necessarily work on every customer’s hair.
The availability of professional products in local beauty supply stores make it easier for a third type of stylist: the do-it-yourselfer. Beauticians typically recommend going to a professional for chemical services, but Motions and Dark and Lovely make relaxer kits for home use, while Clairol and L’Oreal offers hair color.
Florida A&M University students say they like the convenience of students who do hair from their apartment, but they also get professional services from time to time.
“It depends on what I want,” said Ateasa Holland, a 21-year-old health science senior from Perry. “My best friend works at a salon, so I can just go to her house and get my hair done.”
Beautician Merlande Petihomme says salons and in-home entrepreneurs can both have steady clientele, but there are two types of clients.
“At the salon, you have professional people who pay because they like to use professional products, but in your house you get the students or maybe those who can’t afford to go to the salon like that,” Petihomme said.
So who makes more?
In the salon Petihomme must charge set rates for the services she provides. Customers at the JCPenny salon, for example, must pay $85 for a weave, but Petihomme can charge $50 on her own time.
The advantage, however, lies in the fact that in a shop she makes a base salary plus commission.
Not every person is willing to go through the process to open a salon. The Florida State Board of Cosmetology sets the requirements to become a licensed cosmetologist, which include 1,200 hours in a beauty school or a two-day, 16-hour course for hair braiding registration.
And that license won’t be cheap. In major metropolitan cities like New York, cosmetology school tuition can cost near $10,000.
The Aveda Institute Tallahassee is a local accredited beauty school that interested potential stylists can attend, and beautyschoolsdirectory.com lists several more.
It is possible that a license might give a stylist more credibility than in-home hairdressers, which may equal more income. In Stewart’s opinion, she must constantly sell herself because she does not have the stability of being in a beauty shop.
“I can go up $5 and lose 15 people, but a shop can go up and not have a problem,” she said.
And because students tend to move several times while in college, changing locations may annoy some customers.
For a hairdresser in either position, though, the best advertisement is a satisfied customer.