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Cosmetology: Ace the Basics

BlogBeauty Student Advice | November 13, 2013

I’ve always loved dancing. As a little girl, I feasted on musicals and dreamed of the day when I would float across the dance floor in the arms of some Yule Brenner or Fred Astaire type. About 4 years ago, I put my closet dance skills to the test and quickly found my new favorite activity in the world of Swing and Ballroom dancing.

There are many different approaches to the study of dancing, as unique as the people who practice them. There are two that I specifically want to highlight: (What does this have to do with Cosmetology? Humor me for a paragraph or two more and I will connect the dots for you.)

We’ll call the first “Mike”, because he’s got all the moves. He has an arsenal of YouTube swing dance steps and he is ready to wow the ladies. Look out, world! Unfortunately, for all the moves he knows, he does none of them well. As I watch him work the dance floor, I’m awed by the impressively unnatural ways he twists his victim’s (Ahem. I mean, Partner’s) arms, rotating them through his signature routine. Even with all of those sweet skills, when he approaches me for a dance, I pretend not to see him and make a B-line for the refreshment table.

The second Dance type is Steady, Studied “Steve”. Steve, like Mike, is new to this dancing thing. He has attended the Intro to Dance class at least 100 times. Steve may not have Mike’s whole arsenal at his disposal, but his simple outside turn can make my heart melt. He has so perfectly mastered the basics that we could rock back and forth like two 8th graders at a middle school dance, and I would still swoon.


Why did you read this and what in the world does it have to do with hair? Nothing at first glance, but the principle does apply. Interviewing potential stylists for my salon, I see a lot of young and budding cosmetologists. I’m not sure how cosmetology school was- or is- for you, but I can remember being anxious to take on the world of beauty during my time in school. I restlessly cut 90 degree haircuts and wrapped perm rods, but couldn’t wait to perform textured haircuts and high fashion styles. When I reached the clinic floor at school, I traded my mannequins for living, breathing clients. I felt free, but quickly realized the importance of restraint. I can remember one poor, unsuspecting head that suffered under my heavy- handed texturizing.  I’ve seen Hair show educators receive bursts of applause when implementing these same techniques, but I received only the wide-eyed gaze of my instructor and the complaint of my client. What went wrong?

Well, the Hair Show educator was just that, an educator. She had years of experience, where I had just learned to hold my scissors correctly weeks before. I simply wasn’t content with mastering the basics. I wanted to be Mike with the moves. I loved the newest gadgets. I bought a razor comb at my first Hair Show and I was ready to wield it like a samurai. I wanted to learn how to spin my scissors like a gunslinger, and cut hair to catchy techno beats. I wanted to open my own salon straight out of beauty school. I was going to wow people with my complete mastery of Hair color and advanced cutting techniques. What I really needed, and received that day, was a “Hey, there, Partner. Slow Down.” moment.

There’s a lot that we can learn from a “Steve” dancer. He is patient with learning the basics and has built a strong foundation. In a few years, Steve will probably be the kind of dancer that would make Sinatra jealous. Mike, unless he has a revelation, will continue to dislocate shoulders with his spastic contorting for years to come.  What am I saying? If you are in school, be patient with the basics. If you are a new graduate, fight to master them. If you are a seasoned stylist, continually go back to them. The knowledge instilled in you during Cosmetology School is absolutely essential for growth in your career.  So, Keep Calm and Ace the Basics.

Leah Perlman

Written by Leah Perlman

Leah is an Empire graduate who has been in the industry for 7 years. She has worked at The Bell Tower Salon and Spa in Wyomissing, PA for 6 years . She serves on the salon's education team and is involved in planning and educating for their stylists-in-training program.

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