Love Is In The Hair

How many of us have a love/hate relationship with their hair? When it’s great, I feel like I’m unstoppable. When it’s less than great it affects my whole attitude. I’m not alone in this right? It had been 9 whole months since I had my done. My Pinterest folder was full of hair inspo, the only thing missing was a stylist. I found Hayley on Instagram and fell in love with her color skills. Brunette or blonde she posted beautiful transformations so I knew I would be in good hands. Trying out a new stylist can be a little scary but thanks to social media, you get a lot of insight into someone’s abilities by following their postings.

Hayley Johnson was splitting her time between Dallas and Tyler, having recently bought a home in Tyler with her husband she is transitioning to working there full-time. While attending TJC to get her basics she worked as a receptionist in a salon. Some of her friends there encouraged her to become a hair stylist and she attended cosmetology school at Trinity Valley Community College in Palestine, Texas. The program requires 1500 hours and took her nearly a year of attending full-time to complete it while she worked at Sephora. When I asked her if it was a challenging program she told me that being a smaller environment students receive more individual attention which was a plus. However, there’s no way you will learn everything you need to know and the majority of what you are taught is aimed at passing your State Board Exam. School ranges in price from about $15 to $20 thousand. Community college programs are less expensive than private cosmetology schools.

The State requires some form of continuing education every year and in addition to that Hayley tries to take 3-4 classes a year to keep up with trends, styles and new techniques in the industry. The stylist is responsible for paying out of pocket for her continuing education. After graduation Hayley worked as an assistant for a year and a half where she was responsible for washing, toning, blow drying and cleaning. This is where she gained her most valuable experience and confidence. You may not think that becoming a hair stylist is difficult but Hayley was honest about working long days, weekends and for minimum wage plus tips. She was very much living that starving student lifestyle while she assisted and built her clientele. When I made the joke about eating a lot of Top Ramen she laughed and said some days it was just water. It’s hard to imagine that same inexperienced woman now as she patiently listened to my hair woes while I complained about the current color and texture I so badly wanted to reinvent.

After working in Dallas for nearly 5 years she and her husband settled in Tyler for his job opportunity. Having met in high school they eventually started dating when they both worked as lifeguards over the summer. Married for 2 years, the young couple knew they wanted to come back to Tyler eventually to be closer to family, especially when they decide to start one of their own. In the meantime they have the cutest little French Bulldog named Tito who keeps them busy. I asked Hayley how difficult it was to leave a full clientele and build up a new one. She said she really misses her clients in Dallas that have become friends, which is why she still makes the trip once a week. The competition is much more fierce in Dallas and with her experience working in a bigger City she feels like people in Tyler have been appreciative of that. Being able to get the vision of the hair they want out of their head and actually onto their head has been really rewarding for her clients. Personally, the pressure to always look good is more intense in Dallas but she holds herself to a professional standard at work regardless. Her hair is basically a walking advertisement after all.

It takes a lot of time and devotion to build your clientele and while some people may think a hair stylist gets to make their own hours, how great is that? The fact is, if you don’t work you don’t make money. You will work weekends, you will work early mornings, you will work late nights. Right now Hayley works 6 days a week. You also have to account for out of pocket expenses for your supplies, products and booth rent. Some salons are commission based where they take 40-60% of your profit rather than rent. So while you may think your stylist is pocketing that $200 you just gave her she’s got overhead to contend with.

When she’s not performing her hair magic, Hayley likes to work out and spend time with her family and Tito of course. She cites having a creative outlet as one of the best things about doing hair. She loves putting in extensions and is trained in the latest and greatest like hand-tied extensions. However she’s not a magician and just because you see a transformation on social media doesn’t mean she can do the exact same thing (or that it’s even realistic). Going from dark to light hair for instance takes more than one appointment and she will be honest with you about having real expectations.

Hayley doesn’t suffer the side effects from the physically demanding part of being on your feet all day yet. She credits wearing comfortable shoes, drinking lots of water and sitting down whenever possible but acknowledges that eventually back issues and arthritis are part of the job. She also said working with chemicals is hard on your hands and every article of clothing she wears to work has bleach or color on it. Typically a full highlight and cut with blow dry takes anywhere from 3-4 hours so she spends a lot of time with each client. When I asked if she feels like a therapist having someone in her chair that long she agreed that people do tend to disclose more while they get their hair done. So be nice to your stylist – she knows your secrets.

When I inquired about some of the trends I see online, like unicorn hair for instance Hayley said she would kindly recommend someone else. Her specialty is lived in, beautiful color and not unicorn hair or styles for special events. It’s important to her to maintain the integrity around what she excels at and not to compromise when there are other stylists that specialize in a particular niche. For that reason most of her clients give her freedom and trust her to make their vision a reality. I can personally attest to that. After I explained to Hayley what I was hoping to achieve I sat back, relaxed and let her do her thing. I’m not the only client she has gained from Instagram. She credits the platform with helping people find a hairstylist since you can access all their work and see right away if they specialize in unicorn hair or short hair for example. If Hayley had to pick one thing she doesn’t like about doing hair she would point to blow drying, but only because it takes forever.

As for future plans she is opening Strand Studio, a unique, relaxed, luxurious and fresh environment – which is expected to open late November/early December. I expect to continue seeing great things from Hayley. She clearly has a natural talent and most importantly she is passionate about what she does. I felt like she was really listening to my concerns and she explained what she was doing every step of the way. The result is gorgeous and my only misgiving is that I didn’t find her sooner. If you want to feel pampered and are bored with your current color or style take a look at Hayley’s IG account @colorbyhayley or @strand.stuio. You can even book directly from Instagram.

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