Universal Themes of Hair Challenges
There are a lot of universal themes when it comes to hair “challenges” and care, and for some subcultures - like blondes, curly or African American hair - we do a great job in our industry talking about challenges, pain points, and the emotional ideologies associated with each subculture. For instance, we know that within those subcultures, there can be a pricing component like the expense surrounding color, the number of products needed, the level of care that is expected, etc. There's a lot of maintenance involved in getting certain types of hair to cooperate and do the things that you want it to do. But regardless of hair type or subculture, for most there is an always a plan, and some direction and support that stylists can give to those clients.
There should always be a plan, some direction and support that happen when stylist and client really communicate.
A game plan is a big deal in my world. It’s the work that stylists do behind the chair in the salon, and the education that we bring to a client. We’re giving them enormous power by providing information, support and solutions. Are you getting a game plan? Are you giving a game plan?
Take blondes. Blondes leave the salon, and it’s, “okay, honey: here’s your game plan. This is what it's going to take to get that color to last, to get your hair healthy, to keep it long. We just did some aggressive chemicals on your hair today and you’re going to need to do these things on your end to take care of your new hair. This is the recipe for you to follow. This is everything you need to do to take the best care of your hair.”
For curly hair, we may say, “so we've got these issues that we're dealing with. This is what you want your hair to look like. These are the products you have to use in the winter when it’s dry and in the summer when it’s humid. You may need several products to fight frizz. If you want your hair to look like this, you've got to do these things.” We have a dialogue with these clients. We’ve got language we can wrap around these issues with regard to hair type and challenge. We’ve got entire salons devoted to it.
Then, there's thinning hair, and it's sort of like this little outlier among all these subcultures. It’s time to give thinning hair the same reverence, respect, and conversation that other hair types get. It deserves a conversation that is educationally focused, honest and supportive and normalizes.
Thinning hair has its own set of challenges, and probably the biggest is when people are significantly thinning. There's simply no way that you can provide more hair for them instantly, while with other subcultures of hair, we can affect change a little bit more quickly.
As we have discussed on my blog before, thinning hair is a very touchy, personal and frustrating situation for women. It has its own level of unrealistic expectations, and societal factors that are all nestled within. Thinning hair client’s need that dialogue and stylists need not to be afraid to start the conversation. Thinning hair clients need a game plan too.
Ultimately, this is what stylists want as well. We want to see our thinning hair clients thriving. We want clients who are educated, and empowered, and are thriving enough to go live happy lives. But there is a pivot point - and some work - in between the discovery of thinning hair and thriving clients. Stylists often catch a whiff of a person who has thinning hair and immediately think, “oh, I don't know if I'm capable of dealing with this client. I don't know how to talk to this person. I don't like doing their hair. I just don't relate to it.”
A stylist’s reserve or sometimes lack education or interest around that type of hair coupled with a client’s fear creates this static thing when it could be a dynamic thing, and that's what we need to change. We don’t need stylists and thinning hair clients circling each other in silence. We need to change that static behavior and turn it into dynamic behavior. I say, listen to the thinning hair client. It does not take much to sit down in a consultation with a client who has thinning hair. Just sit down and listen to them, because more than likely that client is automatically going to begin talking about something that you will be able to work with. They are going to give you a solid piece of information to get your started, whether it’s something going on with their scalp, or whether it’s about comparing themselves to a friend who is their exact same age, but who doesn't have the thinning hair issue. Whatever it is, you’ll be listening and talking. That’s when things begin to change.
We stylists can do a lot with a little nugget, that “something solid” to talk about and expand on. I tell stylists all the time that that's when you bring the best of yourself. That's when you introduce the dynamic part of this new world to a thinning hair client and really begin to educate them about what's going on with their hair. Even if you just start with educating them about the hair shaft, I promise you that's more than half of the people, maybe three quarters of the people in the world, know about. We should never assume that any of our clients know what we're talking about when we're talking about a hair shaft. Most people have heard of a cuticle, but that's about it, and they still don't even understand what that means.
Our job as stylists - or one of them - is to educate, empower, talk it out. So, the more you can just lay out some science to that person and educate them about the hair shaft, for instance, and how to improve it, the better off they’re going to be.
That subculture, the thinning hair subculture, really requires just as much knowledge and education as we give to our blondes or ladies with curls.
We’ve got to say the same types of things to the thinning hair client:
> Here's what we have to work with.
> Here's how to take the best care of the hair you have on your head.
> Here's some information so you can understand your scalp.
> Here's information so you can understand your hair shaft, and then let's talk about thinking with the end in mind.
> Let's talk about what you want your hair to look like in one year or two years, because that's really how we have to begin to think about hair when we're dealing with that thinning hair population.
We're forecasting out and thinking about hair in the future. We know we really can't change hair tomorrow when it comes to thinning hair, but we can begin to slowly plant the seeds to help clients create better habits and better ways of approaching their hair.
Again, it's taking something static and turning it into something dynamic so we can see that our clients are thriving and are living their best lives. Those are the type of people that you want in your chair, whether they have hair or not. Those are the type of people that really light up your day as a stylist and the people that you connect with the most are the people that are thriving. And thinning hair clients want and need to be heard.
As a client: think about what you are asking and come to the salon open and willing to be realistic and before you sign on for expensive treatments, extensions be sure that you are making your decision from an empowered place not one of desperation and you will be happy with the money you spend and choices you make.
And stylists: Don’t be afraid to consult with thinning hair clients - and then listen. That’s when education and empowerment begin to happen: when both clients and stylists bring honesty, empathy and realistic expectations to that conversation. That’s when things change.