Dynamic Discussion

There are a lot of universal themes when it comes to hair challenges, and for some subcultures - like blondes, curly hair or African American hair - we do a great job in our industry talking about challenges, pain points, emotional ideologies associated with each subculture. And we do a great job with setting up a game plan. We also know that within those subcultures, there is a pricing component there, maybe a nuisance around it, like the expense surrounding color, the number of products needed, 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 there is a always a plan - and some direction and support we give to those clients.

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 you bring to that client. You’re giving them enormous power when you provide information and support.

Take blondes. Blondes leave the salon, and you're like, 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. We just did some aggressive chemicals on your hair today and we’re going to need you to show up on your end and take care of your new hair. This is the recipe for you to follow.

Curly hair, it's like, okay, 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. You’re probably going to have to use a bunch of different things. You're probably going to have to use something different in the winter, and then something different in the summer. If you want your hair to look like this, you've got to do these things, and then the longer you get away from blow drying your hair, this and that, the more hydrated and curly and bouncy your hairs going to look like. We have a dialogue with these clients. We’ve got language we can wrap around these issues with regard to hair type and challenge.

Then, there's thinning hair, and it's sort of like this little outlier among all these subcultures, but it needs the same reverence, and respect, and conversation that other hair gets - and it needed to be just as educationally focused, honest and supportive.

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. With other subcultures of hair, we can affect change a little bit more quickly, but 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's all nestled in within. But thinning hair still needs a conversation and it needs a game plan.

Ultimately, as stylists, that is what we want. 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 in between the discovery of thinning hair and thriving clients. Stylist 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.. And stylists can often sense what a thinning hair client is saddled with - their own despair and isolation. Women with thinning hair don't necessarily want to be in the salon. “I don't like the salon. The salon is not a welcoming place for me. I feel very uncomfortable here. I don't like my hair. I don't want you to cut my hair. I'm afraid”

Your lack of education or interest around that type of hair, and their fear create this static thing with each other 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, whether it be something going on with their scalp, or whether it be a comparison that they have to a friend who is their exact same age, but doesn't have the thinning hair issue. But you’ll be listening and talking. That’s when things begin to change.

Once they give you that little nugget, that something solid to talk about, that's when you bring the best of yourself. That's when you introduce the dynamic part of this new world to them and really beginning 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 even means. That’s our job as stylists - or one of them - educate, empower, love. So, the more you can just lay out some science to that person and educate them about their hair shaft, for instance, and the time it would take to actually 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 for thinning hair. 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 your 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. Not the people that are so full of self-hatred and self-loathing that it's difficult for you or you feel pity for them or you feel badly for them in any way, shape or form. No one wins in those situations. They don’t get the support they need and you don’t get the satisfaction of affecting change and empowering another.

That's where we need to get these people to, and then constantly recognizing that the salon is the best and most welcoming and loving place full of educated hair dressers who are going to help that client take the best care of the hair they have on their head.

Val Leeper