On the surface, cosmetology seems like a great career! But it can also be tough, especially for those just starting out.
Some of the cons of being a cosmetologist are low salaries, long hours, and difficult customers. It’s also a job not suited to everyone who wants to work in the beauty industry – for some people, other careers might be a better fit.
Is working as a cosmetologist right for you, or are there just too many downsides to the profession? In this post, we’ll break it all down, so you can decide for yourself!
Cosmetologists have an extremely wide range of income, and there are numerous factors that play into how much you’ll actually get paid. On average, however, cosmetologists make around $29,680 annually.
Nail techs, who are listed separately by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fare a little worse, making a median salary of $29,210.
Though many cosmetologists also rely on tips and commissions to increase their income, it can be tough to get the ball rolling on these elements at first.
Even once you’re established and earning tips from regular customers and making sales regularly, you still have to be prepared for slow periods where you have fewer customers, fewer tips, or you sell fewer products. And this is especially true if you decide to run your own business.
Speaking of running your own business, keep in mind that if you work as an entrepreneur or part-time as a cosmetologist, you won’t receive benefits. This means paying for your own healthcare, and possibly being less able to afford time off.
Business owners also have to set aside more in taxes, because an employer isn’t withholding them from you. You’ll be in charge of paying state and federal taxes (generally quarterly as opposed to annually), which can be confusing for some (most) people.
You may opt to hire a certified public accountant, which is great for ensuring you’re filing all the necessary paperwork in the correct way and on time. However, CPAs can be expensive, and an added expense might not be feasible for everyone.
Cosmetologists tend to work long hours – at least 8 hours per day, including evenings and weekends.
Your busiest times will probably line up with the average person’s down time. For example, most people work a 9-5 job, so you’ll have an influx of clients either before 9:00 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m. You might also see many customers on the weekends.
The busy times in your work may also be the busy times in your life. For example, when everybody wants back-to-school haircuts for their kids, or when people want to look nice to see their family over the holidays, you might have to sacrifice time with your friends and family in order to satisfy your clients’ needs.
As it’s a low-paying career, you might also find yourself working a ton to keep up with your expenses. This is especially likely at the beginning of your career.
As with any customer service profession, cosmetologists are dealing with different people day in and day out. You’re bound to have some difficult customers along the way!
Customers might range from the simply annoying to the downright rude. You could find yourself spending a ton of time around a customer you don’t like in order to pay the bills.
You also won’t be able to make everyone happy! Some customers may not know what they want, or are unable to explain themselves adequately. You might do everything that they ask you to do, but in the end, the still might not be satisfied.
You may also mess up from time to time – mistakes can happen, we’re all human, and nobody’s perfect! Even with that said, accidentally cutting 5 inches instead of .5 inches off of someone’s hair might (understandably) make someone upset, and some mistakes you can’t simply undo.
Customers who aren’t satisfied with the service you provide – for whatever reason – may become frustrated or angry. They might demand that your service be complimentary, cause a (nasty) scene, spread a bad word around town, or all three!
You’ll need to have savvy people skills and a lot of patience. You might even find yourself giving away free gift cards or complimentary products just to calm down an ugly situation. All of that means more money out of your pocket (and not to mention a bad day).
Negative Health Effects
Work as a cosmetologist is hard on your back, legs, and feet. It requires standing for long hours, and without breaks, this can be tough on your body over time.
Cosmetologists also use chemicals and dyes in their daily work. These chemicals include things like nitrosamines and formaldehyde. Formaldehyde has been proven to cause harm to the female reproductive organs as well as a whole host of other problems.
And that’s just two. Chemicals in hair dyes, nail polishes, and other hair care products can be problematic for your skin, eyes, or lungs. Negative health effects can also become even more troublesome if you are or become pregnant.
It’s imperative to always use adequate protection, like gloves, when working with such chemicals. And you should always have a well-ventilated work space!
Is It Better to be A Barber than a Cosmetologist?
If you are interested in hair and only hair, becoming a barber might be the best career move for you. Here are some key differences between barbers and cosmetologists:
- Barbers are not licensed to care for skin or nails.
- Cosmetologists cannot shave hair with a razor or straight razor (which is why more men go to barbers)!
Essentially, barbers can do all things hair, plus some things that cosmetologists can’t do. Cosmetologists are licensed for a wider array of services, including skin and nail services.
It’s also important to remember that barbers and cosmetologists are not the same license, they are separate. It’s easy to take a crossover course and get a dual license, their scope of practice is not the same.
Also worth remembering that a lot of the disadvantages associated with being a cosmetologist will be the same as with being a barber, perhaps with the exception of a low salary (it all depends on your financial needs).
Is It Better to be An Esthetician than a Cosmetologist?
If you’re very interested in skincare, you might want to consider becoming an esthetician rather than a cosmetologist. What makes these careers different?
- Estheticians focus only on caring for customer’s skin.
- Cosmetologists can offer hair, skin, and nail services, however estheticians offer more specialized services.
- Estheticians make more money than cosmetologists on average.
In summary, licensed cosmetologists can perform a variety of hair, nail, and skin services; while those holding only an esthetician license can only perform skincare services.
In most states in the U.S., you can work as an esthetician with a cosmetology license. As always, some states differ, so double check with your state board to make sure the services you’re providing are in line with your legally allowed scope of practice.
As with barbering, the disadvantages that come with cosmetology will be extremely similar to those involved in esthetician work as well.
Is Being a Cosmetologist Right for Me?
People who succeed as cosmetologists tend to be friendly, business-minded, and hard-working. They have a passion for the beauty industry and love to make others feel better about themselves. They’re also great at handling difficult situations and working well under pressure.
If this sounds like you, a career as a cosmetologist might be a perfect fit!
Every profession has its drawbacks, and cosmetology can be particularly tough when you’re just starting out. Knowing this before you start means you won’t be blindsided by difficulties later on.
Being aware of the cons means you can plan accordingly and make sure your passion for the subject carries you through!
Being a cosmetologist can be a rewarding and creative career choice, but it also comes with its fair share of drawbacks. The physical toll it takes on the body, the competitive nature of the industry, and the potential challenges of building a steady client base are all factors to consider. However, with proper preparation, perseverance, and a passion for the art of beauty, many cosmetologists have found success and fulfillment in their chosen field.
Already in school? Take our free cosmetologist practice exam to see if you’re ready for your exam!