What is the Difference Between a Hairdresser and a Hairstylist

It could be you are considering joining the hair beauty profession. Or, you have visited the salon regularly for years and wondered if there is a difference between the two titles. The answer is yes, there is a difference between hairdressers and hairstylists, even though you might have heard the terms being used interchangeably.

Although both professionals do often work in the same environment, there are certain commonalities and differences between the work they do. Let us start by defining what each professional does before delving into how they differ.

What is a Hairdresser?

A hairdresser is a beauty professional who washes, treats, cuts, processes, and styles hair. They also undertake chemical treatments, add hair extensions, curl, straighten, and colour hair. If attending to men, they may also shave, trim and treat beards and moustaches. They may also clean, cut, treat and style wigs and hair pieces.

They are who you go to when you want a permanent change to your look. They understand how different haircuts will look on different face shapes and hair types and can properly advise their clients when they want to make a change.

They make use of a variety of products and equipment to carry out their services. Due to the breadth of their services, they tend to be based out of fixed locations like salons and spas. You may however also find them on tv show sets and fashion shoots.

Cutting, colouring, and chemical treatments are considered permanent changes to the hair structure and as such should ideally be performed by someone that is professionally trained.

Many who enter the hair beauty profession will start as hairdressers before gradually moving on to other specialities. It is possible to become a hairdresser through an apprenticeship, however, the majority of hairdressers in the country make a point of first earning a related vocational certificate. Though not mandatory, having a certification can help in securing an apprenticeship and gaining the trust of clientele.

What is a hairstylist?

Though this term is often used interchangeably with a hairdresser, hairstylists are somewhat different. They perform styling work that is temporary on hair. The tasks they usually perform include curling, adding volume, creating up-dos, braiding, and other styling for special occasions. The changes they make can typically be washed out.

They also often work in salons, spas, tv show sets, and fashion shoots. Since they work with fewer tools of the trade compared to hairdressers, they can also more easily be mobile and attend to their clients at their homes. So while both do handle hair, hairdressers tend to be more technical and professionally trained while hairstylists are more like creatives.


Hair care expertise

As said, both hairdressers and hairstylists handle hair. They also need to be careful about ensuring the health of their client’s hair. No matter the change they are effecting, they need to ensure their client’s hair is kept safe from any heat or cuticle damage. Irrespective of whether either professional has undergone vocational training, they should have at least served as an apprentice long enough to understand how to protect and preserve the health of their client’s hair.

Understanding client needs

Both hairdressers and hairstylists need to ensure that before they make any changes to a client’s hair, be they permanent or temporary, they understand their client’s needs. It is important to listen to what clients want and why. They need to not only factor in whatever occasion the client is preparing for, but also if this will impact their normal routine or lifestyle.

They also need to consider what effect a change will have on the client’s appearance, given their particular face shape and hair type. While is it not up to the hairdresser or hairstylist to pick and choose styles or treatments for their clients, they do need to properly advise them of the likely outcomes and make suitable recommendations where possible.

Interpersonal skills

Often, sessions with hairdressers and hairstylists will last a long while. To work in this sector, you need to have strong interpersonal skills that will put your clients at ease throughout the whole process. Whether the client is the talkative type or an introvert, you need to figure out how to make them comfortable and satisfied with their experience with you.

Interpersonal skills also help when trying to sell hair care products to clients, soliciting good reviews and referrals, and managing other customer service aspects. This can be a tough business and not every client you attend to will be happy with the results of your service. You need to be able to handle the criticism and learn from it if constructive.


Type of work

Hairdressers undertake work that creates a more permanent change in the appearance of their clients. This includes haircuts, chemical treatments, permanent hair extensions, and hair colouring. They can also do hair styling, or hand over the client to a hairstylist.

Hairstylists primarily do temporary styling of hair. This includes adding volume, waves, curling, straightening, and braiding hair. They may also combine some of these techniques to style clients’ hair for major events like the red carpet, weddings, and more.


Hairdressers tend to work in permanent locations like salons and spas that are equipped with the products and equipment they need to deliver the broad range of services they are trained in. hairstylists however require fewer tools and can often work more independently and on the go.


Hairdressers and hairstylists are not required to have a license or certification to work in the beauty industry. You can work as an apprentice to learn the skills you need. However, if you intend to start and run your own hairdressing business, you may need to acquire a specific licence or registration, depending on which state you live in.