Hair Extension Specialist

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Having been through four pregnancies myself, I wince at the idea of being a pregnant hairdresser. I can’t imagine standing on my feet all day while carrying the extra weight. But Surieta Pillman seems to do it with ease, and with a smile on her face too! She took some time off from her busy schedule (just a few days before going on maternity leave) to tell us about her career.

Surieta is a partner in Gary Rom Hairdressing, and runs the Woodlands Institute in Pretoria East. This salon is known for its luxurious, friendly environment, complete with soundproof treatment rooms for ultra relaxation, and its immaculate, contemporary décor. With all this to offer, not forgetting the incredible professionalism of the employees, it’s no wonder that this salon is known as one of the best in the country.

The scope of the beauty and hairdressing industry is broad, and often all-encompassing or interconnected, so it’s rather difficult to isolate or detach a job, such as “hair extension specialist”, from that of “hairdresser” or “hairstylist”. People who do hair extensions are, in fact, qualified hairdressers. It’s also just as difficult to give an estimation of earnings in this field, because it varies drastically from one company to the other, from one level of experience to another, and according to whether you are a salon owner or an employee.

Pertaining to hair extensions, the hairdresser first conducts a thorough consultation with the client, in order to explain the whole process, as well as to understand what the client’s expectations are. Other important issues, such as colour matching, how the extensions are applied, and maintenance of the extensions, are also discussed during the consultation. Once the client is happy with the options, and has decided what he or she wants, and the hairdresser has agreed that the chosen option will suit the client, the application process can begin.

“It’s wonderful to see satisfied clients. Getting hair extensions is almost like having a complete makeover – the client feels glamorous and more self-confident – and this major change takes place in less than a day. The con is that some clients’ expectations can be unrealistic.”

You need to be a qualified hairdresser, with experience in styling and colouring hair. Surieta uses Great Lengths hair extensions, which are made from 100% natural human hair of the highest quality. With hair extensions, you can change the length and thickness of your hair, and still perm, highlight and colour it. “Hairdressers who use Great Length extensions have to complete a two-day training course through the company,” says Surieta. To start a career in this line, you could apply for an apprenticeship at Gary Rom Hairdressing (GRH), which can be anything from six to 36 months – this will depend on any previous hairdressing experience, previous hairdressing studies, and your eagerness to learn. After qualifying, GRH will help you to promote yourself and build a client base, as well as assist you in establishing a career plan.

“You must be an extrovert, have good people skills and communication skills, and have lots of patience. Client satisfaction is of utmost importance, and it can become quite a strain when you have to keep your client entertained for six hours!”

“When clients come into the salon, they are briefed on the extension process, and then prepared for application of the extensions. Applying hair extensions can take anywhere from two to six hours. When the process is complete, the hair is washed, coloured if necessary, styled, and then cut on dry hair to blend in with the natural hair.”

“I love working with my clients and making them feel better about themselves. I am very passionate about my job.”

“The worst part is having to deal with difficult clients who expect us to make the impossible possible! However, I embrace all the challenges in my career, and do my best to keep my clients happy and wanting to return to the salon. I have found my career in hairdressing to be immensely rewarding, with endless exciting job opportunities.”

Chantelle Gradidge

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Printed in Nov/Dec SA Career Focus Magazine

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