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Hair and Beauty

The Job Market



  • Hair and beauty professionals can find employment in many businesses, including cruise ships, hotels and holiday resorts
  • In difficult economic times, customer loyalty is vital so good customer care skills are increasingly important - however, the hair and beauty industry usually suffers less than other sectors in a recession
  • The Afro hair and beauty business in the UK is worth around £60 million a year, according to a report by Mintel
  • Only a small percentage of workers are estimated to be self-employed, eg mobile beauty therapists, nail technicians or hairdressers who rent space in a salon. In a few specialist areas, however, the percentage is high, e.g. in the extremely competitive world of TV and film hairdressers/make-up artists (NB mostly based in London).
  • Few men work or train in beauty therapy (around 2% of staff are male) but as the number of salons aimed at male customers grows, this might change - men now spend well over £1 billion on grooming products each year Far more males are employed in the hairdressing industry, and some of the most famous and well paid hairdressers are men!


  • According to Habia, the beauty therapy industry has a yearly turnover of around £500 million and employs about 35,000 people in at least 8,000 businesses.
  • More and more, beauty salons are moving away from only offering traditional treatments such as facials and manicures. Some businesses have become involved in complementary health therapy (eg reflexology, aromatherapy), nutritional advice and teeth whitening for instance
  • The beauty therapy workforce is well qualified when it comes to vocational qualifications, and employers rarely take on people without them
  • Highly skilled therapists are in demand. ‘Missing’ skills include technical ones, such as laser hair removal and micro-dermabrasion (which is a non-surgical technique which aims to improve the skin’s appearance), and business ones (especially selling skills)
  • Small, one-off salons make up the majority of beauty businesses. There are a few franchises and chains although these tend to be based in leisure centres/gyms or, in large cities, department stores
  • Very occasionally, salons offer apprenticeships in beauty therapy. For the first few months of an apprenticeship duties would involve reception, sterilising equipment, settling in the clients, etc rather than beauty-related tasks.
  • There are around 400 spas in the UK and this is a growing sector - the name is a bit misleading but 'spas' usually offer a wider range of treatments than beauty salons and so could offer interesting work opportunities. Some are situated in luxury hotels; others are stand-alones. There are also opportunities overseas.


  • The industry has changed over the last few years – the average salon now employs more staff (especially males) than before and, although most salons are still independent, nearly a quarter of businesses across the UK are estimated to be part of a chain or a franchise.
  • A franchise is a bit like a chain in that the salon operates under a particular ‘trade name’ (which may be well-known) but the business outlet itself is owned by an individual (the franchisee) not the company.
  • Barber shops (which specialise in cutting men’s hair) tend to have fewer employees than hairdressing salons
  • Various skills are considered to be in short supply, including specialist skills such as hair extensions and chemical straightening, and business skills
  • Full time work is more usual than part time.
  • Hairdressers might need to adapt their personal style and approach depending on the salon - for instance, a large chain or franchise which charges high prices might require a certain 'look' in their staff 
  • Compared with other work sectors, hairdressing has a relatively large percentage of staff/trainees aged 16 or 17 (estimated to be around 10%). Habia’s research shows the vast majority of new recruits to hairdressing are under 26.
  • It’s suggested that not enough suitably qualified young people are applying; some people in the industry feel that – even after training – not all young people are ready for the pressures of a busy, commercial salon.