Racing the Clock in the Salon

Racing the Clock in the Salon

The Negative Effects Of Long Term Stress And Constant Adrenaline

Do you remember the conversation in beauty school about your timing with clients and keeping on schedule? Along the way, somehow, you learn through experience, and it may take years. Over time the grind takes over, and the relentless pace of salon life creeps up. 


You double-book yourself because the salon culture promotes this practice. If you are a colorist, every fifteen-minutes is a color application; you don’t need to shampoo or finish your clients. So add it up: four clients per hour, seven hours of work, 28 clients a day is a hefty load. If you have creative color or Balayage, that may vary the schedule a bit. If you are a haircutter, you see a different client every 30-45 minutes and having an assistant do the shampoos and possibly blow dry. Do the math. It is easy to see that racing the clock becomes the norm and is even expected and promoted in salons to pay the bills.

Some salon owners think of this activity and client turnover as productivity. Some hairstylists thrive on the adrenaline and the addictive nature of this feeling which feeds the close cousin called anxiety. The speed and ability to execute your color or haircut within a short time frame have been the measurement of a stylist ready to move up in ranks within the salon. And yes, when I have trained new stylists, speed is a necessary skill to learn. However, have we taken it to the extreme, at the expense of our well-being and long-term health?

So why don’t we talk about it? Do we pay a high price for this adrenaline addiction for the sake of making more money? Is this what prestige means? Is this what “skilled” means? Is this what we want to train our up-and-coming hairstylists to do? Racing the clock has become the norm in salons and may be counterproductive in the long run. Our salon cultures need to change! 

Let’s imagine for a moment what it might be like to reframe this conversation and work environment. We train our new stylists first to execute the craft, to know what they are doing, then work on speed, but not with the intent to make more money but to invest in their longevity. Your hairstyling career’s longevity will bring you more money, happiness, and more satisfaction for the long haul if you are not experiencing back pain or tendonitis from powering through your jammed schedule day in and day out.


“Hairstylists must take charge of their health and well-being to enjoy a long career.”




Statistics show our industry is a great one for exceptionally social and creative people, but what about those who want to maintain health and balance and be pain-free? In a article, Stress: How Our industry Compares with America,

“In the Healthy Hairdresser research that hey conducted in cooperation with City of Hope, just about all hairdressers report having some stress in their lives. The biggest chunk—nearly 42 percent—gauged their stress level right in the middle, at #3 on a scale of 1 to 5.”

As stated by The Bureau of Statistics Occupational Handbook, Job Prospects, 

“A large number of job openings will stem from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations, retire, or leave the occupation for other reasons.”

Leave the occupation for other reasons; meditate on what these reasons are. Quite possibly, a few might be low pay, stressful, long hours on your feet, hard to find a good salon to work.

The fact that stress builds up from racing the clock is genuine. In the Modern article by Rosanne Ullman, Job Stress at the Salon, she states:

“Like everyone else, hairdressers want to make as much money per hour as they can, which can lead to long hours, time management issues, disputes over commission and other stress triggers. Handling clients can be stressful. Physical ailments common to hairdressers can create stress. An article in the June 20 New York Times explored the physical ailments that occur just from having a “mean” boss. So if you’re the salon owner, be nice!”

Recognizing you are stressed is the first step. As listed in this article, Stress at Work, by, these are symptoms to be mindful of:
  • Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
  • Apathy, loss of interest in work
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Muscle tension or headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope

This article also talks about what you can do about reducing stress. This one caught my eye, Time management tips for reducing job stress!  Suggestions like: create a balanced schedule, don’t over-commit, plan regular breaks, and try to leave earlier in the morning, seem like foreign concepts to most hairstylists. Think about it though, most of these are in our control.

You can’t lean on your salon owner for the change to happen. It would help if you took personal responsibility for your own spiritual, psychological, emotional, and physical health. It is up to you to find the right salon future for yourself, which we will explore in my next blog post. If you find less joy in what you do because you are storming through your day, perhaps it is not the right salon environment for you. Learn to take care of yourself and exercise. Learn how to hold your body correctly to avoid injuries. Work on speed, but not to your detriment, and not because you think that is what you are supposed to do; speed comes naturally.

Racing the clock can be hurting you and your business in the long run. The salon owner may or may not be encouraging this behavior. It is up to you to decide whether you can continue to work like this. Create the culture you want and is most healing for you. Maybe you can even bring it up at a salon meeting.  Bring an expert in to help your staff take care of themselves, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Be the agent of change in your salon!



Keep a log of how you use your time, how many clients you see, and when you take breaks. Consider slowing down your pace for career longevity instead of maximizing profits all at once now—quality vs. Quantity.


Listen to Zen Spirit: Japanese Music Relaxing Songs and Sounds of Nature, so relaxing.

If you would like help with your time management skills, and getting your life in balance, click here


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