Hairstyling for Men vs. Women: What's the Difference?

If you’re considering a cosmetology-related career, it’s smart to think about whether you see yourself working primarily with male or female clients. While there is overlap -- men are welcome at hair salons and some women swear by their barber’s knack for giving them the perfect cut -- hair stylists and barbers take different training paths in cosmetology school.

Here’s a quick look at some factors that may help you decide whether hair styling or barbering is right for you:

Barber School or Cosmetology School?

Cosmetology school training covers hair style basics, such as cuts, color, and perms. Classes also cover nail techniques, makeup artistry, skin care and other specialties, so learning to style men’s and women’s hair will be one part of a broader course offering.

Barbers’ training focuses on men’s head and facial hair, including advanced techniques in shaving and cutting. If your state’s laws restrict razor handling and you want to be a full-service barber, you’ll need specific barber school training to meet those requirements.

barber shaving a man's face while students watch

Work Environment: Salon or Barber Shop?

Salons have a social aspect to them: there may be giddy bridal parties preparing for weddings and play stations to keep toddlers busy while their mothers enjoy a little pampering. Barber shops play a communal role too, but they tend to be more low-key and less frilly. Picturing yourself in each may help you realize which would feel more comfortable on a day-to-day basis.

How big of a client base will you need?

Men tend to have shorter hair, so while it doesn’t grow any faster, their styles dictate more frequent cuts. Women wear their hair in a wider variety of styles and experiment more with color and other treatments, so you may see them less frequently but provide more services.

Which styling products do men and women use?

The differences in men’s and women’s hairstyles also play a role in the products they use to maintain their hairstyles. Since women tend to have more hair and alter it more with perms and coloring, having primarily female clients will require you to know more about products that help them retain the look they’re trying to achieve. Barbers also shave their clients’ facial hair, so they need to be familiar with shaving-related products as well as those designed to help men maintain their typically shorter hair styles or no hair at all.

Choosing the right Cosmetology or Barber School for you.

Clearly, there’s no right or wrong choice between pursuing a career as an in-demand hair stylist or a skilled barber. Feel free to explore different cosmetology school programs and familiarize yourself with the different skill sets you’ll need, then find a Cosmetology School or Barber School near you that offers the classes you need to pursue a rewarding career helping clients find the hairstyles that help them look their best.

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