Cosmetology Courses: What You Need to Know

To graduate from cosmetology school, you will have to take a variety of cosmetology courses and classes. You’ll have to become proficient in all these areas and each of their many specialized techniques and applications.

Alternatively, you might choose to focus on just one of those concentrations and become a specialist, like a nail technician, a hairstylist, a makeup artist, or an esthetician. Either way, you’ll have to enroll in a cosmetology program with the right blend of courses that can prepare you to earn a state license and launch a successful career.

What Do You Study in Cosmetology Classes?

Every cosmetology school is different, and they all tailor their programs to the requirements of their state licensing boards. Even so, cosmetology schools universally cover similar subject matter, although the teaching method, learning environment, and academic philosophy change from school to school. No matter where you get your training, you’ll learn about the following subjects.

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Safety and Sanitation

Safety and sanitation are listed first for a reason. No amount of skill, talent, or passion can make up for a workplace that’s unclean or unsafe. In this part of the program, you’ll learn about state laws and best practices for things like hygiene, bacteria control, and waste disposal.

You’ll learn how to handle your tools safely, how to maintain them, and how to keep them clean and in good working order. You may rehearse setting up your workstation and prepping clients during hands-on exercises. You’re also likely to study academic coursework. This includes chemistry as it relates to the products you’ll work with during your career, as well as biology, human physiology, infection control, and communicable disease theory.

Hair care is one of cosmetology’s three main disciplines, the other two being skin and nails. In hair care classes, you’ll most likely study both academically and through hands-on training. You’ll learn skills like shampooing, styling, coloring, cutting, trimming, and braiding, as well as concepts such as chemical theory, hair physiology, hair analysis, and hair and scalp health.

You might learn and practice procedures like highlighting, frosting, framing, straightening, and chemical hair treatments. Your program should include instruction in wigs and extensions, as well as in curling, dyeing, and tinting. The tools and equipment you’ll learn about and practice with include scissors, razors, trimmers, clippers, curling irons, flat irons, dryers, and curlers.

Just like your training in hair care, this portion of your program should introduce you to academic concepts like physiology and biology as they pertain to the skin. Your training will likely include treatments like facials, masks, cleansing, exfoliating, and microdermabrasion, as well as toning, massaging, and body wraps. Skin care involves not just the skin, but also the hair that grows from it—hair removal will be a big part of your training.

Nail care is the final major component of cosmetology. Your training in this concentration will usually include preparatory procedures like cleaning, filing, soaking, and trimming the nails and cuticles. You’ll also learn about the application and removal of acrylic nails and nail extensions, as well as how to perform nail fills and nail repairs. Pedicures and manicures, including French manicures, should be covered, as will nail art and nail embellishment.

Nail care also involves techniques and procedures for the hands and feet. Example treatments include foot and hand peeling and masks, scrubs, aromatherapy, and massage. The curriculum may also include academic learning about the physiology of nails and the chemistry involved in the many products and solutions you’ll use.

Many programs include courses and training sessions that focus on salon management. These courses touch on topics such as sales techniques, organizational skills, leadership, business management, and public relations. It is possible that the course will be split into two sections: first focusing on freelance cosmetologist and second focusing on those who work in a salon. Other topics include staffing, business financing, and relationship management.

When we talk about makeup in this context, we are talking about makeup training as a subset of cosmetology. In these courses, you’ll learn how to analyze skin types and assess clients to determine the right kind and color of cosmetics to use. Training should include instruction in the color palette, how to remove makeup, and how to apply it. That includes blending, shading, and contouring. You’ll also learn how to do some basic “looks” for clients, such as a “prom” or “evening” look.

Popular Cosmetology Curriculum

There are several popular cosmetology curriculum that are widely used in cosmetology schools and programs. Keep in mind that the popularity of curriculum can vary based on the specific curriculum and preferences of different institutions.

Two very popular publishers for cosmetology schools are Milady and Pivot Point International. They produce a variety of curriculum, workbooks, and study guides that cover the broad range of cosmetology fundamentals.

Remember that curriculum preferences can vary from one school to another, and new editions of curriculum may be released. It's a good idea to check with your school or instructor to confirm the recommended curriculum for your specific cosmetology program.

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