The Dirty Truth of Working in a Salon or Spa Revealed

It's not as glamorous as you might think.

The Dirty Truth of Working in a Salon or Spa Revealed

When someone says, "Being an esthetician and makeup artist must be such an easy/fun/relaxing/glamorous job!" I can't help but laugh a little. There's a lot going on behind the scenes that is far from glamorous. Yes, the beauty industry is a great outlet for creative people. Making people the most beautiful, glamorous version of themselves is incredibly rewarding, but there are a lot of details most clients don't know about.


We don't get breaks. If there's a chance to shove food in our mouths at any point in the day, we snatch the rare opportunity and choke it down as fast as we can. Someone is going to walk in the door and want a brow wax on our scheduled break, and we can't turn away clients.


We do a ridiculous amount of laundry. In small salons and spas that don't own washer/dryer sets, this means bringing laundry home with you or spending lots of time at a laundromat. Wash, dry, fold. Repeat. So. Much. Laundry.


We clean everything.

Tables, chairs, floors, wax pots, tools, shampoo bowls... We spend nearly as much time setting up and cleaning up as we do with clients.

We scrub toilets. We scrub bathroom floors. We take out garbage, sometimes several times a day.

We get pieces of cut hair stuck everywhere.

We deal with dirty hair, dirty faces, dirty bodies, dirty feet. Some clients don't feel the need to shower before coming to us straight from the gym. Thanks.


That esthetician doing 6+ facials a day? Hasn't gotten a facial themselves since school. That hairstylist desperately needs a haircut but can't find time in the books. That massage therapist is exhausted, sore, and probably has back problems. That manicurist is fighting carpal tunnel. We break our bodies to heal yours, and very often forget to take care of ourselves in the process, yet industry standards demand that we constantly look flawless, polished, relaxed, approachable, and unwaveringly friendly.

Doing services all day is exhausting and very tough on the body. Back strain, muscle tension, carpal tunnel, breakouts from stress. We sweat over steam all day. We breathe in chemical fumes. Sometimes we ruin our clothes with wax, hair color, or bleach. Our hands are cracked and dry from washing and sanitizing.


Becoming a beauty professional also means you become an unintentional therapist. Since clients feel safe, they sometimes unload their problems on us. We are always here to listen. It's in our nature to want to help as much as we can, but there's only so much we can do. It's emotionally draining to have a client cry on the table or in the chair but we can't- and won't- stop being your outlet. We desperately want you to be able to find a professional therapist, because we aren't able to give you the help you need, as much as we want to.

Scheduled Insanity

When a client calls an hour before their service to cancel or reschedule, or doesn't show up at all, we take the loss financially. Not only do we lose commission and tip from the lost service, but with such short notice, we usually can't fill up the time with another client. Imagine being forced to clock out for an hour, sticking around and finding something to clean.

When someone shows up ten minutes late, it pushes the whole day back ten minutes. When someone shows up a half an hour late and still expects a full head of highlights, and then gets furious that we can't make that happen, our brains hurt.

Flawed Logic and Unreasonable Expectations

"I want a change, but I don't want to lose any length, cut layers, or get color."

"I want to get rid of all my dark spots because I like to go tanning a lot."

"This moisturizer with sunscreen is $75? That's too expensive. I'm going to just get Botox."

"I want you to get rid of my acne, but I'm not going to buy any products or change my lifestyle."

Still So Worth It

So why do we do it? It's that surprised and happy look on your face when you see your new cut or color for the first time. It's seeing the confidence boost in the shy teenage girl thanks to a swipe of mascara. It's feeling your muscles and mind relax. It's seeing you walk out of the facial room as if you've had a couple of cocktails. It's the visible, tangible relief of the teenager who has finally cleared up their acne. It's the happy tears in your eyes and the tremor in your voice when you tell me that everyone at work has noticed your rosacea has improved dramatically, and I can go home, beaten, exhausted, and covered in pieces of clay mask, knowing that I've improved your self esteem and quality of life.