Now Reading: Add another brave profession to the health system: hairdressers ( @tabathacoffey )

This was reviewed negatively by some on Amazon because people felt that it didn’t have enough depth. However, Tabatha states she is a private person, and not having written a book (yet), I have respect for anyone that has written one.

It’s not a secret that I watch reality TV, and I am especially drawn to the shows that are about business and leadership. If you watch Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, it becomes quickly obvious that she’s teaching people how to be successful leaders in business, not just great hairdressers.

With that in mind I read the book and found inside it experiences and ideas that are so relevant to health care, health, and leadership. I’m going to post a few of the quotes below, the ones that remind me that there aren’t just parents, mothers, fathers, teachers, nurses, and doctors, who shouldn’t be underestimated. See what you think.

These are just a taste, it’s worth checking out the book yourself, and now that Kindle books can be rented from your local library (this was actually my first Kindle rental and it went very smoothly), it’s easier than ever to partake in others’ stories.

On being an empowered patient

That’s when I sued the original plastic surgeon. Goddamn it if I was going to let that guy do this to anybody else (implant too large breasts with severe complications). And frankly, my lopsided tit was also dying for retribution. The painful ordeal had made me realize it had been perfectly fine on its own and then he came along and fucking mangled it. I would seek justice for my left tit.

As if it was something to brag about, he actually described his “overfill policy” regarding implants and explained that he’d made me bigger because women never really know how big they want to be. In other words, most of us don’t know what we’re talking about even when it comes to our own bodies. So his personal philosophy was to always fill the implants by 25 percent more than what the patient specifically asked for.

On helping others be empowered

I realized a trip to the salon could be about much more than just a haircut or dye job, and that the psychology is sometimes more important than the actual hairdressing. When people are going through shit, they tell their hairdressers secrets they won’t share with anyone else, and often the revelation of those secrets changes the person and how they feel about themselves. It makes them feel renewed, like confessing to their priest.

These days, there are associations that work with hairdressers so that, if people sit in your chair and tell you about having been abused, you can contact a hotline to get them some help. Like a therapist, or the local barkeep, hairdressers are in a position of trust. We are transforming not just how a person looks but how they feel and, therefore, they want to tell us things.

On listening to clients

I’m well aware that although I know some extremely intimate things about many of the clients who sit in my chair, I’m ultimately qualified as a hairdresser, not as a psychotherapist. There is a limit on advice. It is more about being a good listener and using my craft to try to make my clients feel differently about themselves and their lives.

So when I ask, “What do you like about yourself?” it puts them on the spot. Suddenly they have nothing to say. The fact is, despite the double chin, someone might have beautiful eyes, lovely lips, and incredible cheekbones, not to mention a wicked sense of humor. So I’ll style their hair to accentuate those features, to make them feel better about themselves, and also to make them laugh about whatever they don’t like.

(editorial comment from me – knows her limits and yet this is the type of consultation many patients would love receiving from a health care professional)

On the balance between what’s right and ‘satisfaction’

Forget the old business credo that the customer’s always right. They may be right in the sense that I do want to make my clients happy, but that’s also why they’re not always right. I mean, if a woman absolutely insists on something that I know is going to wreck her hair, will I still do it? Fuck, no. I won’t ruin my reputation and I won’t ruin her hair—“Go to someone else who will ruin your hair and who doesn’t care, but I won’t do it.”

And, as usual, I see lots of analogies to health care

When it comes to hairdressing, it is about transforming people inside and out so they like who they see in the mirror, even if they are getting the same cut and color they’ve had for years. And sometimes they want nothing more than to look the way they have always looked. Sometimes they just want to look and feel “normal.”

With experience, I’ve definitely honed my ability to listen and analyze clients’ comments. But it was my upbringing that taught me that everything is not as it seems. We have to delve beneath the surface to determine what—and who—is really there, and this pays dividends in a profession where we have the ability to make people feel incredibly great about themselves within a very short time.

We in health care have the ability to make people feel incredibly great or lessen feelings of devastation, in a very short time, too. This read adds to my feeling that learning from and collaborating with the brave members of our community may just be as important or more important than the mobile app….I would be interested to see what would happen if Tabatha took over a medical office….


Brilliant Post Ted! Hairdressers are very much part of the team. Not long ago a dresser shared with me a story about a client who was shedding way too much hair so she inform the young lady that she was concerned that something might be wrong with her thyroid. The lady responded that she had not washed her hair in a year and did not thoroughly brush it out, hence she was shedding. Now, the hairdresser had a new topic of conversation: basic hygiene.

I was drawn to your blog from a twitter post: Now Reading: profession to the health system: hairdressers (@tabathacoffey ) –
As always, I learned something even though it didn’t speak to the topic I imagined, which was the “hair smoothing controversy”.
Most every article on the internet pertaining to the “hair smoothing controversy”, and recent events, including OSHA warnings and fines, alert salons about the importance of appropriate work practices and proper salon ventilation.
My intent has been to listen to what the leaders in this industry (Tabatha Coffey, etc.) to see if they are commenting on this heated topic and how it is affecting the salon environment in their opinion. Do you know if Tabatha has dealt with this issue in any of her shows or in any other venues?
Thanks again for sharing an inside look from a hairdressers perspective ~ that a haircut is not just a haircut and never was…
Peace & light,
Bonnie 🙂

Hi Bonnie,

I hadn’t heard of this issue before your comment, so I haven’t seen it discussed in the book or on the show, I am impressed that you took the time to appreciate the story regardless and provide a bit of your experience at the same time. With respect,


Hi Ted,

The stylist is really most at risk as they are exposed to the chemicals on a continuous basis.
Most salons lack proper ventilation needed to ensure safety for these professional hair-straightening treatments. I have found many salons first try opening windows, doors or using fans, which only circulate the vapors throughout the salon instead of pulling them away from the breathing zones of the stylist and client.

There are many helpful resources on the web (search “salon chemical source capture system”) to help stylists & their clients stay informed about the importance of proper salon ventilation as well as assist in them in meeting OSHA requirements for safety.


Thanks Ted,

There are very few ongoing customer relationships that are as powerful as the one with a hair stylist. I have been visiting the same salon for over 20 years and when my kids were young also visited the place with them as well. The salon team is like a family and when I visit there every month or so I feel like a family member. I think this would be a great place to tap into for spreading health care reminder messages and health education messages. It could be subtle and yet powerful. Breast cancer screening, colorectal cancer screening, lifestyle management, even statin adherence reminders would be well received if shared during the salon visit. This happens unsolicited now just via the conversations in the salon. A woman may start sharing that someone they knew just had a heart attack and before you know it others in the salon are talking about someone they knew as well and what you should do to prevent one etc. I think perhaps we should educate stylists with some basic health information and let them spread the word!

It would be a marriage of Hair Care and Health Care!

Stay well and thrive,

Gail Lindsay

Dear Gail,

I appreciate your comment about recruiting hair stylists to improve health on so many levels.

I have also had interesting conversations with my hair stylist about his health care experiences…and they have left much to be desired. I’ve been asking him to write a post on this blog, it would be a very good read.

Because good hair stylists are also good business people, they could teach us a lot about service, quality, access.

If we recruited every hairdresser, or really any community professional, in the way we treat them inside and outside of the exam room, we could see a huge impact.

If we don’t treat them with respect as they community leaders that they are when we care for them, it can have a huge, even devastating impact, too.

There’s a tragic example in Washington, DC, in the death of community leader Noah Chudnoff (see: – “She met every ambition she set out to conquer” ).

Recognizing the role of hair stylists and all patients as potential community leaders could prevent a lot of harm and bring a lot of health, I think we should do it, I’m going to ask my hair stylist about this 🙂


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