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Last updated: January 05, 2024

The Ins & Outs Of Assisting: How To Be & Choose The Right Hair Assistant

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Photo courtesy ISP Creative

If You Plan To Become Or Hire An Assistant, Read This

In today’s hair industry, assisting is pretty much a non-negotiable step in excelling in one’s career—it acts as a transition period between learning in a classroom and working in a salon. As for mentors, assisting not only provides an extra set of hands to work more efficiently, but also creates opportunity for learning moments for both parties through teaching and fostering continuous improvement. And even though assistant programs are a win-win for mentees and mentors, searching for the right fit can be an intimidating task.


Here’s What Assistants Should Look For In A Mentorship Program:

Any assistant can expect to fold towels, rinse color bowls and sweep up hair—but there’s also other important things they should expect to learn and do while assisting to help prepare them for going solo behind the chair.


To help future salon assistants find the right program for them, we enlisted the help of former Ulta Beauty Stylists Assistants whose experience in the Ulta Beauty Assistant Stylist Mentorship Program can help soon-to-be assistants set standards when choosing a program.


5 things to look for when becoming an assistant:


  • A position that teaches the ins and outs of scheduling and bookkeeping logistics 
  • A hands-in-hair experience to strengthen your techniques before taking on your own clients
  • The position should allow you to learn from someone with a career path similar to what you want to do
    • This could be someone who has experience working in a salon environment similar to one you want work in or who specializes in what you’d like to specialize in.
  • A program that will improve your weaknesses
    • “I believe the program helped me grow behind the chair because my educator focused heavily on any weak points I had and provided a true hands-on experience,” shares former Ulta Beauty Stylist Assistant Emilia Matei.
  • How to be more confident in and out of the salon
    • “Participating in this program not only makes you more confident as a stylist, but it teaches you how to connect to your guests, color formulations, a multitude of cutting techniques and learning how to be a part of a salon team!” says former Ulta Beauty Stylist Assistant Emmy Milner (@beauty_by_emmyy) of choosing the Ulta program.


Photo courtesy ISP Creative

Kickstart your hair career in just 12 weeks by joining the Ulta Beauty Stylist Assistant Mentorship Program.


5 Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Assisting:

So you found your dream position, now it’s time to be the best assistant you can be—after all, assistant programs are what you make them; you get out what you put in! In addition to being professional and reliable, here are the five ways to ensure you get the most out of your time assisting so you can grow as a stylist:


  • Be open to learning new styles and techniques.
  • Know you will have to work hard and put in the effort on and off the clock.
  • Be willing to take constructive criticism—after all, you’re there to learn!
  • While you have the support of a senior stylist, don’t be afraid to take chances on styles and techniques that are new to you.
  • Ask questions! Not confident in a particular cutting technique? Ask for clarification until you are.


ulta beauty assistant program
Photo courtesy ISP Creative


Here’s How Mentors Can Choose The Right Assistant:

Of course every stylist wants an assistant with a positive, can-do attitude who makes the work day easier—but there’s other things soon-to-be mentors should also look for when hiring.


In order to ensure a positive mentorship, stylists should follow these three strategies when bringing on an assistant:


  • Make sure you and the potential assistant are aligned in specialties.
    • This will ensure effective communication, collaboration and knowledge transfer. 
  • Choose a candidate who is interested in growing within the salon.
    • This means they will be willing to invest their time and efforts into improving themselves and the salon.
  • Go with an assistant who shows an interest in learning from you.
    • An assistant who makes it clear they are interested in learning from you specifically guarantees they will respect you, your time, knowledge and experience. They’re more likely to show up ready to work and be open to constructive feedback.


3 Things Senior Stylists Should Do When Mentoring Assistants:

Just like assistants, there’s things mentors can do to ensure a productive mentorship program. Ulta stylists McKenna Hill (@itsmckennaelizabeth), Karen McCrowey (@karenmccroweyhair) and Shyloh Hadley (@hairbyshyloh)—who’ve all been mentors in Ulta’s Beauty Stylist Assistant Program—share their tips for being an amazing mentor:


  • Demonstrate your passion for hair.
    • “I think someone who has a love for the craft and sharing their experiences makes a great fit for the mentor position,” says McKenna. “In my opinion it isn’t a money or number-driven position, it’s to teach a new stylist how to become successful in their own career.”
  • Release control behind the chair.
    • “You have to be comfortable not having total control and letting your mentee be a part of your services with your guests,” says Karen.
  • Know that having an assistant is about helping them grow in their career. 
    • “It’s more than just having an extra set of hands to do washes and blow-dries (although I am very grateful for it!). It’s an opportunity to influence the next generation of stylists and grow your skills as a stylist and educator,” says Shyloh.


Photo courtesy ISP Creative


Facts About The Ulta Beauty Assistant Stylist Mentorship Program:

While some assistant programs solely offer experience through shadowing and learn-as-you-go formats, Ulta offers a very detailed six-month program. The first 12 weeks, assistants follow a week-by-week development plan focused on building a range of skillsets. During the second 12 weeks, the assistants begin servicing clients while also assisting their mentor.


Here’s a look at what’s taught in the program:


  • Haircutting (all textures)
  • Hair color: application & formulation
  • Styling (all textures)
  • Backbar product knowledge
  • Treatments
  • Consultations
  • Rebookings
  • Creating a guest plan


While the program is designed to be six months, it is adjustable based on the needs of the assistant (they can finish early if excelling, can pause in any specific area that needs more attention). 


Interested in being an Ulta Beauty Assistant Stylist? Click here for more info!

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