Building a Better Beauty Industry Together


It’s time for a “wake up and smell the coffee” post for all of you, so here it is.

Print the list at the bottom of this post and put it somewhere visible. Put it on your fridge, on your nightstand, or on your bathroom mirror. These are not “affirmations.” These are facts. I’m not going to give you some false mantra to repeat to yourself every morning in the hopes that it will someday magically come true.

I want you to see these and read them until you fully understand what it means and you begin to believe it about yourself as a professional.

After the emails I’ve received this week, I have noticed a common denominator between exploited employees: none of you realize your professional value. This is why you are being exploited. You make it too easy. If you don’t value yourself, why would any employer?

I often get emails from readers and friends in the industry asking me:
“When are you going to create a union?”
“Can’t you start an association or something?”
“Are you planning on starting a petition?”

Re-read those sentences. Do you see what’s wrong with them?

“When are you…
“Can’t you…
“Are you…


I am not being exploited.
I am not being victimized by your employer.
I am ONE person. 
This issue is too big for one person, but I’m doing the best I can.

I write articles.
I answer emails.
I provide free advice.
I sign petitions.
I contact authorities.
I try to inform all of you so that you know your rights and can defend yourselves.

That is what I am doing. What are you doing?

You are taking jobs, knowing that employers are exploiting you.
(“Well, I knew it was wrong, but… [insert bullshit excuse here].”)

You fail to negotiate contracts that don’t serve you and strip you of your rights.
(“I didn’t want to sign it, but… [insert bullshit excuse here].”)

You are continuing to use an unsustainable compensation system that put your salons at legal and financial peril.
(“I didn’t want to do commission-only, but…”)

You aren’t taking action with your state cosmetology boards or labor boards.
(“I would go to the meetings, but… [insert yet another bullshit excuse here].”)

You aren’t prosecuting when you’ve been exploited by your employers or have had your business violated by ex-employees.
(“I wanted to prosecute, but… [you know what goes here].”)

You devalue yourself and your profession and then act surprised when owners refuse to treat you with the same respect or offer you the same benefits given to even the most menial of employees.
(“I want benefits, fair compensation, and to be treated better, but… [blah, blah blah].”)

I can’t fight your battles for you. I can help you, but things will not change unless YOU decide that you will not stand for poor treatment anymore.

Every day until you GET IT, read this.

1.) You are a professional, not a charity worker. Your time, experience, and talent are valuable. Clients and employers that do not recognize that are not worth your time. You deserve to be appropriately compensated. Nobody works for free.
2.) What you do matters more than you realize.
3.) You are more intelligent and capable than you give yourself credit for.
4.) You deserve to be treated with respect.
5.) You are capable of enacting change in your personal life, in your professional life, at your work, and in your community.
6.) You are a service provider, not a slave or a servant.
7.) You chose to serve others out of love and compassion. You could have taken any job in the world, but you chose one that allows you to make others feel better about themselves. This is admirable and should be commended.
8.) What you do is a career, not a hobby. It is your source of income and deserves to be taken seriously.
9.) You are not a pawn. You are not powerless. You are in control of your career. You alone are responsible for ensuring your success.
10.) You are too smart and too valuable to allow yourself to be victimized by an opportunistic employer or made to suffer a hostile work environment.

Salon owners, I have a few for you specifically.

11.) You are not perfect and nobody should expect you to be. All you can ever do is your best. You can (and should) strive for perfection but do so with the knowledge that you will never achieve it. Perfection is unattainable. I’m not trying to discourage you, just reminding you that you are human. Admit your shortcomings and accept your personal limitations. Do your best every day and be satisfied with your achievements. Don’t dwell on your failures. Keep your expectations of yourself reasonable.

You can’t be everything to everyone.

12.) You are an employer, not a dictator or evil overlord. They are your employees, not terrorists. The relationship you share with your staff is symbiotic. Just as they deserve respect for their contributions to the business, so do you.
13.) Asking for help does not make you lazy or a bad owner.
14.) Your business is only as good as the employees who run it and their performance is directly related to how happy they are with how the business is run. Again, symbiosis.
15.) Don’t see business ownership as a burden to be carried. Celebrate being a business owner! You have given people employment! People have chosen to work at your establishment and clients choose to give you their business! Because of your salon, the people you employ are able to pay their bills! Be proud of that every day.

Now, as a group, let’s work on these things:

  • We will question things that do not sound right.
  • We will take responsibility for ensuring that we are not victimized by opportunistic owners by doing our research and bringing our knowledge to salon owners in a respectful, professional manner.
  • We will not sign contracts that we do not agree with.
  • We will stop being afraid to say “no” to exploitation.
  • We will stop working for free.
  • We will not allow abuse to go unpunished.
  • We will value ourselves, our profession, and our services.
  • We will enact change by speaking out, taking action, and being active in our communities.
  • We will support each other professionally and personally.
  • We will stand strong. We will not be broken.

If you like what you’ve read here, you might also like my books: The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and Salon Ownership & Management: The Definitive Guide.

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Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of the book The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and the blog This Ugly Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.


  1. I am a booth renter, I do stylists things…including pedicures. I pay rent for my station weekly and recently was asked to pay $5 per pedicure for electricity and water….is that legal? Shouldn’t that be included in my weekly rent already? I need an outsiders opinion/help!!!! PLEASE& thank you!

    • That should absolutely be included in your rent. $5 per service is ridiculous. I’d refuse to agree to that. I’m not sure if that’s legal or not, but it’s certainly not acceptable. If you’re on a written lease, the owner can’t spring charges on you like that.

  2. Tina, I appreciate your integrity.
    As a mother, employee based salon owner (yes, hourly wages, workers comp, benefits, the whole nine yards people) and now second career in technology I can say it blows my mind how employees will almost ask for me to do things Illegally. I am in California so things have changed over the past ten years.
    I have one employee that begs for the days of Hourly vs Comission even though her annual wages were more as an hourly employee! People are addicted to cycles of abuse that look like “independence” and “flexibility”. Even when the reality is RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM on a W2. That said, I will continue growing, educating, using a labor attorney, reading your blog to stay sane. i appreciate your work and this post.

    • “People are addicted to cycles of abuse that look like “independence” and “flexibility”.”

      AMEN TO THIS! I swear, I got chills when I read that. I couldn’t have said it better myself! We have the same problem in Florida. Employees will sit in an interview, scoffing at our compensation and insisting they’re better off misclassified on commission. I keep a printed article I wrote to hand off to them because I’m sick of trying to explain basic math (and the simple logic behind my desire to NOT become a target of state and federal authorities).

      Thankfully, things are turning around. I’m finding more professionals are informed than uninformed lately. We’re getting somewhere, it’s just taking a long time, lol.


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