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Why Are Haircuts So Expensive? [11 Reasons 2023]


While it may be tempting to cut your hair yourself to save money, there are many reasons why hair stylists charge so much for cutting hair.

Cutting hair is a consistent need to maintain the style or health of your hair. This expenditure may seem exorbitantly expensive.

Haircuts are so expensive because stylists have a lot of costs related to their business practices. Costs come from education, training, licensure, and insurance. Stylists also pay overhead costs, like rent or utility bills. Furthermore, they perform complicated services; combined with tipping for a job well done, that contributes to an expensive final bill.

Let’s explore these reasons in greater depth to help give you insight into why you are paying so much for a haircut.

1. Education And Training

In the United States, hair stylists are required to have training and a license before they cut hair. They learn how to creatively use their hands to give customers what they want.  

The specific details of the requirements vary from state to state. 

Generally, stylists must do the following:

  • Attend a state-approved cosmetology or hair design school or apprenticeship
    • Learn about styling theory and safety, watch demonstrations, and learn the laws and regulations related to the industry
  • Complete hands-on hours to develop and fine-tune skills
    • Hands-on training takes place on mannequins, model volunteers, and real customers
  • Complete the required number of hours which ranges from 1,000 to 2,100 hours of experience before obtaining a license. 
    • These hours may include cutting, coloring, styling, customer service, station and salon maintenance
  • Pass stylist license exams, typically written and practical to demonstrate skills
    • Written exams test topics such as physiology, infection control, chemistry, coloring, hair design, and trichology (diseases of the hair and scalp)
    • Practical exams test shampooing, cutting, coloring, perms, styling, and more. They need to demonstrate even cutting, creating uniform curls, following safety procedures, and more for the final result.
    • Other exams may take place if the stylist is looking for additional certifications
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Haircuts cost money because you are paying for professionally trained services to ensure your hair is cut or styled safely and correctly.

2. Licensure Renewal And Continuing Education

While it can vary from state to state, many states require that stylists renew their license every two years. However, this can vary from state to state. 

States may also require cosmetologists to take continuing education courses to stay up to date on trends and practices in the industry. These may include courses on Occupational Safety And Health Administration (OSHA), worker’s compensation, sterilization, and more. 

These courses keep cosmetologists not only up to date on standard practices but strengthen their expertise in helping their clients.

Licensing renewals and courses are expenses that stylists pay out of pocket. 

To make profits, they must raise prices. This is factored into the cost of each cut and service that you receive.

3. Workspace Operating Costs And Location

Stylists may own a building or rent a space in a salon to work with clients. Stylists do not get paid time off, since they make their schedules. So every day they do not work, they are not making money.

Whether a stylist is paying rent or a mortgage to work, they are also paying monthly utilities and operating costs. These include water, electricity, internet services, and property taxes. 

Additionally, many salons may have a Point of Sale (POS) system for processing payments and scheduling, which typically involves the business paying fees to set up along with interest rates to use it.

Salons may offer you comfort items while you sit in the chair or wait in the lobby, such as water, coffee, tea, along with reading material. 

Urban areas have a higher cost of living, and therefore businesses in those areas will charge more.  

These are all factored into the cost.

4. High-Quality Tools

Imagine if a stylist used dull school scissors instead of sharp shears designed to cut hair. Stylists invest in using professional-grade tools on your hair for optimal results. 

For example, professional scissors can cost $100 or more. 

Other professional tools are not limited to, but may include the following:

  • Blowdryers
  • Hooded hairdryers
  • Curling irons
  • Combs
  • Brushes
  • Razors (single-use)
  • Clippers
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Stylists opt for durable and quality items to give their customers good service and to hold up to frequent use. However, these items will become worn over time, need replacement, or are single-use only. 

These cost money that the stylist pays for out-of-pocket.

5. Supplies

Stylists must also pay for the supplies they need to use on their customers.

These may include styling products, hair coloring dyes and application tools and materials, towels, gloves, perm solutions, shampoo and conditioner, a salon cape, and more.

Prices may go up for services if the cost of supplies also increases due to market conditions. The cost of these supplies is reflected in the final service cost.

6. Sterilization And Cleaning

Salon owners may hire a professional to clean the work area after hours, or it may be up to the individual stylists. This includes sweeping the floor to remove cut hair, cleaning the bathrooms, and cleaning the sinks where hair is washed.

Additionally, tools that are reused between clients, such as scissors, tweezers, or combs, must be sterilized or disinfected before reuse. 

Towels are cleaned on-site or sent to a laundry service.

Cleaning is essential for client safety and these costs are factored into the final bill.

7. Insurances

Salon owners and salon booth renters have insurance to cover any accidents or incidents in the building or during the haircut.

Additionally, stylists are independent contractors, meaning they pay for their health insurance. 

8. Time And Consultation

When you made your hair appointment, the stylist likely asked you what you were looking for. 

Hair coloring, extensive cuts, styling designs, and more will take much longer than a trim. If you are taking up the space of time when more clients could be seen, you are taking the stylist’s time away from other people. 

Stylists that offer you a consultation to understand you and your style are an investment that contributes to cost. The stylist or barber uses the consultation as a way to deliver you the best service. 

They may offer you product advice to maintain the look on your own at home. These products come at an additional cost.

Women tend to have more expensive and complicated services than men. However, some salons charge for the amount of time spent in the chair, rather than the service for a particular gender or even age of the client.

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Longer lengths of time spent in the salon chair for services are going to cost more. 

Ideally, stylists want you to be happy with the final result, and to come back again in the future, while making enough profit for daily living expenses.

9. Level Of Difficulty For Style And Service

If you bring a picture of a complicated hairstyle or cut to the salon, your stylist will work with you to get the desired results. 

However, if the hair is not of the same texture, has a different curl pattern, and so on, your stylist has to determine if it can be done, or how to modify the style to still make you happy.

Stylists also will make your hair look as natural as possible if you are changing the color, curl pattern, and so on.

Services beyond the scope of the cost of a trim have varying costs.

If it takes more time, experience, and effort to give you the style you want, it will cost more.

10. Level Of Experience

Every client that a stylist works on allows them to gain experience and craft expert skills. All services are provided by the hands of the stylist and not a machine. You receive personalized attention. 

If a stylist works with celebrities, they will charge even more for their status and skill.

If the stylist is in high demand and has limited time available, services can cost more.

Satisfied customers will become loyal ones willing to pay for a premium haircut or style.

11. Tipping

Tipping hair stylists is common practice in the United States as a way to say “thank you” for a job well done. It also supports the hair stylist in their practice since they absorb so much of their operating costs.

Generally, stylists are tipped 10% to 20% of the final cost.  


Haircuts are a way to express yourself and keep your strands neat and healthy. The cost of haircuts can be surprising, especially when you’re paying for them frequently throughout the year.  

Haircuts are expensive due to business operating costs, training and licensing, and insurance. 

Stylists provide products, supplies, and tools to safely cut and style your hair. Complicated and lengthy services cost more due to the time and experience involved. 

In the United States, tipping is common practice for professional hair services. 

Combined, these factors contribute to the overall cost of a haircut.