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A Day on the Job

By ELLEN MOSES
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 23, 2002

Carmella Santomaso, 26, cosmetologist, owner of Hair Grabbers in St. Petersburg

* * *

How did you get started in this business?

I took cosmetology when I was a sophomore at Dixie Hollins High School. I always wanted to do hair, ever since I was a little kid. My mom used to babysit for other kids, and I used to do all the little girls' hair.

What kind of training do you have?

The original owner of Hair Grabbers, Mildred Stone, hired me as a shampoo assistant. I started out at the bottom, sweeping hair and shampooing.

How old were you when you started?

I started here when I was almost 17. I worked every Saturday and other days off from school.

So, how extensive was the program you did through high school?

You take it (cosmetology) as an elective, so by the time you graduate, you have your 1,200 hours and then you go to state board and take your test. So by the time you graduate, you have your (state) cosmetology license.

Do you have to renew that?

Yeah, you have to do continuing education and renew it every other year. We have to get 16 hours of continuing education to renew.

I think some people may have the mistaken idea that a cosmetologist just cuts and styles hair.

What are some of the other things that you do?

We do waxing for eyebrows and facial hair. We cut and color hair, do highlights and perms. When you are a cosmetologist, you can also do nails.

What kind of hours do you work now that you are the owner?

Usually about 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. We open at 9 a.m.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I like meeting different people. You learn a lot about people and about life, and you're never coming in doing the same thing every day.

What do you think is the most common hair or scalp problem you encounter in customers?

Oily hair or dandruff.

Is there anything you can do to help them?

First, I ask if they shampoo their hair all the time and see what kind of shampoo they're using. You can recommend shampoo for oily hair, but a lot of times, it's just caused by excess washing. Overwashing can strip all the oils out, so your hair works extra hard to create the oils. You really should just wash your hair every other day.

What's the most unusual cut or style or other hair alteration a customer ever asked you to do?

Lots of people come in and ask for cornrows. There are people out there who can do those, but I can't. It's hard to get those little braids in there. I can't do hair extensions either, but I'd like to learn.

Is there any style that's really 'in' right now?

Lots of layers and color. The two-toned look, like blond on dark hair or red and blond, is also popular.

Any unseen hazards of the job?

Sometimes you might cut your hand or fingers, but that doesn't happen very often. We do have to be careful with some of the chemicals that we use. You wouldn't want to get them in your eye or anything.

Do you have any personal favorites in terms of cuts or styles?

Lots of layers. I like layering. It adds more style to hair; you can do more with it. I also enjoy texturizing. Texturizing is when you go in after the haircut is all done and you take little pieces out of it. It adds more volume.

How much money do you make?

Well, I used to make more before I bought the shop. I make good money. You can make a good living doing this. Everybody is different, but you can make a really good, fun living doing hair.

Can you give me a range?

What can a good hair stylist make? Most of the work is commission, so if you don't work, you don't get paid. The more customers you bring in, the higher your pay scale. You could bring in $500 to $600 in a good week, depending on the shop.

If you could work anywhere, what would your dream job be?

I guess I'm in it. I really do enjoy it. If I didn't do hair, I would probably do something with little kids. My mom had a day care at home when my sister and I were younger.

Do you ever get the feeling you act as psychiatrist, as well as hair stylist, to some customers?

Yes, we hear lots of stuff. But it's a good feeling to know that people can open up to you and that they trust you. Not everyone has someone at home they can talk to.

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