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How Does Cosmetology Use Math?

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Basic Math and Cosmetology

Successful stylists use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division when styling hair and managing their businesses. Often tasked with counting cash and giving service price quotes, beauticians often juggle money management and creative responsibilities. Without basic math, it's difficult to figure out taxes on tips and wages. It's also difficult to exercise the time management skills needed to optimize the hours of the work day. Beauticians have to be precise and responsible in order to cultivate a steady stream of business, and good math skills are crucial to establishing reliability.

Fractions and Measurement

During a salon visit, watch the assistant or colorist mix a batch of color. It's a painstaking process that requires accuracy and forethought. Each treatment process requires various amounts of products; a blond bleach job calls for a certain volume of developer and toner, which must be measured in proper amounts to avoid damaging the hair. Great hair color comes from mixing different shades in percentages that will create the desired shade while taking the original color into account. Some salons mix custom hair treatments and have recipes that are tailored to each client's needs. These recipes are no different from those used to bake a cake at home; the stylist measures and mixes the separate components according to treatment specification. Once again, knowledge of fractions is helpful, as is some familiarity with the metric system. After all, cosmetology measurements aren't in American units.

Angles and Informal Geometric Calculation

Every time a stylist prepares to cut hair, she's analyzing the head and taking measurements. The cut must hit certain angles in a precise, orderly fashion, and the style has to proceed step-by-step. Beauticians use angles and reflections to create the final product.

With many trendy haircuts dependent on deep angles and sharp lines, stylists often depend on the tools of their trade as makeshift straight edges and rulers. Often, the back of a chair is a guide for the smooth finish of a bob, or a scissor serves as a level for perfect bangs. Since haircuts require symmetry, a stylist cuts around an imaginary axis that helps to establish a balanced, finished coiffure. Geometry is probably the most valuable math discipline a cosmetologist uses.


Gigi Starr is a freelance fashion writer. She previously served as the blog editor for a major online fashion blog and has more than a decade of backstage experience in the beauty and high fashion industries. She has worked for businesses like an internationally renowned theatrical touring company and events such as the Mercedes-Benz N.Y.C. Fashion Week.

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