Connecting Career Image and Reality: Cosmetology Gets a Makeover: Students Earning a Cosmetology License Today Must Complete a Curriculum That Includes a Solid Core of Anatomy, Physiology, Chemistry and Even Electricity

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CHANCES ARE BETTER THAN AVERAGE THAT IF YOU ASKED SOMEONE IN A CROWD TO DESCRIBE THE STUDY OF COSMETOLOGY, their definition would not include physiology, chemistry and other science terminology. Rather, you'd be more likely to hear stereotypical descriptions of students wearing pink smocks and learning to roll perm rods onto mannequin heads. Like many career and technical education areas of study, cosmetology has suffered an image crisis. Perhaps the worst blow came from the 1978 movie classic "Grease," which featured high school slacker Frenchie as a beauty school dropout.

Flash forward three decades and the study of cosmetology is far removed from movie scenes of bubble-style hairdryers and beehive 'dos. Health, technology and even heightened interest in the environment have all made the study of cosmetology much more a science. Students earning a cosmetology license today must complete a curriculum that includes a solid core of anatomy, physiology, chemistry and even electricity. High-tech coloring procedures demand a solid understanding of math and measurement metrics. Additionally, as interest in green and sustainable lifestyles continues to grow, more cosmetology schools are considering life science as part of their curriculums.

Changing Perceptions Through Collaboration

While the coursework covered in today's cosmetology programs contains significant science and technology content, the industry still suffers from a "pink-collar" image. The American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS), the industry advocate for careers in beauty, represents more than 800 member beauty schools throughout the nation and is committed to changing the perception of careers in beauty. From therapeutic massage and electrolysis to laser skin treatments, today's beauty jobs demand an understanding of science and math; being an artisan is not enough to succeed in today's beauty industry.

Many students enrolling in beauty school are surprised by the diversity of study areas covered in the cosmetology curriculum. In order to provide prospective students with a better understanding of the skills required and opportunities available with a cosmetology degree, AACS partnered with the Girl Scout Council of Central Indiana to offer a science-driven learning experience. The Technology Advancing Girl Scouts (TAGS) program was a weeklong learning experience that introduced middle-school-age girls to applied science in a number of careers ranging from robotics and aviation to cosmetology. AACS worked with the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana to incorporate a cosmetology curriculum into the summer TAGS camp held at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Throughout the week the girls participated in science education activities that included computers, aviation and advanced mechanics. They also learned about the science that underlies the study of cosmetology.

AACS partnered with Christina and Company Education Center, a cosmetology school located near Purdue University. Instructors from the school conducted a three-hour workshop that introduced girls to the study of cosmetology and to the breadth of careers that cosmetology training prepares them to enter. The center's director of education, Tera Butz, discussed some of the science skills that TAGS participants developed during the cosmetology workshop. Anatomy was featured along with its role in makeup application, haircutting, color and texture treatments.

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"It is important to have a solid working knowledge of the bone structure of the feet, hands, face and head while working on clients, whether it is styling or applying makeup," Butz said. …