The Men's Room

Barber vs. Stylist: What’s The Difference?


“What is the difference between a barber and a hairstylist (cosmetologist)?”

There is  never a week that goes by that I do not not get asked this question. Since it comes up so frequently, and since I’ve had the opportunity to work in salons & barbershops (I am licensed in both), I figure I’ll shed some light on what may be a slight point of confusion.

The word Barber, is derived from the latin word “barba” meaning beard.  It is a person whose occupation is to cut hair, perform shaves and trim beards.

Hairstylist or Cosmetologist, is derived from the Greek word “kosmetikos” meaning “skilled in adornment”, and is the study of the application of beauty treatments (haircutting/hairstyling, skin care, cosmetics, manicures/pedicures and electrolysis).

Barbers are also trained to provide facials, color and perm hair. This is quite similar to the services the hairstylist would perform; however, there are two very distinct differences between them.

(1) Shaving – the art of shaving with a straight-razor can only be performed by a licensed barber.

(2) Manicure/Pedicure – these two services can only be performed by a licensed cosmetologist or nail technician, not a barber.

There are many men that seek out hairstylists for that “new” more trendy hairstyle, and in many cases the people they choose are perfect for that goal. But, don’t discount your barber just yet! The growing importance from men to look their best, is constantly putting pressure on barbers to expand their skill-sets.  And, that’s pretty exciting for the barbering world!

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  1. wildboy September 24, 2009 at 9:44 am

    this posting is so true, I started out cutting hair at a early age. watching my grandfather do his thing in his barber shop while waiting on my mom to pick me up after school, it planted a seed for my future, later i went to cosmetology school and learned this skill but they did not really teach a big part in barbering, but i knew a lot already but nothing about females hair. i later learned the difference as well. now that i have furthered my career in the art of cosmo. i now know that i need to go back and get the fundamentals of barbering. thanks for this post

  2. Eric Honaker May 11, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Thanks for the solid breakdown. Barber vs Stylist is one of those things where you feel like you know the difference, but couldn’t lay out exactly what the difference was supposed to be.

    This certainly explains why none of the stylists I have ever gone to with the rest of the family could offer a hot shave, doesn’t it?

    • Craig the Barber May 11, 2012 at 10:47 am

      Eric thanks for the comment! And yes, you are absolutely right about the hot shaves.

  3. Andrew Vicars June 17, 2015 at 10:04 am

    I asked my barber what the difference was between a barber and a stylist. He said about £45…

    Not really the answer I was looking for.

    • Craig the Barber June 22, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      LOL! Definitely no the answer but very funny. Hopefully, this article helped to answer your question!

  4. LadyBarber July 13, 2017 at 7:01 am

    Though this may have been true years ago it is now not all factual. Anyone pursuing a license to become a barber will now have the title “Barber Stylist”. I am allowed, by law to perform manicures & pedicures. I work in a spa & when I’m not doing hair that’s what I do. A barber is, however, not allowed to do acrylic without some additional certificate as proof of training. Barber stylist can do everything else that a cosmetologist can if they want to (except acrylic nails).

  5. Xriva October 1, 2017 at 4:28 am

    My daughter would like to train to cut hair. Which training makes more sense – which should she start with, Stylist or Barber ? We live in Pennsylvania.

    • Craig the Barber January 31, 2018 at 9:39 pm

      Great question and congratulations! It is personal preference to be honest. However, speaking purely on my experience, I received my license in cosmetology first and then I completed my barbering training. This scenario was better for me since the cosmetology coursework covered a significant portion of the barbering curriculum, allowing for a much shorter completion time for barbering. I hope that helps. And, best of luck to your daughter!

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