In April this year, L.A.-based hairstylist Justin Toves-Vincilione was working in a Santa Monica Ulta Beauty store salon when he decided to start posting haircut tutorials on TikTok. While they were meant to be for fellow hairstylists, they started going viral on the platform. In August, one video demonstrating the viral “butterfly cut” took off, earning over 17 million views. And then, the bookings started pouring in.
“I was trying to create stuff for stylists to use, step-by-step education, but it went over extremely well with the consumer, as well,” he said. Before starting his TikTok account, he had days where he had enough time slots open to go home early from work. “There was a pretty mild demand, as far as my little Santa Monica store salon location, not a whole lot of traffic,” he said. But after amassing nearly 90,000 followers on TikTok, his schedule filled up for the month. New clients flocked to the Ulta Beauty location with TikTok videos in hand–he estimates that 50% of his clientele is “brand new, straight from TikTok.” Some of them journeyed significant distances, coming in from not only across the state, but also from Texas, Arizona and Chicago to get haircuts.
While the main path to fame as a hairstylist was once through working with a famous client, TikTok is creating a new class of celebrity hairstylists. Those who rise to viral fame are seeing their businesses transform overnight, attracting a flood of young clients traveling cross-country and even internationally to get the perfect viral style.
Chicago-based sales engineer Manal Faraz, for example, flew in from Chicago for an appointment with Toves-Vincilione after booking a month out via the Ulta Beauty platform. She came across one of his videos searching for “70’s haircut” on Instagram Reels. While Toves-Vincilione has also amassed 158,000 followers in the past six months on Instagram, he said most of his new clients generally say they found him on TikTok, however.
“When I would go to hairdressers and ask for this type of haircut, they’d be like, ‘No, that’s ugly. I’m not doing that. I’m not putting my name on this haircut,’” she said. “When I messaged Justin, he was very welcoming. I just got the vibe that he’s going to listen to what I want.” She flew to L.A. specifically for the appointment, making a weekend trip out of it.
“TikTok is accelerating trends,” said Ontario-based barber Mylz Carlos Miraflores, who began posting haircut videos on TikTok in July. He now has 1 million followers. “Everyone sees it; everyone’s going to start doing it.”
Miraflores’ initial claim to fame on the platform was a video showing how to style straight hair to make it more textured. After it earned 3 million views, “People were booking me because of that haircut,” he said. While his clientele was previously local to his city of Mississauga, where he works at Identity Barbershop, he saw new customers from across Canada and the U.S., including Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Calgary and Montreal, as well as Miami, North Carolina and Queens, New York. He estimates that 60% of his clients are now those who found him through TikTok.
Fully booked three months in advance, Miraflores raised his rate for a haircut from $33 (45 CAD) to $58 USD (80 CAD), giving his existing clients a code for his old rate. ”My regular clients wouldn’t even be able to get an appointment, so I had to make it more exclusive” by upping the price, he said, adding that he has plans to raise the price to $72 (100 CAD) soon.
“I’ve had a huge influx of clients, to the point that, at 24 years old, my books are closed for new clients completely,” said St. Louis-based hairstylist Siiri Parks, who has over 3.6 million followers on TikTok; she is known for her colorful dye looks. She also has had multiple clients coming in from out of state to see her, as well as customers from Canada and England who flew in. She said TikTok “makes stylists and their work so much more accessible to such a vast group of people, [beyond] wherever said stylist’s salon is located.”
While many TikTok hairstylists have found fame due to their viral styles alone, association with TikTok influencers is also driving a craze in the traditional celebrity hairstylist sense.
Hairstylist Glenn Ellis said that he has received an influx of clients after working with Instagram influencers such as Helen Owen in the past. But shoutouts from his client Tinx on her TikTok “brought in a whole wide range of people,” he said.
“Doing Tinx’s hair during the pandemic helped bring my career to the next level,” he said.
Ellis has also seen clients fly in from across the world, with the farthest coming from Thailand to L.A. solely for a hair appointment with him.
“TikTok has a massive influence on hairstyle trends. Influencers set the stage more than celebrities. At this point, they are the new celebs,” said Linh Phan, co-owner of L.A.-based salon PhanHaus. Co-owner Maggie Hancock added that TikTok has “definitely opened us up to a whole new audience.”
TikTok fame has led to other opportunities for stylists, too. Toves-Vincilione, a member of the elite Ulta Beauty Design Team prior to launching his account, was named an ambassador of hair-care brand Authentic Beauty Concept after his TikTok took off. He said he could see himself opening his own salon someday. Meanwhile, Miraflores is planning to launch his own product line soon, and will be traveling from his base in Canada to L.A. to do videos styling TikTok influencers’ hair. Toves-Vincilione also now travels around the country teaching the butterfly haircut technique, along with other viral styles, in partnership with professional hair education platform Behind the Chair.
He said that, for salon professionals, keeping up with the hairstyle trends of Gen Z necessitates constantly learning how to do the latest cuts, otherwise clients will go elsewhere–even to another state or country.
“The common thread is that [my new clients] feel like they can’t get services where they live,” he said. “So they’re taking to social media.”