Joanne Zinger, the healthy hairdresser, shares her journey as a cosmetologist along with a few tips and tricks that have helped her work until age 79!
I didn’t always know I wanted to be a cosmetologist. I didn’t eat, sleep, and dream hair from a young age, as many professional stylists’ stories begin. I started my working life as a bookkeeper, but eventually found myself working as an assistant in my brother’s 6-chair salon, which he had opened after training with a top hair artist. With two children in school, this part-time job provided extra security for my family.
I loved the excitement of working in my brother’s salon and watching people be transformed, both physically and emotionally. It inspired me to start doing some of my neighbors’ hair. My brother saw my natural talent and encouraged me to enroll in cosmetology school, which I eventually did. While at school, another important role I took on was enrolling people and I found myself selling the beauty industry to people, telling them about all the exciting opportunities as a cosmetologist. During this time, I explored all the different options cosmetologists have, and connected with many people on their own personal journeys.
As a cosmetologist, your success depends on you; you control your schedule and income. The harder you work and the more education you receive, the higher your income will be. I explained to future students how this industry can open endless doors for them and their families: professional service providers, traveling artists, teachers and instructors, business owners, and innovators. Little did I know that I would go on to personally open all of those doors for myself.
In school, I loved learning the new, challenging advanced work, and became a licensed cosmetologist in 1967 at the age of 30. I am proud of the many career accomplishments I’ve had since then. I have been servicing clients for 50 years and am now a Master Colorist and Designer. I started out managing my brother’s salon in the 1970’s, but branched out on my own after a while. I became a Redken educator and traveled the United States with my husband John, also a cosmetologist. He taught cutting while I taught perming and coloring. We also trained educators for Raylon Corp., a distributor, through a program called People to People. For 25 years, we also owned Zinger’s, a popular successful local salon that staffed 28 people and 8 chairs. John and I also invented a hair coloring tool that was sold internationally.
At 40, I started to think more about my health. I knew the demands I was putting on my body through traveling, teaching, and standing for up to 12 hours a day, sometimes 7 days a week, would start to take their toll eventually. Sometimes we neglect to think about how much we use our entire body to do our work, from then neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands, down to your back, hips, knees, and feet. I got into aerobics and hiking in the Appalachians with my daughter, which helped keep me in shape.
It wasn’t until I was 52 that my back started to give me trouble. I went to see a chiropractor and got the best physical health advice I’ve ever received: he told me to swim. He said that while there’s not much we can do to stop the natural aging and bone deterioration, swimming will lengthen and strengthen the muscles that help hold bones in place. I immediately began water aerobics five mornings a week. It may seem like a big commitment, but my passion for the profession and the industry was still strong. I was still attending at least three education classes a year and mentoring and motivating our staff. I vowed I’d do whatever it took to keep going, even if that meant getting up a little early to make it to the pool. If you would have asked me how much longer I was planning to work, I would have said “As long as I can” because I was in it for the long haul!
When I was 59, John and I decided after 25 years to sell our beloved salon. We realized that if we wanted to continue to work in the beauty industry and be happy and healthy, we needed to cut down our workload. Without the responsibilities of owning a business, we were able to refocus on our craft, our clients, and ourselves. We began working for a former employee of ours who had opened her own salon. I stuck to a 40-hour work week and was able to keep doing what I loved to do – make my clients look and feel beautiful.
Around the age of 65, I learned that I needed to do other physical exercises besides just swimming, so I added pilates and basic weight training for a total of 2.5 hours three days a week. This helped me gain more strength in my legs. Concentrating on balance and flexibility helps me maintain a stable body, especially when working on the salon floor, and keep me pain- free. I eventually cut my work week to 24 hours, giving me plenty of time for the gym, my family, and my home.
Now, at the age of 79, I have the knowledge of almost everything in the world of hair. I have the trust of my clients and the respect of my co-workers, most of whom are decades younger than me. At United Artists Salon & Spa, I work for and with people who have the same passion and love for the beauty industry that I do. I continue to work 24 hours a week and exercise three days a week for two hours. If you ask me now how much longer I plan to work, my answer is the same: as long as I can. I enjoy life from 6am to 9pm each and every day. I love putting on my swimsuit to go to the gym. I love dressing up and going to work in the salon. Both keep me feeling young and happy. I still enjoy being an important part of my clients’ lives. Helping them feel their best for important milestones is an extremely rewarding feeling. I have been working with some of them for 30 or 40 years, so we have grown old together while sharing these life experiences.
At the end of the day, being a Master Designer is not just about skill; it’s about having the passion to continually work hard, to do what it takes to succeed, and to follow your dreams. My passion for hair and my dedication to my clients still burn bright.
That is the secret to my longevity.