Kathy Webb is the Hair and Wellbeing Stylist, a clinical aromatherapist specialising in women’s issues who has recently retrained as a hairdresser. Here she says you’re never too old to retrain and why we need to celebrate the unique styles of women over 45
Like many people, my life has been full of some real highs and real lows. My working life has always involved working with people and had a creative angle to it. When I think of family, friends and the experiences I’ve had, I never underestimate how lucky I’ve been and still am. I never take my life and the extraordinary people in it for granted.
At the start of 2020 I was working five jobs so I could pay to re-train in a new career. I was also re-training to be a hairdresser and shadowing at a great salon in Norwich Lanes. I felt like I was finally moving forward but in retrospect, lockdown made me stop and realise just how exhausted I was: working five jobs while retraining and looking after kids – it was way too much. I was on my way to total burn out.
Lockdown was a rollercoaster of emotions. I lost all five jobs almost overnight – all service industry roles. It was very scary financially. Also, as my hair college closed and we couldn’t cut or colour, my confidence levels plummeted. After a period of high anxiety, I started to decompress and properly enjoy quality time with my children and husband. Being made to stop, having time to ‘just be’ and re-think things really changed my mindset. I was able to fully enjoy moments and my brain felt like it was able to open to other possibilities. Thank God for the self-employed grants – I feel so terrible for the people who weren’t eligible. It was a major lifeline for me. I also started running and eating properly. The other day I was saying to my oldest friend that I didn’t feel I’d done enough over lockdown. She laughed and said, ‘You never think you’re doing enough but this last year you’ve done more than ever. You’ve been focusing and working on yourself and that’s major.’ Working on ourselves is so underrated. We each need the space to do it more. So, I’d say that for me, lockdown forced me to completely reset – and I really needed to.
I’d worked as a clinical aromatherapist specialising in women’s issues for around 16 years. During this time, I also offered treatments at The Big C Centre, on the wards at the N&N and ran a Skin and Mood care shop in Norwich Lanes. The shop led to me putting on events and workshops – each aimed at helping women over 40 to increase their confidence levels and overall wellbeing. I wanted to offer creative ways to help people feel as good as possible. Through my therapy work, it became very clear that many women start to lose confidence in areas of their life as they hit their mid to late 40s – and menopause takes hold. Many women have told me they feel ‘redundant’ as they age. I don’t want anyone to feel that way. Growing older can give us a new confidence and power and I wanted to find ways to help people to start to experience this for themselves.
I felt combining my therapeutic skills with something visually creative had the potential to do this. I want to help encourage people to embrace the things that make them who we are: to celebrate how unique we each are.
I know that some people love going to the salon, while others – for whatever reason – don’t feel comfortable in that environment.
So, my aim was to invest in retraining so I could offer both options: a slow, calm, small space outside the city centre, where people have the option to include wellbeing as part of their hair appointment. Or, come to a buzzy friendly vibrant salon in central Norwich for a pure hair appointment. Customer choice is vital for each person to feel as comfortable as possible.
Training as a hairdresser involves an extraordinary amount of practical and theory and the learning never stops. New cutting, colour and styling techniques blended with personal image, fashion, lifestyle, music – these things just keep evolving and it’s what really drew me to hairdressing. And as for being too old to retrain? Life’s too short to let other peoples’ old fashioned views effect how you live your life. Things are evolving and changing dramatically socially too. If you’ve always wanted to do something, find a way to do it. I know it can feel scary but once you start on a path, it can take you to fresh places that you’d never have considered before. It’s a cliche but if you don’t try, how are you ever going to know?
The wellbeing mini-treatments are optional add-ons. For example, one option it to have your consultation and then before your shampoo, you stay in the chair for a shoulder, neck and head massage (through your clothes). During your massage, you’ll also be surrounded by bespoke aromatherapy oils freshly blended to rebalance your particular mood. The idea is to relax you, so your appointment is truly ‘your time’: no walk-ins, no phones – the treatment is totally about you. There are also hot and cold stone options, mood rollers, hand and lower arm aromatherapy and foot mini-massages plus no talk appointments with just the music on. They’ve each gone down very, very well.
I think people need to connect now more than ever and want new positive, feel-good experiences. The last year has left many of us feeling shell-shocked and wanting to find things to help rebalance and reassure. We’re all having to refocus on living more in the present. I just want to encourage people to embrace and celebrate who they are right here, right now.
Having wanted to join a buzzy friendly vibrant salon in central Norwich, I’m so happy to say that I’ve recently started at Barry Alan in Norwich Lanes. The team there all work together and support each other. They’re incredibly experienced and generous with their knowledge plus I love the atmosphere in there. I’ve learned so much already – Barry’s training me up and helping me grow and learn, and then learn some more!
I’ve also just worked on a couple of fashion photo shoots featuring people in their 50s and 60s. Styling hair for creative sessions is incredibly hard work but it’s so rewarding.
Looking ahead, I’d like to put together a hair show featuring people over 40 – I’ve seen just how powerful a tool having your hair styled and being photographed can be for increasing confidence levels. My overall aim? To help us each celebrate our unique.
You can follow me on Instagram @hairandwellbeingstylist for news and updates and DM me with any questions and appointment info.
Featured image by Kerry Curl