If you’ve been by the salon lately, you probably heard the word “hairdresser.” After all, the primary task of most salon visits is getting your hair taken care of, and the hairdresser is the primary person in charge of getting that done. However, you’ve probably also heard the term “hair stylist,” which can make the whole hairdresser thing a bit confusing.

So what’s the deal? Are a hairdresser and hair stylist the same thing? And if they’re not, what exactly are the differences between the two? Can a hairdresser also be a top hair stylist? If this question has confused you in the past, don’t worry—we’re here to help!

Let’s get this sorted:

What is a Hairdresser?

Some salons use the terms hairdresser and hair stylist interchangeably. These are generally the lower rent salons, where one person takes care of the entire process from start to finish. At higher-end salons, where quality and attention to detail matter most, the hair styling process is usually split into two parts, with two separate people attending to the details. One person is a hairdresser, and the other is usual a top hair stylist. The best beauty salons in the world use this setup, often employing another person as a separate salon colorist who only focuses on things like Ombre highlights, Balayage, and other hair color concepts.

In these instances, a hairdresser is the person who cuts the hair, applies any necessary treatments and works through the coloration process. You can think of the hairdresser as the mechanic: he or she is there to get everything in working order under the hood, and to make sure your base hair is as attractive and solid as possible so the other person can step in and do the rest.

What is a Hair Stylist?

Once your hair has been chopped, colored, washed and treated, it’s time for the top hair stylist to get to work. In nice salons, the stylist comes in after the hairdresser to actually style the hair. If you didn’t need a cut and color that day, you’d just swing in for a visit with the stylist for a quick touch-up on your look. Stylists, unlike hairdressers, generally blow dry, apply styling products and give the hair its final appearance. If you need a blow out or other simple salon hair treatment that doesn’t require a full woman hair cut or men’s hair cut, you may just see the stylist in lieu of the hairdresser. The best hair cuts come from the best hair salons, who employ the best hairdressers and stylists.

The main goal of the stylist is to give the hairdresser direction. It is the top hair stylist’s vision that determines the way the cut goes, and the stylist generally oversees the action of the hairdresser to ensure everything is being done with the final vision in mind. It’s not that the hairdresser is subordinate, but more that the stylist is the director and the hairdresser is the editor: everything needs to be done to the stylists specifications.

Some hairdressers and stylist do double duty, of course. Some prefer to oversee the hair styling process from start to finish instead of leaving on part in the hands of another person. The way your hairdresser works is entirely up to the salon at which they work and their personal approach to fashion.

Now that you know the main differences between hairdressers and hair stylists, you should be better prepared to choose a salon the next time you need to stop in for a fresh look. If you focus on salons that split efforts between two people, you’ll likely end up with a better look (at a slightly higher cost).

It’s all up to you. Just remember that with hair, as with most things, two heads is generally better than one. And four hands, of course.