A cut above: Former cosmetologist starts own hair care podcast

Dandruff and dry scalp are not the same thing and need opposite treatments to cure.

Megan Vazquez of KBVR-FM learned that in her former career as a cosmetologist. Now, she’s sharing her knowledge of that world as part of a new podcast, “Hair There and Back.” The third episode will be posted Thursday and new ones will go up every other Thursday.

“I’m so proud of it,” said Vazquez, who just wrapped up a year as podcast director for KBVR-FM, Orange Media Network’s student radio station, and is now the summer station manager. “All the experience I’ve worked for throughout my career, when I listen back to my podcast, I feel like I can hear it.” 

Vazquez, 30, is going into her fifth year as a Digital Communication Arts major with a minor in music production at Oregon State University. But moving from hair care to music production wasn’t as big a switch as it sounds. 

Born in Los Angeles to a family that moved to Florida and then to North Carolina, Vazquez had an aunt who was a hairdresser and always considered her a role model. “She always looked like she was having such a good time doing that job,” Vazquez recalled.

Vazquez graduated from high school in 2011 and spent a semester in community college. One of her assignments was to write a paper on choosing a career. She spent a week shadowing cosmetologists and researching what the job might take.

“And I thought hey,” she said, “I can really do this.”

Vazquez spent 10 years in the industry, doing all types of hair work but specializing in short cuts for men - “razor cuts and funky color.” She loved seeing people who came in with drooping expressions leave her chair wearing a wide smile.

“When they get that great cut, it gives them a different skip to their step,” she said.

Enjoyable as the job was, it wasn’t what Vazquez wanted to do forever. In 2019, she went back to community college. Two years later, she decided to go back to school again - and to move west.

“I just didn’t see myself growing in it the way I wanted to,” she said. “I think I have more to offer.” 

A self-described “computer nerd” in high school, Vazquez began looking into graphic design. She had friends in Oregon and decided to apply. OSU offered a scholarship, “and that made it really hard to say no.” 

Arriving for a school tour in 2021, Vazquez told the tour leader she was interested in digital communications. “KBVR,” the tour leader told her. “You’re going to want to know what KBVR is and what OMN is.” 

During her first week in school that fall term, Vazquez learned about OMN’s fall open house. “I came straight here,” she remembered. “I felt really excited. I had been searching for a school where I felt I had a place to fit.”

At the open house, she remembers meeting representatives of all the mediums: “Do you like TV? Do you like radio? Do you like podcasts?”

“I was like, I like all of them!” she said. “It was easy to get excited about being involved.”

Vazquez started with radio, becoming an FM DJ in fall 2021. Living in Eugene at the time, she did her shows remotely. She found she enjoyed working with audio editing software, so much so that she chose music production as her minor. 

When she moved to Corvallis in spring 2022, Vazquez started doing on-campus radio shows. She wanted to take a podcasting class but couldn’t fit it into her schedule, so instead she peppered a friend in the class with questions about what they were learning. Then the incoming station manager, Andres De Los Santos, told her about the opening for a podcast director. She wasn’t sure she qualified, but to her surprise, she got the job. 

As podcast director this year, Vazquez recruited, trained and otherwise supported people in putting together their own shows. She helped them with structure, watched analytics and gave feedback for improvement.

Podcasting “is about making sure everyone’s show has their own message,” she said. She also checks in on them personally: “Are they having a good time? Is the energy staying up? As long as they’re having a good time doing it, they’re going to have the best chance for success.”

People having a good time is partly what prompted Vazquez to revisit her former line of work. She never left it entirely behind, offering to cut friends’ hair or give advice on hair care products, but recently she started thinking about doing a podcast of her own.

She started May 4 with a 10-minute introduction to herself and the Hair There and Back series. On May 18, she followed up her first episode, all about curly hair: “Curls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

Drawing on experience helping a fellow OMN staffer care for his hair, she delved into the difference between dandruff and dry scalp for the June 1 episode. Titled, “Drier than the SaHAIRa,” the episode details how she started cutting her friend’s hair because he was complaining about dandruff and had been treating it wrong. 

“He really had dry scalp, Ninety percent of my clients, I would have to tell them that,” she said. 

Dandruff can develop from dry scalp, but it’s actually a problem of oil, which has to be treated by drying it out, Vazquez explained. Dry scalp, on the other hand, has to be hydrated for treatment - exactly the opposite approach that most people take.

So she cut her friend’s hair and gave product recommendations, and “they worked,” she said. “His scalp has made a full recovery. No more red marks, no more flaking.” 

Episode 3, which aired Thursday, was a consultation and cut in real time with incoming station manager Mimi Jeandheur. And Vazquez has plenty of ideas for coming episodes.

“People should know it’s not for hair enthusiasts. It’s about people who don’t know what to do,” she said. “You’re not in that world? That’s why I’m doing it.” 

Vazquez will be with OMN for at least the coming academic year and expects to continue training others to do podcasting, at least over the summer. She’d love to have someone come in with a pitch for a podcast on history or true crime. “Fun ghost stories, you know?” she said.

After school, she’d love to continue in communication production, either radio or video. OMN has taught her how to work professionally and successfully, she said, both as an individual and in collaborative projects. 

Coming to a university a good decade after most people start has actually been beneficial, Vazquez said.

“I feel like I have more confidence. It’s a lot easier to apply myself to the things that I want,” she said. “I used to be more concerned about what everyone else was doing. I’ve developed social skills, I’m better organized, I’m more focused, more driven. I don’t get as easily distracted.” 

Sometimes she misses doing hair full time - “I miss making people feel better” - but she loves the educational potential of a good podcast. Unlike background music, a podcast is sharing information that requires attention. 

“It’s an opportunity to teach people,” she said. “And you do it all by making them feel like they’re right next to you in the car.”