When seeking a hair stylist, you can't go just by the number of years in the business. I have met quite a few hair stylists with over 15 years of being licensed, but majority of those years were part-time status.
Full-time hair stylists should work at least 40 hours a week in the hair industry. When they are not "behind the chair," they should be researching new industry trends, teaching, or being taught something new.
You really need to be looking for a stylist that is technically savvy and a thinker. Hair and Hairdressing is a lot of chemistry! You want a stylist that thinks like an engineer; not a mechanic. They all have a place in this world, but it is based on your individual needs. A technically savvy hairstylist would start with a consultation before taking you to the shampoo bowl.
A hair expert also will have learned how healthy hair feels and looks. Because hair is long does not mean that it is at its ultimate health. If a stylist knows the feel of hair, then they know that they need more than two products on their backbar. Special circumstances require special needs. For example: There are some hair types that relaxer residue will not rinse clear unless you shampoo it out. Sometimes the base may have been too heavy for the hair type, but regardless of how you get to the situation, you want a hair expert that can feel the hair and know that you may have to shampoo before conditioning. Believe it or not, there are some relaxer systems that recommend conditioning while the cuticles are open, then shampooing. I would caution against that order because there are some hair types that water alone will not rinse the relaxer completely clear.
Now, for the folks performing relaxers at home, box relaxers will cause a calcium buildup if it is a calcuim hydroxide based relaxer. Decalicifying with Organic Root Stimulator (ORS) Olive Oil Creamy Aloe Shampoo occasionally during your maintenance in-between relaxer touchups will help as well.
There are a lot of product lines out there. Learning what is out there and finding what works for each individual client takes DEDICATION. Full-time dedication. If you want to be in the "cattle call," then the service prices are cheap. That is just to get your "hair done."
Now, if you want a hair expert and a personalized regimen surrounded around your allergens, hair type, and lifestyle, then it will cost you more. However, beauty is priceless.