(This is a version of an article published in the Healthy Hairdresser section of the March 2014 issue of MODERN SALON.)
Beware the air! If you’re wheezing and sneezing, it could be the salon environment. How do you clean a “surface” you can’t see?
It was 2008 when Los Angeles hairdresser Jordana Lorraine decided to increase her knowledge about the air around her. Lorraine had good reason to be concerned about breathing in chemical vapors, sprays and dust. Hairdressing falls fourth on WebMD’s list of “risky jobs for your lungs,” and a study published in Respiratory Care Journal four years ago concluded, “Hairdressing work is associated with a high frequency of work-exposure-related respiratory symptoms and, to a lesser extent, allergic symptoms.” Hairdressers in this study exhibited lower lung function when compared with the general population, which can be an early sign of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Clearing the air
“One of the biggest challenges facing the professional beauty industry is the lack of ventilation,” observes scientist Doug Schoon, president of Schoon Scientific and a regular consultant to the beauty industry. “If you build out your salon from a travel agency, you’ll have different ventilation needs from the previous business, but that’s often overlooked. Any irritation of the eyes, nose or throat—called ‘sensory irritation’—indicates a ventilation problem.”
Schoon cautions owners and technicians from taking a cavalier approach. DO NOT think you can just:
Open a window. “That’s circulation, not ventilation,” Schoon explains. Although some fresh air does come in, it would take a very strong wind to partly replace the air that’s already there.
Rely on your nose. Dust, as well as many harmful vapors, have no odor, and a fragrant hair spray can do as much damage as a foul-smelling odor. Schoon further cautions against purchasing any ventilation system that touts an “ozone” solution, which he says covers up the odor but does not eliminate it. “Ozone is a powerful lung irritant,” Schoon adds. “So you’re potentially putting harmful ozone into the air just to get rid of odors.”
Get “used to it.” In the morning, you may notice an odor that’s been hovering all night long, but after you’ve been in the salon for a while you no longer smell it. Schoon says that’s called “olfactory fatigue.” The nose is forgiving—you no longer notice the odor, but it’s still there.