Michelle Gruver
Michelle Gruver

Pennsylvania stylist and educator Michelle Gruver was as busy as most hairdressers when a shoulder injury forced her to take time to focus on her health. Since then, she’s educated herself on a variety of health topics.

“It is very interesting to have to stop and slow down after many years of holding multiple jobs—educator, manager and stylist,” Gruver says. With frigid temps retaining their grip on much of the country as we “plow” through these winter months, we asked Gruver as our Healthy Hairdresser this week to share her tips for staying sniffle-free all season. Gruver tapped some colleagues for their thoughts as well, and this is her response to our plea:

Germaphobes unite!!!

Say you are sitting at your station waiting for your 4:30 appointment, Charlotte, to come in. When she arrives, it’s obvious that she’s the harbinger of sickness. How do we handle our faithful clients who arrive sullied with sweat and germs?

“Typically, if clients are contagious I always recommend rescheduling their appointment,” says Brittany Burkett, owner of Youphoria in Denver, PA. “Most clients won’t come in if they are really sick. If it’s a basic cold, I sanitize everywhere the client has been, and I always pull a fresh cape for the next client in my chair.”

But what if it’s the stylist who is sick? Do we go to work and possibly infect our co-workers?

“I will not go into work if I am sick and contagious, especially around flu season,” Burkett says. “I have a flexible schedule. Most of my clients are understanding and will wait a couple of days.”

Nate Fox, a stylist at Luxe Salon in Lancaster, PA, makes it a point to maintain open communication with his clients when he is under the weather.

“I call them, tell them that I’m sick and give them the option of either coming in for their appointment or rescheduling,” he states. “This opens up the communication, and I think then they feel more comfortable rescheduling when they’re the ones who are sick.”

So what should we, as stylists, do to prevent colds and flu?

“I’m an obsessive hand-washer,” says Fox. “I also make a big effort not to touch my face.”

We are fortunate as stylists that we have our hands in water a lot of the time we are at work. But no matter how clean you think your hands are, remember that hands are germ depositories, so keep them away from your nose and mouth. I remember my grandmother always telling me to keep my hands away from my face. And keep them away from your food! Eat with a spoon or fork, or use a napkin to hold your sandwich as you eat.

Colds and flu are caused by viruses, which can easily pass from person to person or from surface to person. Computer keyboards, telephones, doorknobs, pens, money and even countertops and the armrests on our chairs have the capability for entertaining germs.

We can do, as Seinfeld might say, an “unvite” to these pathogens and bacilli by wiping down these surfaces after each guest. Sure brings back memories of our cosmetology school chapter on infectious disease, doesn’t it?

Burkett adds that, in wintertime especially, she makes sure to eat nutritionally and take multivitamins. She notes, “That has always helped me to remain healthy during flu season!”