Hairdressers have long been the subject of scientific studies on workplace respiratory problems and lung function, and anecdotal reports add to the evidence that some people will experience sensitivities at the salon.
“My belief is that the hairsprays and other chemicals we breathe can sometimes inhibit our ability to take a deep breath,” says Joe Santy, owner of Attitudes Hair Studio, Langhorne, Pennsylvania, and sales and technical director for Obliphica Professional. “Deep breaths are important to cleanse our respiratory system and help us expel toxins from our bodies.” Yoga and meditation are consistently popular in the salon community among hairdressers who want to work on their breathing. Participants learn how to breathe from the diaphragm in order to draw long, deep breaths.
“Breath is life,” says author and beauty industry educator Mary Beth Janssen. She notes that you’re not getting the full benefits of respiration “if you’re breathing shallowly in the upper part of your chest.” Meditation techniques can give you control over your breathing, Janssen notes, saying, “How powerful is that—to know that we have control to move from stress and toxicity over to relaxation and relief and boost our immune system!”
When a Pilates instructor noticed that Santy’s breathing was shallow, Santy asked a client who’s a doctor specializing in pulmonary disease whether there were techniques to help him take deeper breaths. The client provided this simple technique that Santy says has worked for him:
- Breathe in through an ordinary drinking straw for 5 seconds.
- Remove the straw, hold your breath for 6 seconds and expel that breath for 7 seconds.
- Do a set of six, and repeat a few more times during the workday. Says Santy, “Proper breathing raises my energy and increases my mental alertness while giving me the stamina for those long salon days.”
“It used to be that as long as you had enough fresh air coming in, you could open a salon,” says Jeff Cardarella, president of Aerovex Systems, which manufacturers a “source capture system” that removes potentially harmful chemicals right where they’re applied. “But now there are stricter regulations. It’s all about protecting the breathing zone, and it’s not just keratin smoothing. It’s all chemical services and biological pathogens, such as someone sneezing.”
There are protective measures every stylist can take as well, according to Cardarella, a founding member of the Keratin Smoothing Council. “Use a medium or lowheat blow dryer setting for keratin treatments, and don’t place the dryer right on the head,” Cardarella advises. “Apply only as much product as recommended, use a fine-tooth comb to remove excess product and wear nitrile gloves and glasses.”
5 Things You Can Do for Your Lungs Today
Rush University Medical Center in the Chicago area suggests:
- If you smoke, stop.
- Breathe from the diaphragm.
- Maintain good posture to give your lungs ample room.
- Drink fluids to keep the lung lining thin and functioning effectively.
- Regularly participate in moderately intense activity.