Every day you're at the salon, you stress your hands and wrists. They’re in water, making them dry and perhaps causing them to crack. They’re in contact with chemicals and nickel, which can trigger dermatitis or a host of other sensitivities. Hour after hour of the same small-motor activity such as cutting with scissors or blowing hair dry can cause carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive-stress injuries.
Prevention is key with any of these hand ailments in order to avoid a chronic condition, surgery and, at worst, a threat to your career. Well aware of the risk for repetitive stress injury, today’s manufacturers are developing lighter-weight blow dryers, ergonomically designed shears and nickel-free casings.
5 Things You Can Do for Your Hands Today: 1. Take breaks. 2. Exercise the hand to prevent repetitive stress conditions, and ask your massage therapist for a therapeutic hand- and-wrist massage. 3. Wear gloves. 4. Train your non-dominant hand to do more tasks. 5. Include your hands when you apply sunscreen.
“A shear is the single most important tool a stylist uses to create professional haircuts and unlimited styles,” notes Sara Pirok, chief marketing officer at Fromm, which offers an assortment of shears with offset handles and detachable thumb rests. Always try out scissors and tools before purchasing, and salon owners can also consider bringing in free-floating blowdryer systems.
“I have had carpal tunnel for about 13 years now, dreading the surgery and time lost from work,” says Kathy Jacobs, owner of Sling Blades Hair Design in Durham, North Carolina. Jacobs says after installing Freestylist hanging blow dryers, she can work up to 12 hours with almost no discomfort. She notes, “It has given me the opportunity to continue to work and not be riddled with my condition any longer.”
"Your most important tools are your hands. Without them, it would be difficult to use all of the tools necessary to be a successful hairdresser."—Patricia Freund, President, Cuccio
First step: Get an allergy test to determine whether your hands’ skin problems are due to an allergic reaction to something such as nickel, latex or sulfates.
According to Linda Gillette Parodi, founder & CEO of Parodi Professional Care, as many as 80 percent of hairdressers suffer from work-related skin damage. As you age, the skin on your hands thins and becomes more fragile, and you begin to lose the protective subcu- taneous fat layer. You may notice a reduction in your ability to sense touch, pressure, vibration, heat and cold, putting your skin at higher risk for injury. Shielding your hand skin becomes more and more critical. Always wear gloves when applying haircolor and perm solutions and, if you develop an allergy to latex gloves, find other materials. If you’re a makeup artist, apply cosmetics with pads and brushes rather than with your bare hands.
Prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis; sharpen your shears at least once a year.
Patricia Freund, president of Cuccio, urges hairdressers to keep their hands hydrated but cautions against using oily lotions. “Shears and oil don’t mix!” she says.
Parodi’s tip is to start and end your day by applying moisturizer to your hands and reapply during the workday when you freshen your lips and every time a client says, “Thank you!”
For a long career in hair and beauty, take care of the inside and the outside of your hands. They’re the delicate but vital instruments that make the magic!