You’re never too old to start feeling younger (and you’re never too young to start taking care of your health).
When Lois Christie launched her business 45 years ago, health was not even a blip on the hairdresser horizon. "People didn't know what carpal tunnel syndrome was, and no one connected aches and pains to work," says Christie, owner of Christie & Co. in Bayside, New York. “Today, people are more aware of posture, taking breaks, getting to the gym and eating properly. Tools are ergonomically designed to help prevent joint issues, color and bleach products are milder, lighting is better and ventilation has improved. At our salon, we have healthcare insurance and 401k benefits; having that security lowers stylists’ stress level. Our generation should share our knowledge with the next generation. If you don’t have healthy employees, why train them?”
One benefit of a great salon team is blending the wisdom of veteran stylists with the fresh creative energy of newer stylists. But though older stylists can mentor younger ones in technique and business-building, when it comes to health advice, the message is often, “Don’t do what I did.”
Leti Latham is the first to admit that she has not been a health role model for her team.
“No one told me when I was young that you have to start taking care of yourself,” says Latham, owner of Pure Posh Salon in San Antonio. “I’m turning 40, and I can get tired walking up stairs. If I’d been taking care of myself all along, I’d be doing better. Our staffers are young, but many are not in good shape, and three of our stylists smoke. How are they going to be doing this job in 20 years?”
Latham emphasizes that it’s not about appearance.
“I’m thin, so you might assume I’m in good shape, but I’m not,” she says. “My body fat is high even though my weight is fine. Growing up, I ate mostly beans and tacos; the only fruits and vegetables were tomatoes and lettuce for the tacos. At the salon, we don’t do any better—either we don’t eat at all or we grab something from the backroom that isn’t good for us I used to wear high heels and work a 12-hour shift. Now that I’ve been doing hair for 20 years, my joints are hurting, especially my knees.”
Determined to change her salon culture mind, body and soul, Latham is first committing to her own wellbeing by limiting her shift to six hours and hiring an assistant to do simple techniques to give Latham a chance to sit down and eat. To encourage the staff to follow her lead, she’s replaced the pizza and fried pickles at staff meetings with healthier fare and asked her product company reps to please stop bring-ing in donuts. Now in the backroom, you’ll find carrots and hummus.
Every Monday after closing, a husband-and-wife training team conducts a 60-minute, in-salon cardio workout along with some strength training. On Thursdays, a second hour-long session is led by the salon’s only stylist who was already into fitness.
“Both nights, we’re laughing hysterically the whole time,” Latham says. “Some of us are getting competitive by comparing our food diaries and workouts that we post on the My Fitness Pal app.”
Each team member also meets individually with a trainer to set calorie and body fat goals. Latham says it’s harder for younger people.
“Some of our younger stylists tell the trainers that they still want to drink beer,” she says. “They try to balance it with an extra-hard workout or lighter lunch. I don’t hover over them. I understand; I don’t want to take away their fun years.”
At Adagio for Hair in El Dorado Hills, California, an extensive mentoring program includes coaching in the proper way to stand, move and hold tools to prevent strain and injury.
“When we were young we all thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that later, but thanks for showing me!’” says Adagio for Hair co-owner Donna Huston, who launched a team fitness program on May 1 of this year. “I’m going to be 53, and I’m the second-oldest in the salon. I want the younger stylists to be healthy.”
Like Latham, Huston felt the health leadership should start at the top after noticing that the 40 pounds she’d lost nine years ago were starting to sneak up on her again. Although most of the food brought into the salon has always been healthy, Huston met resistance when she once tried to put together a walking group.
This time around, she brainstormed with a team of six stylists, and together they decided to launch a friendly, three-month competition. Each stylist chose three healthy habits to incorporate into her lifestyle. A teammate had to conﬁrm each stylist’s success, and Huston encouraged staffers to further document their new routines by texting each other and sharing photos.
The friendly competition has less structure but carries just as much motivation at Fuel, the company sponsoring this month’s Healthy Hairdresser Challenge. With the help of FitBits, many on the Fuel team participate in regular, informal competitions that offer nothing more than bragging rights as prizes.
“We’re all different ages, but we’re very competitive!” explains VP of Operations Paul Yu. “We’ll do a FitBit Workweek Hustle or whatever Dave [Sales VP David Genes] comes up with.”
Some of the team work out in the morning together, and the family-like relationships continue on the weekend for active get-togethers like mountain biking and kayaking.
“We all try to be among the top three winners for the week,” says Yu, who plays early morning basketball three days a week before going to the Fuel ofﬁce, where a shower has been installed to facilitate this culture.
The initiatives at Pure Posh and Adagio for Hair were both inspired by Healthy Hairdresser. Huston got the idea from the May Healthy Hairdresser Challenge to change one small thing, and Latham took inspiration from our spring Healthy Hairdresser supplement. Pure Posh’s program is already getting results, and stylists report they’re sleeping better because of the workouts and nutrition.
“One stylist was so appreciative,” Latham says. “She told me that no other salon owner would say, ‘Let’s get healthy together.’ She was speaking from the heart. We’re all glad we’re doing it together.”
Huston adds that this type of leadership is gratifying. “I’m trying to build a legacy salon,” she says. “I want my same people here years from now. I would love to be able to say, ‘I did that. I helped them get healthier.’”
Keeping Track to Stay On Track
Another healthy best practice that salon pros can do at any stage in their career is daily journaling. Whether focusing on business (daily retail sales, new services, tips), recording food and beverage intake, tracking activity, documenting best client work and creative inspiration, or simply recording a gratitude moment to de-stress, which is what Healthy Hairdresser Hero Kelsey Higginbotham does at the end of each day to relax, it can be a powerful way to encourage and chart progress.
To help you get in the habit, Healthy Hairdresser sponsor Fuel is gifting customized “My Portfolio” books valued at $150 each to 10 salon pros who complete the July Healthy Hairdresser journaling challenge (details on page 105).