Healthy Hairdresser

Deb Gavin: Bending, Boxing and Body Position

Rosanne Ullman | September 7, 2015 | 8:11 AM
Deb Gavin, international artistic director at Keratin Complex and owner of Fresh Hair Studio in Southampton, Pennsylvania (photo credit: Babak)
Photo By Babak

“This is a very physical career,” says Deb Gavin, international artistic director at Keratin Complex and owner of Fresh Hair Studio in Southampton, Pennsylvania. “When you’re young, you think injuries won’t happen to you, but they can. Establish good habits to have a long career. I’ve been doing hair for 25 years, and I don’t have carpal tunnel or anything more than an occasional sore back.”


Gavin offers these tips to hairdressers, especially young hairdressers whose habits are still in the formative stage:

  • Bend at your knees, not at your waist.
  • Cut with a palm-to-palm movement rather than cutting over the top of your hand. This will give you a wider span in the angle of your wrist.
  • Never bring your elbows higher than your neck. “That’s killer on your body!” Gavin says.
  • Use a longer shear to give yourself a larger range of motion.
  • Move the chair as you cut so that your body can always be in the right place. “Some people get on their tiptoes instead of lowering the chair,” Gavin notes.

Even when you’re aware of these principles, it’s easy to let your body fall back into bad habits. Gavin suggests posting a note to yourself on your station: Body Position.


“It’s about retraining yourself, and it makes a huge difference,” Gavin says. “The average career span is only seven years. You can’t have longevity in the industry if you’re not taking care of your body. You don’t want to be hurting every day when you go home.”


For exercise, Gavin has been boxing since she was a kid. “My dad boxed,” she explains. “We always had a heavy bag that he would hit. I have a private trainer who’s a boxer and works with me on movement and position. That’s what I like—working with someone one-on-one and knowing which punches to counter with when you get hit a certain way. That’s where the mental release comes from—it’s a great energy release. I need busy things to relax, not quiet things. Boxing also raises my level of confidence, because I feel I can defend myself physically.”


Ever since her trainer told her that “weights are the fountain of youth,” Gavin has added lifting to her busy routine. “I try to keep my muscles strong,” says Gavin who, approaching age 50, has kept a steady weight throughout her adult life. “Boxing and lifting give me confidence to deal with clients—to have confidence in my art. We all have those insecurities! When you’re doing something artistic, you know you’re going to be judged every day. Or, when we educate, we worry about whether the people in the class value what we’re teaching. We need to feel strong. When you have 14 clients who loved their style and one who didn’t, you take that one home with you. It’s human nature. When I box, I can let it go.”


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