Martha Hanna: "Let’s Talk Hairdresser Health"
She blogs about her southern roots, she blogs about rehabbing her “Big Creek” home, she blogs about crafting and, as a hairdresser for 20 years, Martha Hanna blogs about beauty. Known as “Martie” on her A Hair In My Biscuit blog, Hanna shared some good advice for healthy hairdressing in a blog post she wrote on a day she had to stay in bed with neck, shoulder and upper chest pain.
“Hairdressing is not an easy job,” Martie wrote on the blog post. "Standing on your feet all day, every day, can create problems with your body that you do not want. I would especially love for the young to listen here: if you want to make hairdressing your lifelong career, then you must take care of yourself along the way. Wearing 4-inch stilettos or flat, shapeless shoes to work in a salon will catch up with you one day. Chugging sugary sodas and not eating right because you’re on a time crunch will catch up with you one day. Scheduling three foil highlights back-to-back on a Friday, after working hard all week including prom the Saturday before, will catch up with you one day (it caught me yesterday). More importantly, not wearing gloves while applying chemicals, or not using good safety practices in general when it comes to chemicals, will catch up with you one day.”
Martie went on to offer her top five hairdresser health tips. This is an edited version:
- Shift your weight as you work. Don’t stand with all of your weight on the same leg all of the time! Observe any repetitive movements or stances that have become habit, and try to change it up. I have a tendency to pop my left fist on my hip while I’m waiting for my curling iron to work
- Wear supportive shoes. I used to love to wear my big ol’ wedges and cute little light-as-a-feather flats to work, but I found out that was only hurting me in the long run. I can’t make it through a whole day in less-than-comfy shoes anymore, so I don’t try.
- Invest in a mat. I don’t care how much money you’re trying to save for your parasailing excursion at the beach this summer, BUY A MAT!!! I saw one at the hair show that went all the way around the chair, and I already regret not buying it. If I find that again, it is MINE!
- Stretch. Stretch every morning when you wake up, every night before lying down and a few times in between. Keep your muscles loose and limber, and you could possibly avoid some seriously irritating muscle pain.
- Hydrate. Drinking water is important for so many things: circulation, flushing out toxins, hydrating your muscles and joints, relieving dry skin, maintaining a healthy weight and other issues. I’m awful about it, myself, but I’ve done very well over the past two weeks.
In fall 2015 Martie left her salon to focus full-time on her handmade crafting business she posts on Etsy. In addition to flaxseed heat therapy bags you can microwave and use as a heating bag or cold pack, Martie’s best-sellers are for stylists—cutting and styling capes she creates by recycling shower curtains and other secondhand waterproof fabrics, and bracelets that hold bobby pins to keep handy while you’re styling an updo. But she says she’ll always identify as a hairdresser.
Martie’s body pain issues are partly related to her scoliosis but probably aggravated by salon work. Her eczema worsened with age, and she has signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. “I don’t blame the industry,” she says. “Any job you do can be hard on you, Standing all day isn’t good, but sitting all day also can be detrimental to your back health.” She says she wishes she had started earlier to take care of her body.
“About five years ago I started to do all of the things I tell stylists to do now,” notes Martie, now 42. “I became more consistent about wearing gloves; you can get used to wearing gloves, and you’re so much better off. I used to wear cute wedges with no floor mat, sip soda all day and smoke. Now when I wake up the first thing I do is stretch, and then I drink a glass of water—before I even drink coffee—and stretch and have another glass of water before I go to bed. Those are things I wish I’d started doing earlier.” Smoking is a battle that Martie has fought multiple times but so far hasn’t won. She vows to keep trying.
She also walks with her mother three times a week for about 2.5 miles. “When I skip my walk, I feel it in my back and hips,” she reports. “I eat what I want, but I try to make my vegetable portion larger than my carbs. I try to eat a palm-size portion of meats and a fist-size of carbs and then load up on veggies. I’m not perfect. I put on five pounds at the holidays, but I enjoyed it!”
For her mental health, Martie attends church and finds that journaling and blogging provide a great release for her. “When I write something, it gets it out of my mind so that it stops stressing me and I can move onto something else,” she explains. “I can stop worry about the bills, for example. Of if I was expecting a client who always made me a nervous wreck, I could always write about it and then the client would come and I’d be okay.”
The day that she wrote out her tips for stylists to stay healthy, Martie sounded like a lot of achy but determined hairdressers. "From one foolish hairstylist to another," she urged, "please take care of yourself! This line of work is fun, rewarding and creative, so we love it. We CAN do hair and stay healthy, too! I’m going back to the salon tomorrow, come heck or high water....The hair must go on!”