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Put Ergonomics On Your Side

August 1, 2017 | 3:27 PM
Photo By moodboard for Getty Images

Ergonomics: what is that? It’s the study of efficiency in the working environment. Salon work means long hours on our feet—bending over and doing other repetitive motions day in and day out. But time is money, and if you’re hurt you lose time! Putting ergonomics on your side is the way to maximize your time without hurting yourself in the process. Studies show that 71% of salon pros report pain in their body. Is that you? Or would you rather be among the 29% who have no pain and make money day in and day out? How can you put ergonomics on your side?

First, invest in ergonomically engineered tools. A lot of companies make blow dryers, irons and shears specifically designed to help us keep our wrists straight and comfortable while doing what we love the most. But the tools can’t do it all—we are the ones who use them, and our movements matter in how well we will perform.

When we’re students, we may think that an instructor was the worst for yelling at us for putting down our comb. But think about it. How many times do you bend to pick up a comb when you need to use it again? We don’t think about our movements, but they impact how much fatigue we feel throughout the day. Key points include:

  • Don’t grip your tools too tightly. I admit to being a major rule breaker on this! But your tools will not jump out of your hands, so a soft, comfortable grip is all that’s necessary.
  • Keep your arms close to you, and avoid holding your elbows at 60 degrees or higher for long periods of time. Not only does it hurt to hold your arms up, but it strains the muscles, tendons and ligaments and can give you “tennis elbow,” which I’ve learned from experience is not fun!
  • Use an anti-fatigue mat as much as possible. No one likes standing on a hard surface for a long period, and without a mat you’ll be walking as if you’re 90 before you’re halfway through your career!

Body position is another area for attention. Nobody likes coming home from a long day with a sore back. Prevent this by mastering the art of body position. For example, how should you position your body when you’re shampooing a client?

  • Maintain good posture with your weight centered and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Remember ESHA: ears, shoulder, hips, ankles. Facing straight ahead, your ears should be directly above your shoulders, your shoulders above your hips and your hips above your ankles. Keep your chest up—not like a gorilla, but enough to feel supported.
  • Lean at the hips while keeping your back straight.
  • Relax! Don’t wear out your muscles trying to remain in good posture. The muscles will hold you there, I promise!

For cutting hair, who loves that blunt cut that requires you to move up and down? Not me, because of the squats. Yes, if you absolutely want to get in some squats this is one way to do it, but it’s not necessary. Those awesome chairs move up and down and go around, so hike up your client right to the height you need to perform the task without having to squat. Don’t be afraid to ask long-haired clients to stand up. Follow the proper procedure for standing, and work in front of your section in order to maintain your posture and body position and prevent bending and twisting to get closer to your client. Last, lock your wrists into a neutral position and relaxed at all times. Your wrists are your best assets during the cut.

This is the beauty industry. Beauty professionals must always be topnotch—hair done, nails done, makeup done. We have expensive tools that we must care for and maintain, so why not care for the biggest and most expensive tool you own—you!

  • Thank you to our guest blogger Liz Ellis, a cosmetology student at La’James International College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This is Part 2 of her observations on healthy living for salon pros. Read Part 1 for her advice on diet, sleep and exercise.
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