All jobs have risks, and working in a hair salon is not an exception. Knowing the common hazards ensures that you remain safe and sane while doing what you like.
Here are the most common hazards in hair salons:
- Exposure to Chemicals
Exposure to chemical hair care salon products can cause allergies, chemical burns, and respiratory problems such as asthma. Some exposures can also cause cancer. The FDA does not require cosmetic manufacturers to share safety data with the agency before product launch. It also doesn’t have the authority to approve cosmetics products or ingredients.
Solutions: Choose products that are ammonia-free and have fewer harsh chemicals. Also, avoid products that are heavily scented.
- Hand and Wrist Pain
The repetitive motions of doing hair can lead to severe wrist, hand, and arm pain. Fatigue, muscle injuries, and nerve damage are common in salon workers who frequently perform the same tasks over many years.
Solutions: If you enjoy using your hands but do not want even minor wear and tear on your musculoskeletal system, try using an ergonomic tool that can help reduce the risk of pain and injuries. The best hair scissors, for example, usually include an angled handle that helps reduce the tension on your hands and wrists. They also have swivel thumbs.
- Infection Control Issues
Salon workers are at risk for a range of infections, including HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other bloodborne pathogens. Cosmetology students are also at risk for developing skin infections, such as impetigo, ringworm, and staph.
Solutions: All salon workers should be up-to-date on their vaccinations. When necessary, they should always use gloves, masks, and other personal protective equipment. Workers should also practice good hand hygiene by washing their hands regularly and using an alcohol-based sanitizer.
- Back Pain
Back pain is also common among salon workers due to bad posture and ample time spent on their feet. Many end up standing 80 percent of their shift. If you stand for a long time, the pelvis moves backward, increasing the pressure on the lumbar region or the lower back. In turn, the muscles experience spasms or contractions.
Solutions: If you’re experiencing back pain, ask your employer if you can take periodic breaks to walk around and stretch. Wearing comfortable shoes with good arch support can also help reduce foot pain. And finally, be sure to adjust your posture when working, so you’re not constantly hunching or slouching.
- Poor Ventilation
Many salons have poor ventilation because they lack windows or doors that can be opened. Workers are also exposed to various chemicals. Inhaling these hazardous fumes regularly can lead to health problems such as asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, leading to difficulty breathing.
Solutions: If you’re concerned about the salon’s lack of proper ventilation, talk to your employer and see if you can install a ventilation system or open up windows to improve airflow. You might also want to avoid standing near aerosol spray cans and other products that emit harmful fumes.
- Eye Strain
Prolonged exposure to hair dye, bleach, and other harsh chemicals can cause eye strain. This can lead to several problems such as dry eyes, blurred vision, and even permanent damage to the eyes.
Solution: If you’re experiencing eye strain, take periodic breaks to rest your eyes. You might also want to use a humidifier to add moisture back into the air and avoid using a hairdryer for drying nails or hair.
- Scrapes and Cuts
Using sharp tools, chemicals, and other materials can lead to various cuts and scrapes. These injuries can often become infected if not properly treated. In severe cases, they can result in conditions such as sepsis, a systemic infection that can be deadly.
Solutions: Always use caution when working with sharp objects and hazardous chemicals. Be sure to properly clean and bandage any cuts or scrapes as soon as they occur. Keep your work area clean and free of clutter. If you have any concerns about an injury, see a doctor right away.
- Poor Nutrition
Many cosmetology professionals work long shifts without eating, leading to low blood sugar, fatigue, and other health problems. Poor nutrition can also cause hair loss and skin problems.
Solutions: Make sure to eat a healthy meal before your shift. Bring snacks with you to work to eat throughout the day. And if you do find yourself feeling tired or run down, take a break to eat something nutritious and rest your eyes.
Cosmetology is a rewarding career, but you must understand the associated risks. Many may not be life-threatening, but all can significantly impact your health later. Keeping tabs on what they are can better prepare you for the physical and mental challenges ahead.