It's easy to make light of the situation when asked about the risks associated with being a hairdresser. Like how a hair splinter can be the tiniest, yet most painful annoyance in the world. Or how your fingernails have a permanent history of every hair color you've ever done, making it near impossible to tell if I change hair color or mufflers for a living. Let's not forget the stress of having a returning client who you do not remember and left no notes of, leaving you to ask incredibly vague questions until you catch a hint of past conversation. These can be enough to make our hair turn gray, but when we put the jokes aside there is very real risk involved. If you've ever had the chance to take a class with me, you would know how much I stress the importance of ergonomics in the workplace.
Physically our work may not be the most taxing. We're not lifting anything heavy or exerting ourselves in say the way a laborer would. But because we work in small, repetitive movements it's easy to build habits that create irreversible wear and tear on our bodies in the long term. Of all the reasons a hairdresser can bow out, a completely preventable injury is the most unfortunate. Throughout my career, I've noticed that learning proper body mechanics and ergonomics is near nonexistent within most curriculum. Luckily I had great mentors to share with me how to stay in top shape. Here are a few my favorite.
1. Widen your stance. This is most useful when you want to lower your line of sight to be more even to whatever you're working on. Bending forward puts a lot of strain on our lower backs causing problems in the long run. Pushing our necks forward will cause neck and shoulder problems. Keeping good posture is an essential foundation to body health. Lastly, bend at your knees before you even consider bending at the back or neck!
2. Have a seat. Sometimes hair is long. There is nothing wrong with having a seat to bring your line of sight flush with the length of the haircut. So long as we remember step one once we get there (sit with great posture!) A few alternatives, if it's your style, is to ask the client to stand for a moment while you work the details. Most people won't mind and seem to enjoy the extra fuss their hairdresser is willing to put into perfecting their look.
3. Keep your elbows below shoulders. One of the most common injuries occurs in the rotator cuff. With all the blow-drying and elevating longer lengths of hair above our heads it seems difficult to avoid this one. However, this can be hacked by simply learning how to use the dryer at the handle. I've found most hairdressers fall into one of two camps. Holding their blow-dryer at the nozzle, and holding it at the handle. I personally lean closer to the handle camp. It puts the control of the dryer in the fingers keeping the movement off the wrists. It allows me to keep the airflow off myself so I never overheat during the blow dry. And most important, the handling makes it easier for me to keep my elbows below my shoulders.
4. Keep your wrists straight or slightly bent. This one takes a little practice in finger dexterity and making comfortable a few alternative ways to hold your scissors. A great start would be to learn how to work your shear using only your thumb. Once you can confidently do that practice pointing your scissor in different directions using your fingers only, while still moving the action blade with your thumb. If this is too difficult or you've developed a wrist problem already, you might consider grabbing a pair of shears with a swivel thumb.
If there's one thing we hairdressers own it's a passion for what we do. I would like to have my hands in hair until I physically cannot. But the only way to ensure that kind of longevity is to build healthy habits into the already stellar work we do. It's easy to put our focus into mastering our technical ability, becoming masters of sales, and building meaningful relationships with our clients, but none of that will be of much value to us if we're no longer able to physically do the work!
Photo: Shutterstock | file404
Step-by-Step: Mod Bombshell by Dean Banowetz
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