Occupational Diseases Among Hairdressers

Hairdresser cutting hair
People don't often think of hairdressers as having dangerous jobs. If anything, people are likely to think that a hairdresser's client is at more risk of injury or problem as a result of an improperly performed service than the hairdresser coming to harm. However, in studies on Occupational Disorders and Diseases common among hairdressers, the results show that many hairdressers (as many as one out of five, in some studies) suffer from an illness directly related to their occupation.
The conditions range from allergies, rashes and irritations caused by prolonged or repeated exposure to chemicals, or frequent hand washing, to infections contracted from clients who have hair and scalp disorders. Some of these conditions are common and while nuisance level, are not life-threatening. Others can be life-long illnesses and dangerous if ignored or undiagnosed.
Studies done in Eastern Europe a few years ago showed that in nearly 70% of the patients (all in the hairdressing field) who were given patch tests for a variety of substances common to the hairdressing profession showed a positive test result for sensitivity (allergic reaction) to one or more of the substances.
Here are some of the more commonly found conditions affecting hairdressers:
{Note: This is NOT to say that these conditions WILL be found, and many of them require a failure in following sanitation and sterilization guidelines to be transmitted. For this reason, it is PARAMOUNT that any stylist or esthetician follow the health and safety codes for his or her region strictly, and that customers should be carefully questioned about any potential illnesses. And most importantly, you should never perform a service on a client if you question anything regarding the look of their skin or hair from a health standpoint. If you are in doubt at all, DO NOT accept the client for service.}
Contact Dermatitis:
This is an irritation of the skin caused by repeated contact with irritants or allergens. In hairdressers, this can be sometimes seen as a rash or redness and swelling of the skin on the hands, due to frequent contact with the chemicals used in chemical services such as hair color and permanent waves, or even shampoos and conditioners.
In the study mentioned above, slightly more than 46% of the patients were shown to have contact dermatitis caused by allergic reactions to varied substances to which they were exposed.
Many hairdressers can have allergic reactions to commonly used substances in the salon setting. What makes this situation problematic is that these allergic reactions can develop rapidly or increase in intensity with repeated exposure. The reactions may manifest in a number of ways, from rashes and irritation (see Contact Dermatitis above) or in respiratory episodes. It is important to read the OSHA safety guidelines for any and all chemicals used in the salon - from hair-related products to cleansers and sanitation chemicals.
If a product recommends the use of gloves, use gloves. The frustrating part of this advice is that the materials used in various types of gloves can also be allergens. You should always keep different types of gloves available for different situations. Some individuals may have (or can develop) allergies to latex, while others may be sensitive to vinyl (pr PVC), and still others may have or develop a sensitivity to the powder contained within the gloves to allow them to be more easily donned. Keep a variety on hand to allow for continued safety and to allow those without specific allergies to vary the use of products and prevent excessive, repeated exposure.
If the product suggests that a mask be used while working with the substances, you should always use a mask. This is especially true when working with acrylic nail polymers and monomers. The powdered polymers that are used to build up the nail surfaces can adhere to the sinuses and even travel into the lungs and solidify. And if the individual is sensitive to the product, this can cause severe histamine reactions and lead to breathing hindrance and respiratory distress.
A number of the products that hairdressers use are very strong and can be dangerous if used improperly. This is one of the reasons that those pursuing this profession are carefully tested and licensed. Safety is very important and most areas require continuing education courses in order to qualify for renewal of licensure to practice the cosmetology profession.
Another common problem faced by hairdressers is the exposure to varied infections of the skin and hair. These can be fungal, viral or bacterial, and are generally transmitted by improper safety measures being used. Fungal and bacterial infections can often be spotted due to the symptoms they present in the client.
If the hairdresser or technician fails to recognize these symptoms and/or disregards the safety protocols, he or she can be exposed and contract the infection as well. For instance, towels and tools improperly cleaned and sanitized can result in spreading bacterial and fungal infections to other clients and the professional herself.
Viral infections can be harder to spot and often will not be visible in many cases. For this reason, it is always important to ask your clients about infections or illnesses that he or she may have. Furthermore, it is because of viral infections that sterilization of reusable tools is imperative.
For example: a razor that is improperly sterilized can spread viral infections like herpes, Hepatitis C and even HIV. In addition, any time there is an incident where there is broken skin involved, ALL tools should be immediately sterilized and precautionary measures should be doubled, regardless of the answers to any questions about infections or illness.
{Note: Many hairdressers get vaccinations against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B infections, as a precautionary measure. However, it is important to remember that as of yet there is NO vaccination against Hepatitis C (HCV) and the vaccinations against the other forms of Hepatitis do not confer any protection against possible exposure or infection with Hepatitis C. Because of this, all safety protocols should be adhered to strictly and carefully.}
Stacy - Hair Stylist     ©Hairfinder.com
Photo: Dreamstime
See also:
Hair color allergies
Hairdressing industry and dermatitis
Hairdressers insurance
The positive and negative aspects of being a hairdresser