We checked in with hairstylists and health professionals to find out what you can do to prevent injuries and stay healthy.
Long hours, repetitive movements, and attention to the details: It’s another day behind the chair, but it can really add up and affect your health.
Before you can take care of your clients, you have to take care of yourself—from the way you stand behind the chair to the amount of time you take between clients, to the detail your eyes focus on as you work. “When I teach, I talk about the way you are standing in relation to what you are doing, and it really is all about the integrity of the craft of hairstyling,” says Diego Raviglione, artistic director for Wella Studios in North America.
“For hairstylists, sustained and repetitive postures present their own unique issue,” says Dr. Patrick Welsh, a chiropractor at High Point Wellness Centre in Toronto. Welsh also recommends taking a movement break every 60 minutes for injury prevention and improving your posture, which also boosts your productivity.
“I’m a firm believer in prevention. I think that shoulder issues can be avoided when you use your arms and move your body as one unit,” says Renee Africa, education ambsassador for Unite. “By using your arms, not your wrists and elbows, you can really increase your longevity in the salon.”
Putting yourself in the best position to deliver a cut or colour is sometimes not the best ergonomic position. “With Aveda, we researched yoga, Pilates and martial arts and looked at the similarities with how hairstylists stand,” says Tristin Morrison, senior creative director for Aveda Canada, who adds that Aveda has also named the specific stances, which help hairstylists remember their positioning. In addition, practicing stances, such as a lunge position, allows you to lower your centre of gravity, placing your eyes on the cutline without bending your back.
At the Core
When it comes to physical activity, flexibility and endurance are essential to keeping your posture in check. Although yoga is a good option, Dinah Hampson, a registered physiotherapist at Pivot Sport Medicine and Orthopaedics in Toronto is a big promoter of what people like to do. “Training your core by doing endurance exercises, such as Pilates, and working on flexibility will help you develop the strength you need to do your job,” says Hampson.
With back-to-back appointments that require repetitive motions, such as cutting and colour application, carpal tunnel syndrome is a common injury among hairstylists and one that Welsh often sees in his practice. Defined as a pressure on the median nerve in your wrist, carpal tunnel can cause tingling, numbing and weakness in your hand. “I’ve seen 21-year-old hairstylists with carpal tunnel syndrome,” says Welsh. “You need to be proactive, and often pain is the last marker.” In addition, using lighter, cordless tools promotes ease of movement.
Stretch it Out
For most, it’s the dominant hand that takes a beating, so stretch your dominant forearm and your neck and to try change your position. “It helps to stretch out and keep your shoulders square,” says Raviglione. “Sometimes we don’t use the mirrors enough and that creates jerking in your neck that takes its toll over time.”
In salons, the floor is hard, which makes it important to have high-quality footwear that offers good arch and heel support. “The reality is that wearing high heels, or any hard-sole shoe will only contribute to the pain and impose more demand on your posture,” says Welsh.
Africa reminds hairstylists that proper weight distribution is key to protecting your back and legs. “You need to stand evenly on both feet. It’s common to switch from one leg to the other. If you stand squarely and face forward, you’ll have more balance in your haircut.”
7 Moves to Better Health
Try these healthy upgrades recommended by Dr. Patrick Welsh, a chiropractor at High Point Wellness Centre and Dinah Hampson, a registered physiotherapist at Pivot Sport Medicine and Orthopaedics.
- Stand close to your work to decrease the demand on your body.
- Try Pilates, yoga, cross-training or any form of exercise that is focused on strengthening and conditioning your core muscles, including your lower back and abdominals.
- Take the stairs. A lot of hair salons are upstairs, so do the stairs twice or take every second stair. Use what you have in front of you. If it’s less than five flights, take the stairs.
- Ideally, you would take a break every 15 minutes. If you have a 30-minute window between clients, focus a couple of minutes on a few wrist and neck stretches, holding for 15 seconds each.
- Take care of yourself. Whether you get a massage to relax the muscular tissue, or a yoga class, find out what you can reasonably fit into your schedule. For most, it’s two 20-minute sessions per week of doing something good for your health.
- Use small windows to do stretches for your neck. In any repetitive scenario, it’s about reversing your posture. Hold your arms in front of you, but face your palms to your sides.
- Take breaks for your eyes. Take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away, every 20 minutes.