The Uglier Side of Hairdressing

Published on: 15 Dec 2014

Allergic reactions and chemical reactions are probably the main cause of trainees having to quit before they have even got going. Time and time again I’ve come across it in the workplace; a new trainee starts and is loving the job, really enthusiastic about hairdressing and then they find out they are allergic to either the chemicals or something else used daily in the salon.


This is because there are so many things that people can be allergic to in the salon. I worked with a lady once who was allergic to rubber so it meant that she couldn’t do many colour techniques as she was unable to wear gloves. Luckily for her she was able to get through her training with lots of help from the doctor prescribing many different creams to apply to ease the pain; she had already fallen in love with the industry and wasn’t going to give in to it. When she qualified she had an assistant to apply her colours throughout the rest of her career - now that is determination!

Dermatitis can be a big problem mainly with trainee hairdressers as their hands are in water a lot causing them to be painful and often to crack and bleed. I myself had this as a junior and it wasn’t pleasant! I had to constantly moisturise and always wear gloves even on a slightly cold day to avoid making it worse. Even though it was horrible at the time it was soon forgotten when I became a Stylist. It can sometimes continue when you become a Stylist as you come into daily contact with a number of chemicals, but it is usually easier to live with as you will normally be able to ask assistants to help with tasks that would irritate it.

Body strains

A lot of hairdressers suffer with all sorts of leg strains. Those of us who have been in the industry for a long time can become prone to thread veins and even the dreaded varicous veins due to standing for long periods of time over lots of years. Health professionals recommend that we sit with our legs slightly elevated whenever we have the chance to try to prevent them developing late on. So lots of relaxing in the evening with my feet up is the answer for me! Remember although those high heels look lovely they won’t help either.

Repetitive strain injuries are another common thing in hairdressing, from years of your hands making the same movements whilst cutting hair. You can also develop carpel tunnel syndrome which effects the tendons and muscles in your wrist and forearm and can be extremely painful.

The best way to try to avoid this happening is to make sure you have the right scissors for you. Make sure you have them sharpened regularly as well as this means you don’t have to strain those hand and wrist muscles as much as if you had blunt scissors. Good quality is also of vital importance if you are planning a long career, as the smoother they cut the less chance you have of having to deal with these nasty conditions in the future.


There are all sorts of nasty things to be found in clients' hair too, the obvious one being head lice. These are common and not just in children. There are many parents that have been passed a few and had no idea, although this is mainly in women as they don’t like the male hormone (testosterone).

The usual process if you were to find them in anyone’s hair (as you usually don’t notice until you are half way through) would be to finish the haircut and discreetly tell them to buy some lotion on the way home! If you were to see any before you have started the hair cut you would tell them straight away and very politely without causing any embarrassment ask them to come back when they have treated their hair.

Always make sure any tools used are properly cleaned before using on the next client. There are so many other things you may also come across such as operation scars, warts, large protruding moles, dandruff, psoriasis, seborrhoeic eczema - I even came across a lady with a huge piece of her scull missing from surgery she’d had years before.

Last, but by no means least, is ‘bitchiness’. Our industry is very well known for it and it can make work a horrible place to be. That’s never a good thing. We spend so much of our lives at work its important to feel comfortable so if you find that it’s happening in your salon stand up to it and don’t let them push you out.

Salon politics

Usually it’s just one person who is the instigator and they are usually good at getting lots of others doing the same thing without realising the effects it can have on some people. Things can get out of control, it is a form of bullying and should not be tolerated at all but it is unfortunately very common in so many salons. But before you start to worry remember there are definitely lots of salons that are completely bitch-free too!

So although there are lots of down sides to hairdressing as a long term career you really must remember that the good points far out way the bad points. It’s not often that we come into contact with the gruesome things mentioned above.

You can do things to prevent and avoid these medical issues and bullies are everywhere around us. However you decide to make a living you will more than likely have to deal with them directly or indirectly at sometime in your life anyway! To conclude, I would definitely still recommend hairdressing as a fun, sociable and often very well paid path to take.


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