Many working in the beauty industry will attest to numerous benefits. Setting your hours, positive social interaction and relationships with clients, as well as staying current with latest fashion trends are why many in the industry report high job satisfaction. With all the pros it can be difficult to see or identify the cons. We all know the long hours and regular standing can become, quite literally, a pain in the neck. The physical toll is the most obvious drawback, but there’s something else to be aware of in the workplace that is much more dangerous – chemical exposure.
Different types of chemicals and how we’re exposed
Our industry is constantly evolving and changing, with new products and procedures, and many product lines are conscientious about the ingredients they select. Manufacturers have made improvements to limit short-term damage from dangerous toxins, and they continue to improve. Unfortunately, the improvements are often geared to more immediate problems; like skin irritation or aggravation.
Long-term chemical exposure in a salon or cosmetology workplace is cause for major concern. Merchandise used daily like aerosol sprays, solvents, alcohol-based disinfectants, and metal-based chemicals take a toll on your long-term health. Your body absorbs these toxic chemicals through contact with skin, inhalation, or even hand-to-mouth contact.
How to avoid or minimize exposure:
- Wear gloves and protective clothing. Whether you’re using metallic compounds in nail polish, formaldehyde in a Brazilian blowout, or even nickel based scissor. Your skin is your biggest organ and will absorb anything that comes into contact.
- Work in an environment with proper ventilation. Air flow will help dissipate any used chemicals to minimize overall contact. Avoid inhalation of any products you use.
- Brush up on your facts. All companies are required to have and post MSDS (material safety data sheets) for their employees. These nifty sheets will explain the health risk of all the materials used in your workplace. Review the sheets to stay in the know about which products require extra care.
- Know your limits. Pay attention to any reactions you have to a new product. Reddening of the skin, itchiness, and an outbreak of rash are all examples of skin aggravation you might experience. When you do, discontinue use of that product. Substitute another, less harmful product instead. At a minimum, wear protective gear to avoid skin contact.
- Don’t eat where you work. Make your station a “no eat” zone to reduce hand-to-mouth contact. Stop biting your nails or chewing your cuticles at your station (or anywhere else, for that matter.) Practicing good personal hygiene will minimize a lot of damage.
- Switch to pump instead of aerosol-based sprays. You may be surprised to learn that aerosol sprays can lead to headaches, drowsiness, and even impair memory or the ability to carry on a conversation. Make the swap, and your body (and the Earth) will thank you for it.
- Visit a general practitioner once a year. An annual check-up is a good habit to start.
- Visit a dermatologist if you develop any skin conditions. You’re working with hazardous materials, so don’t ignore that skin irritation that’s been coming around every few weeks. Get it checked out.
- Include liability insurance with your individual insurance. Every client you serve is exposed to the same materials you are. Protect yourself and your client by knowing how to deal with liability issues to take proper precautions with your clients and avoid costly business interruptions that could have been avoided.