A common reason hairstylists leave the profession is due to body fatigue stemming from job-related pain and/or injury. It’s no surprise that lower back, neck, shoulder, wrist, knee and feet pain and injuries are widespread in the industry. You’re on your feet all day while using your shoulders, arms, and wrists repetitiously and bending frequently.
If you’re young or just starting out, you may not realize the toll it can take on your body, but as a stylist with many years in the industry, trust me when I say it can catch up to you pretty quickly if you aren’t paying attention!
Fortunately, there are some healthy habits you can adopt to prevent or minimize potential career-ending pain and body fatigue that I will be sharing with you in this blog. My goal is to help you enjoy a long and successful career in this amazing industry with as little body discomfort as possible!
1. Minimize Pain and Body Fatigue With Body Positioning
Correct body position is the number one thing you can do to prevent your body from breaking down on you prematurely. When you’re cutting hair, don’t lean all your weight on one leg or the other as this can cause lower back, hip and shoulder pain. Not to mention that it can result in uneven haircuts as well! Stand straight as often as you can without locking your knees.
The chair that your client is sitting in has a foot lever to raise it up or lower it. You’re probably thinking, well duh, I know that! The reason I bring it up is because so many times when we’re totally focused on a haircut, we might forget to pump that foot lever to raise or lower the chair so we’re at the perfect level. We might find ourselves raising our arms to cut the hair or apply the foils. Or we’re arching our head upwards and straining our necks and arms. I still have to remind myself to raise or lower the chair every single day!
Something that I started using about ten years ago is a hairstyling stool. I admit it felt awkward when I first started using it but soon I began to feel the benefits in my body. Some salon styling chairs don’t raise high enough so being able to sit on a stool and lowering the client to where I'm level with what I'm working on has helped tremendously with my shoulder and neck pain. Plus when I’m level with the hair, I have a better vantage point so I don’t have much editing and cleanup on my cuts.
If you’re unable to have a hairstyling stool in your salon or you don’t have the space in your salon suite, it's okay to have your client stand up so that you are eye level with them when you’re cutting the perimeter of long hair or a bob.
If you tend to be on the shorter side, try using one of the little folding step stools to stand on as you're doing foiling or coloring work or cutting layers. This will help you avoid future body pain because you won’t have to strain your neck to see what you're doing or pull your arms up over your head to be able to get the work done.
Don’t worry how it looks to the other stylists and clients in the salon. You’re first priority is to take care of your body so you can continue working and making money!
2. Function Over Fashion
We all want to be fashionable and on-trend while working in the salon. I get it. When I was growing up, I had to wear corrective shoes due to a birth defect that turned my legs inward. I wore braces on my legs at night and special (ugly) shoes during the day. So as a young stylist, the last thing I wanted to do was to wear ugly shoes in the salon!
We’re lucky that there are now so many cute, stylish and comfortable shoes that provide great support and cushion for your feet. Even if you can comfortably wear high heels all day, if you plan to be in the industry for a long career, you might consider a more comfortable and supportive style while you work.
Many salons provide styling mats to help with support for your feet. The salon I'm currently working at does not have them so I often wear some really fun looking tennis shoes that are super cute and my feet thank me at the end of the day. The greatest benefit is that I'm able to focus on my work instead of thinking about how much my feet hurt.
Being in pain will impact your creativity and chip away at your career enjoyment. It can also lead to burn-out so consider function over fashion. And if you find some really cute functional shoes, let me know!
3. Tools That Fit
The third thing I want to share is making sure the tools you use are the right fit for you. Having effective tools that are the right size and weight are so important to keeping your body healthy.
Let’s start with the blow dryer. Make sure your blow dryer is lightweight. If you use one that's too heavy, it will cause neck and back pain that can lead to carpal tunnel in your wrist and/or tendonitis in your shoulders. I recommend finding a blow dryer that is lightweight yet powerful. There’s a wide variety to choose from today.
My absolute favorite blow dryer is the Dyson Pro. It’s quite pricey but absolutely worth the investment. As a professional, Dyson will give you a discount so be sure to call the company and inquire. They’ll ask for your license number to receive the discount.
I highly recommend doing your due diligence and investigating the best blow dryers for you. Ask other stylists for recommendations and read the reviews. Most importantly, you need to actually hold it to make sure it’s a good fit. If it’s too heavy or feels awkward, I encourage you to keep looking until you find the right one for you.
Scissors are another tool to investigate. You’ll want to purchase scissors that are ergonomically correct for your hands and your body.
It’s important that when you hold your shears in your hand that they allow your hand and elbow to work in a safe position. If you’re using shears that are too heavy or too large for your hand and your arm, it can lead to pain in your wrist and shoulders so keep this in mind when selecting your shears.
It's also a good idea to move your hand around while you’re holding the shears to determine how comfortable they feel and to check the angle of your wrist when you’re going to cut with them. You want to make sure your wrist is straight not angled up or down when you’re using them. Minimal movement in your wrist while you’re cutting is best.
If you’re looking for a new pair of high-quality shears at a great price, check out a special offer on my website. Under Stylist Tools, you find Hiroki Scissors. You can use my code to receive 15% off your order plus free shipping.
4. Stretch and Strengthen
I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep up with regular exercise for maintaining a healthy body and minimizing or avoiding pain and/or injury. One of the best things I’ve done for myself is doing yoga because it stretches my body and keeps my muscles loose.
Also, doing strengthening exercises using weights is recommended to keep your muscles strong and healthy. I feel that staying consistent with exercise over the years has played a major role in why I’m still working behind the chair and enjoying it for four decades now!
Treat your body with the respect it deserves. If you take care of it, it will take care of you. Your career could depend on it!
On Point Hair Academy and my Own Your Chair blog were created for stylists like you who need just a little help (or a lot of help) in different areas of their hairstyling business. You don’t have to take this hairstyling journey alone.
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Remember, your work is not about you. Your work is about how you make your clients feel.