HAIRDRESSERS across the North West are being encouraged to wear gloves at work as part of a campaign to tackle skin damage.
A national trial commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive - including 20 salons in the region - found hairdressers supported the idea of wearing non-latex gloves to reduce their chances of getting dermatitis and other skin conditions.
Owing to the amount of contact hairdressers have with chemicals in hair products and water, they are 17 times more likely to suffer from work-related skin damage, including dermatitis, than any other group of workers. This means 70% of hairdressers may suffer skin damage at some point during their career.
As dermatitis and other skin conditions can be painful as well as unsightly, sufferers are often forced to take time off work - with costs for the business and hairdresser. Now HSE is encouraging Britain's hairdressers to wave goodbye to work-related skin conditions by getting gloved-up.
Celebrity hairdresser Mark Hill said: "Buying and wearing non-latex gloves to protect our hands from skin damage makes good business sense. As well as the unhappiness and distress it can create for the hairdresser suffering from a skin condition like dermatitis, the financial costs to salons can be significant. In this economic climate, I imagine more salons will explore ways of reducing financial risk to their business and protecting staff from skin damage."
Dr Isla Fairhurst, for the skin disease project at HSE, said: "We wanted to see whether hairdressers could continue their work happily and practically while using non-latex gloves, which help prevent dermatitis and other skin conditions.
"We trialled long-sleeved gloves (30cm), which can be turned down to create a cuff to stop water running down inside the glove and onto the hand. The trial showed the gloves are good for not snagging hair - a major concern for hairdressers."
The glove trials were carried out in 750 hair salons across 38 local authorities. They were organised on the back of HSE's well-known 'Bad Hand Day' campaign with local authorities and Habia (the government appointed standards setting body of the hair and beauty industry). The campaign encourages more hairdressers to be proactive about preventing dermatitis by wearing non-latex gloves.
In the trial, each salon received a free supply of vinyl gloves and nitrile gloves and hairdressers were asked to use them for all tasks that involved skin contact with water and products used for rinsing, shampooing, colouring, bleaching and straightening.
After the trial, 80% of participants said the gloves were comfortable to wear and 74% said they could handle clients' hair without snagging, dispelling the common myth that makes hairdressers and stylists reluctant to use gloves.
The accompanying campaign pack offered information about how to prevent dermatitis, including good hand-care such as thoroughly drying hands, frequent skin checking and using moisturiser cream.
"As this is the beauty industry, it's inevitable hairdressers rely on having good looking and healthy hands to do their work professionally," added Dr Fairhurst.
"We want to give more hairdressers the chance to try out these gloves, to find out how easy they are to use for themselves - and by logging onto www.hse.gov.uk/hairdressing, they can also find out how easy it is to buy them.
"In the current economic climate, we hope salon managers and stock buyers will see that providing these gloves and taking simple steps to improve health and safety is good business sense."
Wendy Nixon, Health and Safety Manager at Habia, said: "The feedback from hairdressers has been really positive and we are optimistic more and more salons will see the benefits of using the longer length gloves in all wet work."