Life story of a hairdresser

By Francisco Padilla Marín

My name is Francisco Padilla Marín, I am teacher of professional training, specialized in hairdressing. I have decided to describe and evaluate my personal experience throughout my professional career for over more than 30 years, both as an employee, and employer but also as a teacher, in the hope that it could help future generations of hairdressers.

My tasks at the beginning, like everybody else who had just finished training in hairdressing, was to sweep hair, clean the hairdressing salon and apply hair dying from time to time. Seeing it from a retrospective view, I realize now that there weren’t any health and safety prevention measurements taken, neither for the cleaning and disinfection of the salon nor for the application of dyes.

As I progressed in my professional qualification, the amount of hours dedicated to the realization of all kinds of technical processes were increasing, which also meant increasing the use of products containing chemicals such as thioglycolic acid, ammonia, paraphenylenediamine (PPD ), Hydrogen peroxide etc ....

I still remember perfectly the feeling in my hands, which were itching and burning while and after the application of some of those products, in addition to that they used to remain discoloured for a long time after using bleaches, reddened after the assembly of perms, wrinkled from the excess of water while hair washing, holding dark nails coming from the dyes which I was told to clean with bleach (lye). It was irresponsibility from us both, my boss and I, not to use gloves in any of these procedures. As a result of these and other negligences, I currently suffer from an irritant contact dermatitis that causes itching and pain when I'm in contact with some chemicals.

After a few years, already as an entrepreneur, and once aware that I should take health and safety measurements, we always used latex gloves in my salon, even though they were not very suitable for hair washing since they pulled the hair, or plastic ones to check the processes.

As time went by, I started suffering from a stubborn rhinitis which kept getting worse and worse. I even went through nasal septum surgery that didn’t help much, as I continued to suffer from the same symptoms.

Other issues were, for example, hairsprays, which made my eyes and my employees become dry. Actually one of my employees had to be treated by both the ophthalmologist and the allergist for this reason. These doctors recommended more ventilation and not to inhale directly the different cosmetic preparations, so I chosed to eliminate those hairsprays, replacing them firstly with some without gas, and then ecological ones. But even though I was coughing much less, the rhinitis persisted.

In addition to this, and as a result of the long working days performing repetitive movements, I suffered muscle contractures that caused back pain and headache; also the incorrect position of the hand when using the hand dryer caused an employee to get an injury in the carpal tunnel, which made her to feel pain and numbness in the fingers.

In 2010, I began my career as a teacher in the specialty of hairdressing, which also includes visiting the students that are doing their practicing period in different hairdressing salons, where I noticed that in many of them they keep committing the same malpractices that I used to do, as the non-use of gloves.

In the 2013/14 school year, I came to work at IES El Palo, where I participated in an European project called "Green’ability", which aimed to raise awareness on the need for recycling and taking actions into sustainability and health care, like using natural cosmetics. Within this project, I wrote an article about natural cosmetics and collaborated in the realization of the "Lookin'Green" parade that was held in Málaga, where natural and recycled materials as well as cosmetics with ecological certificate were used for make up, hairstyling and outfits.

This experience marked a milestone; thanks to this I became even more aware of the need to deepen the subject of prevention in the world of Personal Image. In the 2016/2017 school year I have returned to IES El Palo where another Erasmus+ project is taking place “Green Salons” which focuses more specifically on sustainability and safety in hairdressing salons, which is allowing to continue learning and raising awareness in these subjects.

Before ending this article, I would like to encourage all the professionals to raise their awareness about the consequences of the intensive use of chemicals and water while working in a Salon.

And for the hairdressing teachers, my humble advice: Our students should be rigorous when performing their tasks, for example, using vinyl gloves for headwashing and permanents, and nitrile gloves for the application of dyes and bleaches. They must learn the health risks that our beloved profession involves but also contribute with their actions to an improvement of the environment. That is our responsibility.

                                                                                                                         Málaga, January of 2017

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