What is dermatitis?
Dermatitis means inflammation of the skin and most often affects the hands. It can be caused by substances that come into contact with the skin and is the biggest occupational health and safety hazard for hairdressers, with as many as 60% being affected at some time in their career.
Types of dermatitis
1. Irritant contact dermatitis
Caused by water, shampoos and conditioners, cleaning agents, other strong chemicals. Continual wetting and drying of the skin, as well as contact with these substances will
de-fat the skin and cause it to dry out, flake, split and crack. This will occur more rapidly in people with sensitive skin, especially those with a history of eczema, asthma, or hayfever.
Irritant dermatitis often:
Affects apprentices, juniors and casuals who do a lot of work at the basin- taking good care of your hands and protecting them from the very beginning of your career will prevent this skin condition.
2. Allergic contact dermatitis
Caused by water, shampoos and conditioners, cleaning agents, other strong chemicals. Caused by the chemicals in dyes and tints, perm solutions, bleach – you can become allergic to these chemicals causing the skin to itch, flake, split, crack and blister.
The skin will:
Flare up a few hours after the particular chemical has been contacted
Take days or weeks to settle down again.
Allergic contact dermatitis can occur at any time in a hairdresser’s career and often happens in conjunction with irritant dermatitis. It is diagnosed by patch testing in a specialised clinic. Once this condition has developed there is no cure. Prevention is the key.
3. Contact urticaria
Caused by an allergy to particular proteins which are found in disposable latex gloves and bleach.
The allergy will:
Produce an immediate reaction e.g. hives on the skin, runny nose, sneezing, asthma
Usually settle within one hour of stopping contact
Can ultimately develop into a life-threatening condition
Contact urticaria is fairly rare, but has become more common with the greater use of cheap, powdered, disposable latex gloves. Therefore it is best to avoid this type of glove altogether, rather than risk developing this condition, especially as there are excellent alternative gloves available.
Clients may also experience either allergic contact dermatitis (usually to hair dye) or contact urticaria to latex.
Protect your hands
Wear gloves when: Mixing and preparing products, colouring, perming, bleaching, shampooing, rinsing out chemicals, cleaning the salon
1. Disposable gloves
- Must be thrown away (disposed of) after each use
- Must not be washed and re-used
- Use vinyl, which come in boxes of 100, several brands are available, or pvc
2. Reusable gloves
- Always keep the contaminated surface on the outside
- Wash gently with soft soap between uses
- If you turn them inside-out to wash them, remember to turn them back again before you put them on
- Choose nitrile gloves (a synthetic form of rubber)
3. Basin style gloves
- Try reusable gloves or strong vinyl gloves
4. Cotton under gloves
- Try these if you tend to sweat a lot when wearing gloves
- Also apply at the beginning of the day and when you have a break
- Always apply at the end of the day and before bed
- Rub well into the hands and wrists
- Make sure you include the web spaces between your fingers – this is often the first place for dermatitis to start
A salon is not a large bathroom it is a hair laboratory:
- Take your rings off at work
Chemicals, detergents and water get trapped under rings and cause dermatitis to develop. This may lead to nickel allergy, a common condition in hairdressers
- Rinse chemicals off your hands immediately and dry with a towel
- Keep work surfaces clean and free of contamination
- When on holiday, do not get a “temporary tattoo”
Although they claim to be henna, they often contain PPD (hair dye) and may cause you to become allergic.
- Your clients are only exposed to these chemicals once every six to twelve weeks. You are exposed to them many times a day, five to six days a week.
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust would like your feedback. If you wish to share your experience about your care and treatment or on behalf of a patient, please contact The Patient Experience Department who will advise you on how best to do this.
This service is based at The James Cook University Hospital but also covers the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, our community hospitals and community health services.