Dermatitis is the most common skin complaint of barbers and it can be broken down into two types:
1 -Irritant contact dermatitis which occurs from working with chemicals and continually having wet hands. If your hands are frequently wet or if you are working on the basins all day doing washing (as many apprentices are) you are at higher risk of this. This form of dermatitis often occurs gradually and can be cured but may flare up again if not given sufficient time to heal.
2 - Allergic contact dermatitis which can occur as an allergic reaction of a product or substance often, but not exclusively, found in cleaning products and hair colouring products. Once you develop this you will have it for life. It can take days or weeks to settle resulting in large amounts of time out of work and re-exposure to the product will trigger it again.
Symptoms of dermatitis include: Dryness, Redness, Itching, Flaking/Scaling, Cracking/Blistering and Pain.
The best way to tackle this problem is through proper safety measures and practises in the barbershop. Below is a list of all best practises but even if you only take on a few, they could make a big difference:
- Dry hands thoroughly as soon as possible after any contact with water. Be sure to dry in between fingers and wrists. This is my top, 'must-do' for any barber!
- Use a barrier cream/good moisturising cream daily, (I love the one I reviewed here: Alsatian Soaps' Hand Lotion ) as often as you can after washing your hands, and again at home before bed. Be sure to include in between your fingers and your nails and fingertips.
- Wear disposable non-latex gloves when doing wet work of any kind (shaving, shampooing, colouring) esp. when working with chemicals, and change them after each client. Be sure to remove gloves correctly so as to minimise contact with products (image from HSE leaflet):
- Check skin regularly for symptoms. It is suggested that salons have a monthly scheduled check for this.
- Remove rings when shampooing as this can lead to a nickel allergy.
- Make sure you are not sweating in gloves regularly as this can also be a cause/trigger.