Frequently Asked Questions

What is dermatitis?

Dermatitis – often also referred to as eczema – is a local inflammation of the skin, which can vary in severity. The early signs of dermatitis include redness, swelling, blistering, scaling/flaking, cracking and swelling. It can lead to itching, bleeding and puss formation. Dermatitis is not infectious, so it cannot be passed from one person to another but it is unsightly and uncomfortable. Also, it does not look good from a customer’s point of view. Most importantly it can even lead to the necessity to change profession.

What types of dermatitis are common among hairdressers?

Dermatitis in hairdressing is caused by the specific working conditions bringing the hands in contact with an outside agent or irritant substance, especially in a wet environment. Dermatitis in hairdressing is therefore often also referred to as work related contact dermatitis. There are two main types of contact dermatitis in hairdressing salons:

1. Irritant contact dermatitis (ICD) is mainly caused by prolonged wet works (more than two hours per day), especially with soaps and shampoos, which take away the natural protective layers of the skin, in combination with the exposure of the unprotected skin to chemicals (hair colours, dyes, perms), biological agents (e.g. bacteria, fungi), physical agents (e.g. heat) and mechanical abrasion from tools (e.g. scissors). It is this combination of regular and repeated wet works and exposure to irritant substances, which can enter deep into the unprotected skin, which leaves hairdressers especially exposed to develop irritant contact dermatitis.

2. Allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) is caused when the body’s immune system reacts against a specific substance. Allergic contact dermatitis in most cases develops from irritant contact dermatitis when the exposure to even weaker irritant substances is prolonged and of a regular repetitive nature. The allergic reaction begins with a process called sensitisation. Sensitisation starts when an allergic substance penetrates the skin. This provokes a number of immunological responses. Once allergic contact dermatitis has been developed it cannot be cured anymore leading to the fact that a large number of hairdressers are forced to leave their beloved profession.

How can hairdressing cause dermatitis?

It is this combination of wet works, taking away the natural protective layers of the skin and the exposure to irritant substances, which can enter deep into the unprotected skin, which leaves hairdressers especially exposed to develop irritant contact dermatitis. Preparations such as hydrogen peroxide solution, exothermic perms etc. and other products labelled as ‘IRRITANT’ will have the potential to cause irritant contact dermatitis (ICD). Preparations such as bleach powder and emulsion, acid perms, colorant remover and any other product which states that it ‘MAY CAUSE SKIN SENSITISATION’ will have the potential to cause allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). However, in addition to these chemicals, frequent or prolonged wet work using seemingly harmless products such as shampoos and conditioners is also a significant cause of dermatitis. This is caused by a combination of the hands being wet and the products defatting the skin, especially in warm water.

How are the chances for me to develop dermatitis?

Up to 70 per cent of hairdressers suffer from work-related skin damage such as dermatitis at some point during their career – most cases are absolutely preventable. External agents tend mostly to come into contact with the hands and forearms, so around 95% of work-related skin diseases occur in this area. Especially younger hairdressers are at risk because they often are taking care of most of the wet works in a salon at the beginning of their careers. Their might also be a lack of awareness of the risks of dermatitis with younger and less experienced hairdressers and salon professionals.

How do you recognise dermatitis?

The early signs of dermatitis include redness, swelling, blistering, scaling, flaking and cracking. It can lead to itching, bleeding and puss formation. Someone who has dermatitis may experience symptoms of itching and pain. The signs and symptoms of this condition can be so bad that the sufferer is unable to carry on at work. Due to the number of products used and the presence of wet working within hairdressing, the associated hazards will inevitably present the risk of dermatitis. As well as having appropriate measures in place to prevent dermatitis, it is important to actively look for signs of dermatitis (which, to recap, are dryness, itching, swelling, blistering, cracking, flaking and bleeding). These checks are legally referred to as ‘health surveillance’, and it is a requirement for employers to appoint and train a responsible person to carry it out.

What are the natural protective functions of my skin?

The skin is a complex active organ, if any of its functions fail there can be serious consequences. The skin’s ability to act as a barrier is particularly important for occupational health as in hairdressing. One way to understand the barrier function of the uppermost layer of the skin – the stratum corneum – is to consider it as a brick wall. The corneocytes (flat, dead skin cells made of tough protein) form the bricks and between these a double layer of lipids (fatty materials) and water make up the mortar. Some lipids have a hard crystal-like structure and are impermeable to water. Others lipids do not have this structure and they allow water to percolate through. So, the barrier is semi-permeable.
The elasticity, firmness and correct functioning of the stratum corneum depends on its moisture content. Retention of water is aided by substances in the skin called natural moisturising factors (NMFs). If the moisture content is too high or too low, it can affect the skin’s barrier properties. If the skin becomes overhydrated, for example from prolonged contact with water or from wearing gloves that prevent sweat from evaporating, it causes NMF production to stop. If the skin dehydrates, for example in an air-conditioned environment with low humidity, the corneocytes are not shed as normal and the skin becomes rough, thickened and flaky, eventually leading to cracking because of loss of elasticity. The ‘surface film’ on the epidermis also acts as a barrier, to prevent bacteria and other contaminants from penetrating the skin. The film is slightly acidic and can help to neutralise the contaminants that are typically alkaline in nature. Excessive use of harsh alkaline soaps can destroy the acidity of the film and hence the protection it offers. Problems occur when the skin’s barrier is breached.

I don’t get dermatitis, but I do get dry, cracked skin, particularly in winter – don’t I just have to put up with it?

No. As a hairdresser, you are more prone to developing dry, cracked skin – it can be an early sign of dermatitis. Dryness and cracking means that your skin is not sufficiently hydrated and is vulnerable to further damage because its barrier properties are reduced. Make sure that you protect and moisturise as often as you can and check your skin regularly.

How can dermatitis be prevented?

Work-related skin disease can affect people in a wide range of occupations. Wherever you work, the best general principle to protect against dermatitis is the APC approach (Avoid, Protect, Check).

Avoid: Regardless of what type of dermatitis persons may be subjected to, the simplest precaution will be to reduce wet works and exposure to irritating chemicals from coming into contact with the skin. This could be by regular job rotation, especially of shampooing, and by using less irritating chemicals.

Protect: A very good way to protect your skin is wearing suitable gloves. However, it is important to use the right gloves, please see “What gloves should I use”. Another effective way of protection is the regular use of a protective hand care cream, which reinforces the natural protective functions of the skin. Especially effective is the combined use of gloves and a protective hand care cream.

Check: It is very important to regularly check your skin for early signs of dermatitis and to take the necessary steps at the earliest stage of dermatitis possible.

What are the relevant Health & Safety regulations I need to consider to minimize the risk of developing dermatitis in my salon?

The law requires employers to adequately control exposure to materials in the workplace that cause ill health like dermatitis. Employers and employees need to comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH). They require employers to assess risks, provide adequate control measures, ensure the use and maintenance of these; provide information, instruction and training; and in appropriate cases, health surveillance.
Simple control measures for Hairdressers
• Wear ‘single use’ (type to be specified) gloves when using hairdressing products (e.g. shampoo, dyes, bleaches) and for work with hands in water.
• Protect and moisturise – apply a hand protective care cream before starting work and regularly during work, also before and after using gloves.
• Dry your hands thoroughly after washing using a soft cotton or paper towel.
• Throw away ‘single use’ gloves every time you take them off. Change them between clients.
What else should I do?
You should also arrange for suitable ‘health surveillance’ under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations where:
• there is exposure to ‘wet work’ and/or substances known to cause dermatitis and
• there is a reasonable likelihood that the working procedures in place would lead to dermatitis.
You can do this by appointing someone who is capable of identifying dermatitis and get them to check all your employees’ hands on a regular basis. The responsible person should do the following:
• assess workers’ skin condition prior to starting their job or as soon as possible afterwards
• carry out periodic (say monthly) checks of the hands and forearms of employees to check for early signs of dermatitis
• keep records of the skin checks
• inform the employer of the outcomes of the skin checks so that he or she can take the necessary action

Do staff need special training?

It is essential that staff is made aware of the risks from dermatitis and the control measures that need to be in place. A simple way to achieve this will be to make them aware of this information as well as the existing procedures that are in place. As your staff is likely to be the first to notice the early signs of dermatitis, it is important that they are aware of the importance of reporting it immediately.

What are the benefits for our salon?

Besides the legal requirements to actively take measures for preventing dermatitis there are numerous benefits for salon owners. Clearly, it will help morale and motivation of the staff if they feel looked after. Healthier hands make also a better impression on customers and will do a better job. Healthier hands will also mean less absence cost and ultimately less staff turnover. Salon owners also can claim VAT back and deduct the cost for preventive material from their tax bill, something not possible for staff members. It is also increasingly a risk minimizing measure to protect against a growing number of legal claims against salon owners. Ultimately, preventing dermatitis should be just another element of a professionally managed and successful salon business.

Is the material gloves are made from important?

It is common for latex gloves to be worn to provide protection from irritants and sensitizers. Latex is a natural rubber which is used in the manufacture of protective gloves as it provides the best protection against infection and gives sensitivity and control.
However, latex exposure can actually cause irritant contact dermatitis, resulting in redness, soreness, dryness or cracking of the skin in areas exposed to latex. In addition, latex exposure can result in various allergic reactions including asthma, red and swollen eyes, rash, blisters etc. Once this type of sensitisation occurs, exposure to even the tiniest trace of the substance will cause the symptoms to recur.
It has been recognised that hairdressers may already have or may develop an allergy to latex. Consequently, it has been suggested that vinyl is the best protective material for hairdressers, although latex free nitrile or polyethylene gloves would also be suitable.

Does wearing gloves prevent dermatitis?

Even if gloves are made from a suitable material, there may still be a risk of exposure if they are not worn correctly. Firstly, the protection afforded by gloves will be reduced greatly if the cuff is so short that the inside of the glove becomes wet or the skin becomes contaminated as the gloves are being removed. It is also important that gloves designed for ‘single use’ are not re-used as the protection given will be reduced. Secondly, the correct removal of gloves is important to protect the skin from contamination. The fingers of one hand should be used to pull the cuff of the other glove inside out whilst still on the fingers. The uncontaminated inside of this glove can then be used to remove the other glove in a similar fashion.

How do I choose the right gloves?

You should use disposable, smooth, non-latex gloves that fit the hand snugly. A snug fit means they will be more comfortable, won’t wrinkle and so won’t snag hair. Choose a longer-length glove so that it protects your wrists from splashes from water and products. The longer length also allows you to fold down the cuff to prevent water and products running down the inside of the glove. Avoid latex gloves as latex can cause skin reactions and powdered gloves can cause asthma – it is possible that a number of your clients could be allergic to latex. Nitrile or vinyl gloves would be suitable alternatives to latex.

Is it true that the protective layer of the skin can also be reduced from my own body sweat while wearing gloves?

Gloves give on one hand the full protection against the negative effects from exposure to water and irritants. On the other hand this full protection does not allow any moisture to penetrate the gloves and the natural moisture evaporation while wearing gloves will have a similar effect to being exposed to water – the only difference being that it is the body´s own water – sweat. As a result your skin will also be especially vulnerable after the use of gloves. Therefore, it is recommended to give an additional protection from REAMIN before and after the use of gloves – as you can assume wearing gloves is another form of doing wet works.

Do creams protect the skin?

Creams can help to reinforce the natural protective layer of the skin. Although some pre-work creams can provide the skin with some protection against exposure, they do not form a ‘barrier’ in the same way that suitable gloves do.
However, the use of fragrance-free post-work moisturisers or other aqueous creams are beneficial as they rehydrate the skin and reduce the risk of irritant dermatitis. Thorough hand drying using soft towels also helps to prevent irritation.

What creams shall I use to protect against dermatitis?

Recommended skin creams are paraffin-based or aqueous moisturising creams such as REAMIN® hand protective care cream. These should be in a form that can be used without cross-contamination between users (i.e. in a dispenser, or each member of staff has their own supply). Moisturisers should be applied to all parts of the skin. In some cases fragrance free creams can be suitable.

Why is REAMIN absorbed so quickly?

It is the unique formula of REAMIN®, which has been developed and refined since its launch in 1978 with the special needs of hairdressers and their working environment in mind. Only a cream which quickly absorbs and allows continuous working is a real option for hairdressers to protect their skin.

What are the special qualities of beeswax?

For centuries bee products have been applied to soften skin, remove wrinkles and heal eczema and dermatitis. Beeswax is a colourless liquid secreted by female worker bees as they build the honeycomb walls. Bees fly approximately 150,000 miles, or the distance of six earth orbits, to produce only one pound of beeswax. Beeswax is known to lock in moisture, foster cells, and protect skin from damaging environmental factors. Beeswax effectively softens skin and creates a long-lasting protective coating against the elements. It also is a naturally nourishing moisturizer. Beeswax’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-allergenic, and germicidal antioxidant properties make it beneficial for wound healing.
Acting as a surfactant, beeswax, forms a protective barrier on the surface of the skin. This barrier, provides a film of protection against irritants while still allowing the skin to breathe. It helps to maintain the protective upper layer of your skin (stratum corneum) and its “brick and mortar” structure by providing more “mortar” during water exposure, which washes the skin´s “mortar” away. Wax in general is also used with garments to protect from outside moisture (rain) but letting inside moisture (sweat) penetrate to the outside. Similarly the beeswax works with your skin.
Skin Healing
Beeswax offers anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral benefits, making it potentially beneficial for treating minor skin irritations.
Skin Softening
Beeswax acts as an emollient and a humectant, drawing moisture to the skin and sealing it in. Beeswax also contains vitamin A, which may be beneficial in softening and rehydrating dry skin and in cell reconstruction.

What makes REAMIN so special?

REAMIN® hand protective care cream has been developed over more than three decades especially considering the demanding working conditions of hairdressers. Its unique formula enables the skin to fully exploit all beneficial qualities of the beeswax (protection, healing, softening, antibacterial). At the same time REAMIN® delivers moisturizing substances. Unlike most other creams REAMIN® quickly absorbs without leaving oily residuals, which is of utmost importance for a continuous working process and its acceptance as a practical and really effective measure to protect against dermatitis. The combination of all those qualities was only possible after decades of research and make REAMIN® a unique product to help hairdressers to prevent developing dermatitis.

How do I apply creams?

The right hand cream and the regular use are not yet sufficient for an optimum protection for your hands. The correct use and application of REAMIN® hand protective care cream is equally important. Besides applying the cream to the outside and inside of your hands it is also very important to cover the spaces between fingers, the ends of your fingers and up to the wrists. Only a protective shield fully covering all of your hands up to the wrists can give you maximum protection for your skin against all negative influences.
REAMIN® hand protective care cream must be applied already before you start your work in order to assure a maximum protection right from the start. Using REAMIN® only after you have started already means an unnecessary exposure of your skin and should be prevented. It is also important to make sure that the hands are clean and dry before the application of REAMIN®.
During work REAMIN® hand protective care cream should be used after each break, before wet works and the use of gloves in order to ensure maximum protection.
After work REAMIN® hand protective care cream should be used once again in order to regain lost moisture during work. Thus, the skin is supported in re-establishing its natural moisture and functions during periods of reduced exposure.

Which professions are at risk to develop contact dermatitis?

Work-related skin disease such as contact dermatitis can affect people in a wide range of occupations. It affects most industries and business sectors where wet works are necessary and exposure to irritant agents (chemical, biological, physical and mechanical) is frequent such as in:
• hairdressing / beauty care
• health care (especially nurses)
• dental laboratory works
• catering, foodservice and food processing
• cleaning and hygiene
• gardening / agriculture / horticulture / florists
• construction and building works
• mechanical and industrial works
These are the business sectors with the highest risk of work-related dermatitis with hairdressers, beauticians and florists being at the top of the statistics. But remember, dermatitis can affect people working in all sectors. Dry hands can especially become a problem in office environments, where often dry air from ventilation systems will take away moisture from the skin. In general in cold and wintery conditions everybody can be affected, with the cold air also taking moisture away from your skin. This is why people often have dry skin only in the winter season.

Does REAMIN also help in other professions?

Although REAMIN has been developed especially for hairdressers and beauty professionals it is perfectly suitable for all other professions where regular wet working and exposure to irritant substances (especially for cleaning and disinfection) is part of the daily routine. Such professions can be found in:
• health care (especially nurses)
• dental laboratory works
• catering, foodservice and food processing
• cleaning and hygiene
• gardening / agriculture / horticulture / florists
• construction and building works
• mechanical and industrial works
These professions are unfortunately also ranking in the top of the statistics on work related contact dermatitis. We have frequent feedback from all kind of people from a wide area of professions who report that REAMIN helps them with their skin problems.

Is REAMIN just suitable for a professional working environment or does it also help in everyday situations?

Although REAMIN has been developed for a professional environment it is also perfect for protection and care in everyday situations. Regular use of REAMIN will keep your hands protected and healthy. REAMIN helps especially in dry (often the case in offices) and cold air (wintery conditions). Also typical activities at home (housekeeping, gardening, DIY) are involving working in wet environments and exposure to irritant substances (esp. soaps and detergents).