Your hands are the most important working tool!

Facts about the Skin

The most important working tools for hairdressers are their hands. Healthy hands are not only giving a feeling of confidence to the hairdresser but also are a making a good impression on the customer. Only really healthy hands allow to deliver a good customer service and to achieve outstanding results when it comes to realising creative ideas. Skin care and protection, especially for the hands, are an essential element of a hairdressers creative art. Thus, the use of a hand protective care cream, which supports and reinforces the complex natural protective functions of the skin, is of extreme importance.

The human skin consists of several layers and is between one and four millimeters thick. The skin protects the human body from harming external influences, but is also itself a sensitive body organ, which needs care and protection itself especially in the challenging working environment of a hairdresser.

The upper skin layer (epidermis) protects the underlying tissue with its nerves and vessels from injuries, germs and other harming substances. One way to understand the barrier function of the uppermost layer of the skin – the horny layer (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. This oil-like substance is produced by the sebaceous glands. Sebum helps waterproof the skin. Sebum forms a film on skin that keeps water in and irritants out.

View of the epidermis and the uppermost layer of the skin

– the “brick and mortar” structured horny layer (stratum corneum)

The horny layer (stratum corneum) is the main barrier for harming influences in the daily work of a hairdresser. It also makes sure that the skin keeps its moisture and does not dry out. All protecting and caring measures are focused on reinforcing a weakened stratum corneum and the epidermis and re-establishing its full natural functions. As a result the skin of the hairdresser stays in full health.

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.

Dangers for the Skin

Sensitive, reddish and itchy skin, eczemas and allergies can be the result of overly stressed and unprotected hands. Physiological stress from water, chemicals, heat and the mechanical impacts from hair cutting using scissors is part of the daily work of a hairdresser, which can not be prevented. Unfortunately, these pressures are the cause for skin diseases being the most widely spread job related disease for hairdressers (over 70% of all diseases in that profession are skin related). Most in danger are those working continuously without longer interruptions with water and skin harming substances. *

But what happens to our hands under this physiological stress and what can be done against it?

Almost all hair treatment substances being used daily in a hair salon are chemicals. Additionally, there is an intense contact with water or a moist environment, as for example in protective gloves.

As a basic rule one can say that there is an increased risk of skin damages in those cases where hands are exposed more than two hours per day to wet or moist conditions. The water from shampooing is already sufficient to take away the natural protective oily shield of the skin (Sebum). Shampoos and other chemical working substances aggravate the negative effects. The skin becomes wrinkly and external substances and germs can enter deeply into the skin. This leads to sensitive, reddish and itchy skin which will result over time into eczema and other infections. The entrance of external substances, fragrances and chemicals can also lead to allergic reactions. Substances which so far where well received by the skin, can become the reason for allergic reactions on a skin without protection. The allergy causing substances can not be used by the hairdresser in the future anymore, which could have been prevented with the use of REAMIN® – the hand protective care cream especially for hairdressers.

In general, the most effective measures to prevent negative skin effects are gloves and using REAMIN®.