How to Keep Your and Your Clients' Skin Safe
It is very easy within this industry to just think about our clients and their needs. We are forever making sure they are comfortable, that we have the best chairs for them to sit on, that the workplace is warm enough, the list is endless...which means we seem to forget about ourselves as therapists.
Keeping ourselves safe and protected in day to day work within the salon should be a priority as a beauty therapist.
That's why PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is very important. The products we use each day, come into contact with our skin, and initially, it has no effect, it is just washed off and we don't think much of it.
Unfortunately, over time our skin becomes very sensitive to the products that we use, and this is where we run the risk of developing Contact Dermatitis. This condition is very common with hairdressers and just as common for nail technicians. What people tend to do is wait until they start getting the early symptoms of Contact Dermatitis and then they take the necessary steps to get it under control. This then becomes a case of treatment rather than prevention, and of course, prevention is a better way to deal with such a condition.
Having dealt with this my self and wishing I had acted sooner I always warn my fellow therapist and students of the danger.
After applying a set of gel extensions on my own hands almost 3 years ago I noticed small, blister-like bumps along my cuticles. Of course, I ignored them thinking they would just go away. They continued to worsen, and they were extremely itchy, I tried my best to ignore it as itching only made it worse. Not once did I even consider taking off the extensions!
Whilst this was happening I was still seeing my regular clients, not wearing gloves during their service and if any gel touched their skin I would wipe it off with my thumb before their hands went into the lamp to cure. Again, this was just habit and I thought nothing of it.
My hands were getting worse, I still had my extensions on. The itching was so bad that I would itch my hands in my sleep without realising and wake up with split skin that was weeping, it was disgusting!
So, what did I do? I still refused to take my gels off, so I just took an antihistamine before I went to bed! When I think back, I am shocked at how I chose to ignore it just because I refused to give up my nail enhancements.
The cuticles where so sore and angry my nails no longer looked nice! As I was still exposing my nails to the gel they continued to worsen when eventually I woke up one morning and my fingers were so swollen I could not bend them. I had to cancel all my clients for the day as there was no way I could work like this. My fingers resembled cooked sausages that needed their skin pierced!
When I managed to bend my fingers, the pain was agonising, as I bent them each finger split across the knuckles and began to weep.
This is when I knew this was serious! I filed off my gel extensions, soaking would have been far too sore as the skin was broken. It was like an instant relief! Although my hands were extremely damaged and needed a lot of recovery time, taking the gels off made a massive difference.
I applied steroid cream that had been prescribed by the doctor and I wore gloves for every treatment - not just nail services!
It was a long road to recovery; my hands would seem to be getting better and something as minor as taking my gloves off and then moving my gel bottle would flare my fingers up again. I would say all in all it took around six months until the skin on my hands was healthy again.
Now I wear nitrile, powder-free gloves for every nail service, keeping any products away from my skin.
It is also important to keep products that we apply to our client's nails free from their cuticles and surrounding skin. Although it is not as common for our clients to suffer from Contact Dermatitis as it is for us nail technicians there is still a small percentage that it does happen too.
It is our job as professionals to educate our clients, to protect them and to protect ourselves.
I recommend wearing nitrile gloves whenever applying nail enhancements, and that you do not use your own fingers/thumbs to wipe away excess product and that you keep any products that may cause irritation away from your's and your client's skin.
If any product comes into contact with your skin, then wash your hands as soon as possible. My biggest recommendation... If you get any signs of irritation, itching, small blister like bumps, redness, then remove any enhancements immediately. Doing so will allow the skin to recover quickly, your nails to breathe and after a short break, you may be able to wear enhancements again. Do not leave it and ignore it like I once did. Unfortunately, I can no longer wear gel products on my nails, you can imagine how heartbreaking this is being a nail technician.