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Dermatitis in Hairdressing: How to Protect Your Skin from Wet Working

Working as a hairdresser or barber is a highly enjoyable profession that is both creative and sociable, and also wonderfully rewarding when your clients leave looking and feeling great. However, after many long hours at work in the salon or barbershop, your own hands may be in need of a little TLC themselves.

Dermatitis in Hairdressing How to Protect Your Skin from Wet Working

That’s because working in a hair salon or barbershop, whether as a stylist or an assistant, can entail many hours of wet working – which is when your hands are in contact with water, wet hair, or chemicals such as shampoo and styling products. Unfortunately, due to this hairdressers are 17 times more likely to suffer from work-related skin damage, and up to 70% of hairdressers suffer from work-related skin damage, such as contact dermatitis at some point in their careers. But the good news is that most cases of occupational dermatitis are entirely preventable.

If you are a hairdresser, barber or salon assistant and are looking for ways to protect your skin against the discomfort of dermatitis, this article is essential reading for you. Firstly, we’ll take a look at the causes of dermatitis, and then explain how to prevent it, so you can give skin damage at work ‘the chop’.


What is contact dermatitis, and what are its causes?


As we explain thoroughly in our blog post ‘How to Prevent Contact Dermatitis at Work’, there are two types of dermatitis: irritant contact dermatitis, and allergic contact dermatitis.


The main differences between the two types of dermatitis are as follows:

  • Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when your skin comes into contact with a substance that damages its outer layers. In hairdressing, these substances can include bleach and dyes, but it can also occur as a result of frequent wet working or repeated contact with milder chemicals, such as shampoo and hair treatments.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when your skin has a reaction to a substance, following repeated contact with it. It can take some time – months, or even years – to develop a reaction to a substance, which can be as mild as shampoo or hair styling products, but unfortunately once this allergy develops it will not go away.


The signs and symptoms of work related contact dermatitis can include: dryness; redness; itching; flaking or scaling; cracking or blistering; or even pain in more severe cases. However, dermatitis is not contagious or ‘catching’.

In hairdressing or barbering, the causes of dermatitis can be several. If you spend more than 2 hours per day with your hands in contact with water or wet substances, or get your hands wet several times a day, you are very likely to be at risk of developing a type of dermatitis.


Common causes of dermatitis in hairdressing include:

  • Washing or colouring clients’ hair with bare hands
  • Handling equipment that is wet, or has been placed in chemicals
  • Touching clothing, equipment, tools or containers that have been contaminated with chemicals
  • Having chemicals such as dyes splash onto your skin when you are preparing them
  • Dust or residue from aerosols and sprays landing on your skin
  • Contact with cleaning products and chemicals used around the salon


How to prevent dermatitis in hairdressing


The most fundamental way to protect skin against skin damage during wet working is to wear disposable gloves. Wearing gloves prevents your skin from becoming wet in the first instance, and also guards against other types of damage from hairdressing chemicals such as harsh bleaches and dyes.

Our range of disposable gloves includes vinyl, nitrile, latex and latex-free gloves, as well as powder-free gloves, and clear gloves – so you’ll find protective disposable gloves for every application in your salon. Plus, as disposable gloves are lightweight and available in a range of sizes, you shouldn’t find that they get in the way of carrying out your everyday work.

However, for an extra layer of skin protection, consider using industrial skin care products and creams that protect, nourish and restore hairdresser’s hands after a demanding day. From products to be applied pre-work, which leave a protective barrier on the skin against water and chemicals, to moisturising after-work skincare products, we’ve everything you could need in your barbershop or hair salon to keep yours and your staff’s skin in healthy condition.


For the most complete approach to hand protection against occupational dermatitis in your hairdressing salon or barbershop, we recommend the following steps:

  • At the start of your working day, and before putting on gloves, apply Deb Stokoderm Protect PURE, a perfume-free and non-greasy skin protection cream that protects the skin against contact with water and non-water based substances. As an added bonus, it can also be used under disposable and nitrile gloves to protect the skin during use.
  • When you need to wash your hands during the day, use a gentle hand wash such as Deb Refresh Energie FOAM, or a perfume and dye-free hand wash such as Deb Refresh Clear FOAM. Then, dry your hands thoroughly with a soft cotton or paper hand towel.
  • After hand washing and especially at the end of your working day, thoroughly apply Deb Stokolan Light PURE to your hands, a mild yet highly effective after-work conditioning cream that nourishes and restores dry, sore and chapped skin, but also provides essential moisture to all types of skin. Watch the video from Deb below for tips on how to properly apply hand creams.
  • Always change your gloves between clients to minimise the risks of contamination.
  • Check your hands regularly for any early signs of dermatitis, and consult your doctor if you are concerned about the condition of your skin.

You can see our full range of skin care products from Deb here, which includes products for all types of workers. And for more information about dermatitis and other types of skin damage in hairdressing, take a look at the Health and Safety Executive’s information page for hairdressers.

Will you be more ‘hands on’ with skincare in your hairdressing or barbershop, or do you already follow a good hand care procedure? Let us know if your salon skincare gets two thumbs up. Leave us a comment below, or send us a tweet at @BunzlCleaning to share your thoughts with us.



49 thoughts on “Dermatitis in Hairdressing: How to Protect Your Skin from Wet Working

  1. Natalie Robinson

    Great article! I’m a hairdresser that often does The Brazilian blowdry which leaves my hands very dry and sore, never thought of using Industrial skin care products but will now! Thanks

  2. Denise walton

    I have contact dermatitis occasionally it’s not nice I didn’t realise it was such a problem with hairdressers very interesting

  3. Mary Davis

    Goodness, didn’t think about how hairdressers risk damaging their hands in all those ways! Gloves would definitely be a must. Chemicals are nasty for the health as well as the skin!

  4. Sue Nicholl

    Chemicals in hairdressing products ie shampoos, hair dyes or perming solutions or even constantly having hands in water or having hands damp all the time are all possible causes of dermatitus

  5. Christine Hall

    I suffer with my hands due to hairdressing, I wish I had taken my care of my hands, I now have to get creams on prescription.

  6. rebecca h

    I get this at work and it’s horrible! Especially when the skin cracks. Having chemicals such as dyes splash onto your skin when you are preparing them is a common cause

  7. Ben Robb

    Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when your skin has a reaction to a substance, following repeated contact with it eg chemicals

  8. Emma Gough

    Sadly my sister gave up hairdressing after 3 years because her hands suffered so badly – wish she had known about this product then – one of the most common causes is: Dust or residue from aerosols and sprays landing on your skin

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