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Hair Salon Ergonomics: How to Avoid Long-Term Musculoskeletal Stressors

December 6, 2021
June 21, 2023
Cropped photo of adjustable barber chair.

Many people probably don’t equate hair salons with risks associated with physical, back-breaking work. When it comes to workplace hazards for cosmetologists, beauticians, and aestheticians, we might first think about the potential dangers associated with exposure to chemicals and other cancer-causing substances. Ensuring proper workplace ventilation and providing workers with needed personal protective equipment (PPE) can help to reduce the risks of exposure to chemicals such as ammonia in hair dyes, phenylenediamine (PPD), sodium hydroxide, and formaldehyde.  


However, hair stylists and others who work in salons also face potential health risks that come from improper postures associated with their work tasks. Over the course of an average workday, many hair stylists will spend extremely long hours on their feet, engaged in uncomfortable postures as they work wonders on the hair, nails, and skin of their clients.  


Understanding the importance of ergonomics for hair stylists can help to drastically reduce the risk for musculoskeletal (MSD) health issues. Below, we explain how owners of hair salons and other cosmetology businesses can properly perform an ergonomic analysis, then we recommend some of the best ergonomic salon equipment that can help protect the health and wellbeing of your employees.  Lastly, we’ll off some microbreaks that can be used by salon professionals today! 

How to Perform an Ergonomic Analysis of a Hair Salon

For hair stylists, the first and most important step in avoiding MSD stressors is carrying out a proper ergonomic analysis of the workplace environment. This analysis should include a detailed look at the following elements:  

  • The height of hair dressing chairs and tables: If chairs and tables are at improper heights, hair stylists will inevitably be forced to adopt improper postures that will lead to muscle strains. 
  • The frequency of repetitive movements and postures: A good ergonomic analysis of a hair salon will also identify the frequency of repetitive postures and movements throughout the workday and make the necessary adjustments to avoid long hours of repetitive movements. 
  • Proper training in cutting technique: For hair stylists, being trained in proper cutting techniques with scissors and safe use of other potentially hazardous tools can also play an important role in limiting MSD stressors. 
  • Work and Workplace organization: Lastly, the overall design, layout, and organization of the workplace can also help improve ergonomics within the hair salon. 

The Best Ergonomic Salon Equipment  

Once an ergonomic analysis has been performed, owners of hair salons can identify which of their equipment should be replaced in order to improve the ergonomics for their workers. For example, static height chairs and tables are one of the most common causes of ergonomic problems among hair salon workers. These issues can easily be avoided by investing in adjustable height chairs. Of course, proper training for your workers is also important so that they can identify the best height for adopting ergonomic postures.  


Similarly, ergonomically designed scissors are another low-cost investment that can go a long way in protecting the ergonomic health of your hair salon workers. In general, off-set or crane handle scissors are the best option as they permit the finger and thumb to not move in order to comfortably grip the shear. By allowing the stylist's hand to keep a natural hand position, this can reduce stress on the wrist and fingers.  


Lastly, saddle stools are small pieces of furniture that allow your hair salon workers to enjoy a brief sitting rest while on the floor. Long hours of standing can exacerbate many ergonomic stressors, and saddle stools provide workers an opportunity to take the weight off their legs and back while still working.  

a mobile saddle

Perform Regular Microbreaks to Reduce Stress on the Body

Reducing the physical stress from three repetitive postures can significantly reduce the potential for injury in hair stylists and cosmetologists: 

  • Finger Flexion: Cutting, washing hair and even applying nail polish are tasks that require repetitive gripping and finger flexion (bending). This can lead to injuries like trigger finger or even medial epicondylitis, also known as “golfer’s elbow”. Reverse the positional stress by stretching in finger extension (straightening) throughout the day. 
  • Neck Flexion: Even with ergonomic adjustable chairs, hairstylists will still spend time looking down throughout the course of the day - first to discuss cut and color options with clients, and especially in washing hair. Even these short periods of neck flexion accumulate throughout an 8-12 hour day and produce significant postural stress. This can cause neck pain and headaches. Reverse this stressor by practicing supported neck extension movements. 
  • Rounded Shoulders: Let’s face it, all of the work is performed in front of the body, and usually while holding tools in the air - scissors, brushes, blow dryers, diffusers, etc. Reaching in front of you with arms elevated is a recipe for fatigue in your shoulders and upper back.  Over time, a forward shoulder and kyphotic posture can result (rounded upper back and shoulders hunched forward).  Reverse this stress by squeezing the shoulder blades together to reset the posture to normal. 

Save these microbreaks and practice them daily to relieve muscular stress and discomfort: 


Keep Your Hair Salon Ergonomic With Work-Fit 

For hair salons and other companies in the cosmetology industry, hiring a workplace health and safety team is the best way to develop and implement the best strategies to keep your workers safe, health, and injury-free. Work-Fit is a leading onsite and telehealth injury prevention and management company offering a full suite of wellness programs custom-fit for your workforce.  


Our injury prevention program is a great resource that can help keep your employees safe, while also increasing your company´s bottom line through avoiding lost time and costly worker’s compensation payments. We also offer a leading ergonomics program that can help you generate savings on worker’s compensation by identifying the root cause of recurrent musculoskeletal disorders that keeps valuable workers away from the job.  


Our proactive, preventive care process starts with learning about your company’s work environment and where your employees spend the majority of their time. We build relationships with employees and management to discover MSD stressors for hair salon workers and help you develop strategies for avoiding those stressors. If your hair salon workers are at risk of suffering from ergonomic discomforts, contact Work-Fit today to see how we can help your team! 


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