A safe pair of hands

Errol Douglas MBE

As hairdressers we haven’t been working solidly for over a year and we need to give ourselves a bit of extra time to get back into the cutting mode, build up our skills, fitness and creativity,” explains Akin Konizi, creative director at HOB Salons. “Cutting hair is like riding a bike, but we need to recondition our bodies for the busy days back in the salon.

That involves allowing your skill level to increase again,” he says. Read on for lots of useful tips to avoid aches and pains when you're cutting hair over the coming months...

Find the right scissors for you

“There are many brands, shapes and sizes on the market so it’s important to try as many as possible to find what is comfortable for your hand and movement,” says Darren Ambrose of D&J Ambrose.

“Remember scissors become an extension of your fingers when you're a hairdresser. This means it’s vital for them to fit well and feel comfortable.” Additionally, make sure your posture is correct. “Injuries can be a result of bad posture, for example, bending in bad positions, leaning or favouring one side,” he adds. “A hydraulic system in a chair is there for a reason. Use it all the time when needed and a cutting stool for eye level work. When cutting long hair, ask the client to stand upright while you use a cutting stool to work at eye level on your base line, which is better for your back and neck.”

Choose the right scissor for the job

“I work with all different hair types so I have eight or nine pairs of scissors,” explains Desmond Murray of Atherton Cox salon. “I have a great cutting scissor that is short and long, a fine refining thinning scissor and a chunkier thinning scissor. I also have a pair of serrated scissors,” he says. “I apply them depending on the texture of the hair or what I’m hoping to achieve. I choose the scissor for the job it’s supposed to do as opposed to anything else.”

Adapt your stance for the cut

“I tell everyone I teach about the importance of having the right posture whilst cutting,” explains Mark Hayes, Sassoon International creative director. “This is partly because a better result can be achieved when you’re operating in a more comfortable and stable position. Operating in this way causes less stress on the body, especially over a career lifetime. For example, when cutting a line on longer hair, have the client stand whilst resting their hands on the back of a chair, rounding their shoulders gently will assist the comfort for the operator,” he says. “When cutting a bob length, I always advise the stylist to bend their knees and not their back. This means they will be looking at their work in a more comfortable position. It will also stop you from bending forwards from the waist and the stress that puts on the lower back.”

Check in with your neck

“Repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome are common among hairdressers, but before turning to surgery, have a doctor or physical therapist check your neck – 60% to 70% of the time the issue originates there,” explains Andrew Carruthers, education director at Sam Villa.

“Many stylists hang their heads down and forward all day causing discs to slip. This puts pressure on nerves in the neck that travel down the arm to the elbow and wrist. Physical therapy can often be a less evasive treatment.”

Cos Sakkas
Darren Ambrose
Desmond Murray

Keep your body in alignment

“The most important thing you can do is move everything so your body is always aligned,” says Cos Sakkas, international artistic director and head of education at TONI&GUY. “Your scissors are an extension of your arm, which is an extension of your body. It needs to be as straight and upright as possible at all angles,” he adds. “Move from your knees rather than your hips or waist. Think feet, knees, hips and when you’ve got those correct, you’ve got the foundation for the right position.” Jonathan Andrew, Fudge Professional global brand ambassador agrees. He says: “I always keep my arms and elbows down and tight towards my body, as it gives me more structure when cutting hair and allows me to be more technical and doesn’t add strain to my shoulders or my back.”

Get your client to work with you

“Invest in a good chair where the hydraulics work really well –a chair that will encourage your client to sit straight and feel comfortable,” says British Hairdresser of the Year at HJ’s British Hairdressing Awards, sponsored by Schwarzkopf Professional, Sally Brooks.

“I hate it when a client reads their phone and their head means I have to adjust my body position. For me, it is most important that the client gives me tension in their head – you all know the flippy-floppy, jelly-head client that follows you with their head wherever you go, so you can end up doing acrobatics when cutting,” she says. To minimise this, communicate with your client during their appointment. “Ask them politely to respect your craft. This means you can deliver a great service without getting aches.”

Treat your profession as a sport

“It helps to see hairdressing as a sport as well as a craft – you need to be fit and agile enough to deal with the gruelling work that fills your day,” says Akin. “When I’ve had a break for a while and worked continuously for full days, I feel like I have done a round with Mike Tyson – and been run over by a bus. Don’t underestimate the energy we need for our job. Sleep and eat well, make sure you have some breaks and do some small exercises that really help your posture,” he says. Darren agrees: “Keeping up your stamina is important. I find running, Wim Hof breathing techniques and a 40-second ice-cold shower every day gives great circulation.”

Read our experts' tips below for activities that can help you maintain a long and healthy career...

Tips for healthy hairdressing

The Alexander Technique

There should never be pain or discomfort when you’re cutting, explains Errol Douglas of Errol Douglas London. "The Alexander technique teaches improved posture and movement, which is believed to help reduce and prevent problems caused by unhelpful habits," he says. “During a number of lessons, you’re taught to be more aware of your body, how to improve poor posture and move more efficiently. I practice this every day to prevent slouching or bending over.” You should also check how supportive your footwear is for the salon floor. “The biggest culprit is wearing the wrong shoes so you must take the flooring into consideration," he adds.

Yoga and Pilates

“Vidal Sassoon spent a lifetime being dedicated to fitness, including stretching, yoga and Pilates all of which he credited to his incredible physique throughout,” says Mark. “There are now so many online and (when allowed) in-person opportunities to participate in these extremely helpful practises so your body remains flexible and able to deal with the rigours of cutting and colouring hair.” Errol agrees: "I also recommend Hot Yoga, Yin or any exercise which alleviates back. shoulder or arm pain. Swimming is superb, as are regular massages. Mobility is so important as all of us hairdressers are always on our feet."

Essential stretches

“Being a hairdresser who has had a bad wrist, back and shoulders, I’ve learned some great techniques from personal trainers and physiotherapists over the years,” explains Akin. “Every morning, with your arms behind your back, get a towel and stretch your arms out straight. Stretch out your chest for 20 seconds – chin up. Next, put your elbows and forearms on a doorframe at shoulder height and gently push against it for 30 seconds. For wrists, stand facing a wall, stretch your arm out in front of you, point fingers down, and push against the wall with your palm until it is flat and hold that for 10 seconds. Do it at least once a day.”