Barbers, Hairstylists; You Call That Work?

Work? This isn't work!

For some people, it seems that being a barber, or hairdresser/hairstylist isn't really work.

Really? If so, why am I so tired and sore when I come home at night? Maybe, I'm too delicate, or lazy? Hmmmmmm, let's take a look at this.

Floyd the barber - the Andy Griffith Show

Floyd the barber - the Andy Griffith Show

Good old Floyd the barber; he never really worked up much of a sweat. Seems like he read the paper and sat more than he actually cut hair. This may have had a hand in fuelling the belief that barbering isn't hard work. In reality, if we sat around as much as Floyd did, we wouldn't be in business long!

It's been said that a barber's best friend is varicose viens. If you've had them, you'll know they're not the nicest things to have. What are they? Here's an explanation: Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged and tortuous (twisted). The term commonly refers to the veins on the leg, although varicose veins can occur elsewhere. Veins have leaflet valves to prevent blood from flowing backwards (retrograde flow or reflux). Some potential causes for this include:

  • chronic heart valve conditions (usually a congenital issue)
  • pregnancy
  • standing for long periods of time
  • pressure on the midsection of the body (specifically the abdomen)
  • obesity (this adds weight to the body and increases the pressure on the legs)                       


Yes, standing is definitely something barbers and hairstylists do a lot of. Sometimes; during a very busy shift, you can never sit down all day. This also puts pressure on legs, and backs. Backs can take a real beating at the shampoo basin. Bending over during a shampoo can really put a lot of strain on the lower back.


Because of the repetitive nature of the trade, there are some common issues barbers, and hairstylists face: 


car·pal tun·nel syn·drome


noun: carpal tunnel syndrome; noun: CTS

a painful condition of the hand and fingers caused by compression of a major nerve where it passes over the carpal bones through a passage at the front of the wrist, alongside the flexor tendons of the hand. It may be caused by repetitive movements over a long period, or by fluid retention, and is characterized by sensations of tingling, numbness, or burning.

Yes, carpal tunnel seems to be very common in our trade. The wrists take a real beating, being in an unnatural position when cutting/styling hair. Many a barber and hairstylists have tried to wear a wrist brace to help ease the pain. Surgery is another option.


ro·ta·tor cuff


AnatomyNorth American

noun: rotator cuff; plural noun: rotator cuffs

a capsule with fused tendons that supports the arm at the shoulder joint and is often subject to athletic injury.

Holding the arms up while cutting and styling hair for long periods of time, eventually wears out the rotator cuffs. This can become very painful, and therapy is one option that may help. Surgery is also an option. Though; after many years in the business, they can wear down considerably.


Exposure to various chemicals can also cause problems:




noun: dermatitis

a condition of the skin in which it becomes red, swollen, and sore, sometimes with small blisters, resulting from direct irritation of the skin by an external agent or an allergic reaction to it.

This skin condition results from exposure to chemicals commonly used in our trade. Perm solution, hair colour, bleach, sprays, etc. This is serious to the point where people actually have to leave the business. I took a friend to a skin specialist once, the first question he asked was her occupation. No sooner had she said hairstylist, and he gave her two options: wear gloves, or quit your job. He told us he'd seen many hairstylists over the years, and had counselled them the same.


Barbering and hairstyling are a service oriented business. The client is the main focus, and pleasing them is what its all about. Many times; especially during busy days, breaks, lunches are skipped. Even going to the washroom can get put off! These aren't the best things to do health wise, but many a barber, and hairstylist has probably done this. This only adds to raising stress levels, which only makes things worse.

                                             Madge - for Palmolive

                                             Madge - for Palmolive

Madge (the manicurist for Palmolive), always seemed so calm and in control. She never seemed to be overly busy, or stressed out. She never gave the impression that she missed her breaks, or lunch.

Truth is that many times in order to take care of clients, barbers/hairstylists tend to neglect themselves. This isn't great on their health, and eventually they pay a price.


Its not to suggest that barbering/hairstyling is as physically demanding as: construction, mining, etc. What I want to show people, is that this trade is not as easy as you may have been led to believe. Try standing for long periods of time. Try holding your arms up for long periods of time. See how that feels; also, try doing this on an empty stomach! You may be surprised.

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