Lorraine Townsend is a freelancer in the Cirencester area of western England. She’s a committed user of nitrile gloves to protect her hands when using tint. “I wish we’d had them in the salons I started out in. In those days, we only had those latex ones, which I didn’t like, and we had to provide our own too – I used to write my name on mine in biro,” she says, looking back on her training days.
Glove use is much more frequent now than it used to be, with hair professionals more aware of health and safety concerns about developing allergy to the chemicals in hair colour products. But ‘bad hands’ are still a widespread problem amongst the profession. And Occupational Contact Dermatitis (OCD) remains a hazard for all those who come into contact with chemicals and water for lengthy periods in their work.
There are several reasons why glove use wasn’t so popular in the past. The gloves available were uncomfortable and made the hands sweat. They sometimes split. Some users became allergic to the chemicals in natural latex. And wearing gloves meant your touch was less sensitive. Even now, Lorraine doesn’t wear gloves when washing hair: “I never do. You can’t feel the hair and scalp, and you can’t feel changes in the water temperature either.”
A recent scientific study  tested the effectiveness of different glove types in protecting the hands from the chemicals in tint. The results showed that nitrile gloves were more effective than vinyl, polyethylene or natural rubber latex gloves in stopping chemicals like PPD penetrating to the skin, and so potentially causing a problem reaction.
The researchers also stressed the importance of using gloves in the correct way, pointing out, for example, that wearing the same gloves all day exposes the user to a greater chance of skin problems.
Lorraine Townsend often uses 3 pairs of nitrile gloves during each appointment:
“I use one pair for applying tint, one for taking the colour through and one for washing off. It’s just too fiddly taking the same pair off and putting them on again. You only end up with tint on your hands. But it does mean I get through boxes and boxes of gloves,” she admits.
The days when Lorraine wore the same old gloves time after time are long gone. As are the days when having white patches on your hands from contact with tint and peroxide was a hairdresser’s badge of honour. Now the makers of nitrile gloves claim they are stronger, provide greater protection and, used correctly, are less likely to cause an allergic reaction than natural rubber.
But whatever your glove prefence is, the message to the hair profession is clear – allergy is still on the increase, so it’s up to all of us to do all we can to ensure the health of ourselves, our colleagues and our clients.
Let’s all work hand in glove to fight irritation and allergy.
Contact us with YOUR glove story.
 Published In the journal Contact Dermatitis, April 2015 Vol 72 issue 4.