Maybe it’s because of my mother’s history with her first chosen career: hairstylist. She went to cosmetology school right out of high school and had her license at the tender age of 18 in 1964.
But by the time she had me, she’d already been out of the business for five years due to allergies.
She tells stories of contact dermatitis so bad that she couldn’t bend her fingers without her skin cracking and bleeding. The aerosol lacquers they used to cement all those beehive up-dos into place were getting inhaled and, as she understood it, the sprays were coating the inside of her lungs, preventing them from doing their job.
Her doctor told her that if she didn’t stop working with the products, she would die.
My mom has very sensitive skin. She can’t use hairspray, she can’t use hair color, she can’t use many antiperspirants, perfumes, lotions — you name it, it breaks her out.
Thankfully, it turns out that while I do also suffer from “delicate princess syndrome,” it’s not nearly as extreme as Mom’s.
So it’s been in the back of my mind from the beginning that choosing to pursue a career in an industry where I work with lots of chemistry, it’s entirely possible that my career could be cut shut by reactions to the products I work with.
Maybe that’s why — but I don’t touch stuff. I work with a towel in my lap and I use that towel to open caps. I don’t handle the bristles of my brushes and I don’t lean my arms and elbows on the paper towel I wipe my brushes on.
I don’t realize how careful I am to avoid coming in direct contact with my products until I’m working side by side with someone else. I always find myself cringing at how little regard other techs give to touching stuff.
Educators put a lot of effort into stressing the importance of keeping product from coming in contact with the client’s skin; maybe we need more emphasis on the importance of keeping it from touching US. Because it really sucks when the thing you love makes you itch.