Hair professionals can play a key role in helping to spot the early signs of skin cancer – especially in male clients.
Do you advise your clients on sun protection?
Hairdressers and barbers are known to advise their clients on how to protect their hair from heat or sun damage, but how many also advise on protecting their skin and scalp against the damaging effects of the sun? Most hair professionals will know that the sun – especially mixed with sea and swimming pools, can have a drying and damaging effect on hair and may suggest products that can product the hair form such damage. But the sun can also cause far more serious damage to the scalp and skin and as professionals; hair stylists need to be aware of this. After all, most people never get to see the back of their heads or necks and these can be key areas for melanomas and other forms of skin cancer.
Who of your clients is at risk?
Best practice is to assume that everyone is at risk of developing skin cancer so you should always be on the look out for signs. That said there are some clients that may be more prone than others. These include;
- Clients that go away on a lot of sunny holidays
- Fairer skinned clients
- Clients that use sunbeds
- Male clients with bald patches or thinning hair
- Female clients with fine or thinning hair
- Clients that work out doors
Where to look?
The main places to be extra observant are those that clients are not able to see themselves so changes to skin colour or moles may go unnoticed. That said it’s also important to pick up on any changes to skin colour or moles in more obvious places as often changes are slow and clients just get used to them. Key places to look for possible problems are;
- The top of the head
- Behind the ears
- On the ears
- The back of the neck (and shoulders)
- The face in general including the nose and cheeks
What to look for?
Generally anything out of the ordinary. On clients you see regularly you might notice the change in colour or size of a mole, on others you might notice a red swelling that may bleed a little. Often the early signs of skin cancer can be hard to spot and can look very similar to dry scalp or regular spots so it’s good to have an idea of what skin cancers can look like.
What do you do if you spot something?
It’s crucially important that if you do spot something you tell the client and ask them about it. It may be something that they are aware of or they know its cause – a scratch or bump for example. It’s also important to tell them not to worry, as it’s likely nothing. The main thing is that they are aware of it and can keep an eye on it. If it’s something that you are concerned about that’s displaying many of the characteristics of skin cancer, you should advise them to seek medical advice. Again reassure them that it’s probably nothing, but worth having a physician checking it out.
Be informed – learn about the scalp and hair
It is definitely worthwhile for all hair professionals to undertake some training in conditions of the hair and scalp so that they have a better understanding of what to look for. This not only can enable you to spot the early signs of skin cancer, it also enables you to provide advice and suggest treatments for a whole host of hair loss and more common scalp conditions.