Stylists are truly in a unique situation when it comes to their clients' heads. They see a person’s scalp and hair in a way many people don't. This provides them with the opportunity to assist their clients in spotting changes and potential signs of skin cancer that the client may not notice!
With the sunny, summer months approaching, it’s a good idea to educate yourself and potentially protect your clients' health.
Step 1: Understand what skin cancer is and what it might look like.
Melanoma was the leading cause of death compared to other types of skin cancer. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to spot on the scalp with self-exam. More than 80% of the most common types of skin cancers, squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinoma, occur on the scalp, neck, and face. Melanomas tend to be the most fatal on the scalp—probably because an extensive exam of the head and hair is not a typical part of a visit to the doctor. Detecting melanoma and other skin cancers early could be the difference between a healthy life and a life-threatening disease.
Some basic signs to look for:
New mole, growth, or sore not healing
Change in color or size of a mole
Mole that bleeds or scabs
Step 2: Keep an eye on your clients’ skin and be alert to any changes.
Clients most likely to be found with signs of skin cancer are those who take a lot of vacations in sunny locations, those who regularly tan in tanning beds, people with fairer skin and/or skin with freckles, males who are balding with thinning hair or exposed scalps, women with fine or thinning hair, and clients who frequently work outdoors.
Places to look for signs:
Top of the head
On or behind the ears
Back of neck and shoulders
Face, nose, and cheeks
As part of the conversation, you can also provide your client with some basic skin protection advice. Basic tips to provide are:
Avoid prolonged sun exposure and sunburn
Use sunscreen whenever spending time outside, even if it doesn’t appear sunny
Wear clothes that minimize skin exposure to sun
Step 3: Don’t alarm your clients if you spot something.
Say something that is not startling but suggests a closer look, such as, “I noticed a spot you may not be able to see yourself. You might want to get it looked at by your doctor to confirm it’s not a cause for concern.” Assist the client in seeing the spot with a mirror or by guiding his or her hand. It’s important to realize it’s likely that whatever is found could be nothing harmful at all, but it’s safest to say something if you see something.
Stylists can participate in the Melanoma Research Foundation’s (MRF) Mark the SPOT! program, which is creating melanoma cognizance among the stylist community. Finding a suspicious mole or spot and having it checked by a professional is considered one of the most important steps in preventing melanoma. You can keep a handout about the program at your salon to educate clients on the topic.
Considering the unique relationship stylists have with their clients, an education program for hair professionals could increase early detection of skin cancer and save many lives.