Being someone’s hairstylist is of course riddled with benefits, but if you told me when I was in cosmetology school that I could potentially save a client’s life, I’m 99 percent sure I wouldn’t have believed you. But, today, I’d 100 percent believe you, and the Melanoma Foundation of New England (MFNE) is responsible.
MFNE and the Harvard School of Public Health have teamed up to develop a program called The Skinny on Skin (S.O.S.) Its program educates haircare professionals across the country on how to spot suspicious lesions on a client’s skin and scalp. This is important because, on average, a person visits the dermatologist once a year — if that, yet they typically see a hairstylist every six to eight weeks.
“Beauty Industry professionals are in a unique position to act as a line of defense for their clients. If we can use this program as a catalyst for opening the discussion about Melanoma with a client, we are doing our job as an awareness organization,” says Deb Girardi, Executive Director of the MFNE.
Although only six percent of all Melanomas occur on the neck and scalp, they account for approximately 10 percent of all Melanoma deaths. Melanoma is the second-most common form of cancer among teens and young adults ages 15-29. Part of the S.O.S. training is called “Skin Selfies.” Based on the education received through the program, stylists should be able to recognize what a “normal” skin lesion looks like, versus a suspicious growth. If there is anything unusual on the head or scalp, we as stylists should suggest that the client get it checked, and take a picture of it so they can document any changes that may occur.
Melanomas diagnosed in the early stages have a high chance of being completely cured. Stylists are being trained to look out for marks with an irregular shape, color, or one with a changing appearance (this means taking a skin selfie at every appointment to record changes). Also, it’s important to note any lesions that look like scars, but won’t heal or are wart-like in appearance. Although a stylist is encouraged to acknowledge the presence of anything suspicious, we can’t attempt to diagnose it outright, as to avoid unnecessary panic.
“The Skinny on Skin has been one of our most successful and in-demand programs to date,” says Deb Girard. “Beauty Industry professionals are eager for professional development opportunities, and this program fits the need.”
S.O.S. training program is partnered with Paul Mitchell, Modern Salon media, The Harvard School of Public Health, and The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer, Hope and Healing. What does this mean for you? Be on the lookout and be proactive for your own health and safety, and if you are a hair stylist, don’t be afraid to mention anything suspicious you see. You never know — your client’s life could depend on it. If you spot something, say something!
Beauty professionals can learn additional information or schedule a training seminar for their salon here.