Why is Draping Important in Cosmetology?

Cosmetologist washing a clients hair who has on draping

Workplaces are regulated for safety. Salons work hard to protect both clients and employees from risks, so cosmetologists should understand the precautions necessary to prevent illness and injury. Draping, or placing a cape around a client’s shoulders, is more than just a way to keep hair off their clothing, it’s an indispensable health measure that’s more beneficial than it seems.

What is Draping in Cosmetology?

Draping is the process of putting a cape around a client’s upper body before they receive services. There are three types:

Dry drapes are made of lightweight nylon or polyester and are used for services that don’t require chemicals or water beyond a quick spritz.

Wet drapes are waterproof and used for shampoos.

Chemical drapes are resistant to hazardous substances, like bleach and coloring agents. They’re typically longer and wider than average capes for additional coverage.

Wet and chemical drapes come in a wide range of specially treated fabrics. A towel or disposable neck strip is used under the cape’s collar to keep fabric off the skin.

Why is Draping Important in Cosmetology?

Clients’ comfort and safety are a salon’s top priority. The purpose of draping is to protect a client’s skin and clothing, preventing the spread of infectious diseases.

Bacterial infections on the scalp, for example, can ooze infectious material that, when mixed with water, can run down a client’s neck and shoulders without proper draping. Drapes also protect upper body skin from burns and irritations caused by salon chemicals, whether it be from shampoos or bleach. Even the mildest substances can cause unexpected allergic reactions.

Drapes keep hair and chemicals off clothing. A single spot of bleach or permanent hair color can irreversibly ruin an expensive garment. Hair is also itchy when it’s trapped against the skin and may leave a lunch-hour client uncomfortable at work for the rest of the day.

Why Are Sanitation and Hygiene Essential in Cosmetology?

As a cosmetologist, it’s your responsibility to safeguard yourself and your clients from infection. A significant number of bacteria, viruses, and fungi are transmissible in a salon setting, including:

Staphylococci: a skin bacteria found in boils and pustules. It’s universally present on human skin and generally harmless, but in large numbers or near broken skin, it can cause conjunctivitis and skin infections from mild to severe.

Streptococci: causes common infections such as strep throat, scarlet fever and impetigo, a highly contagious skin infection found mostly in children. Most cases are rare, and most aren’t serious, but it can cause life-threatening blood poisoning if it enters the skin through a cut caused by a razor or scissors.

Diplococci: A group of bacteria known to cause pneumonia and other respiratory infections, diplococci are spread through air or skin contact. A single client coughing, or sneezing can spread bacteria throughout your salon.

Meningococci: Meningococci cause meningitis, a dangerous swelling of the brain’s meninges, the membranes that line the skull and vertebral canal. It’s rare but often fatal and can be spread through air and contact.

Fungi: The risk of getting a fungal infection in a salon is high. It’s ubiquitous in the environment and hard to control. Fungi can colonize nail beds and skin and enter the body through nicks and cuts. Common sources include pedicure tubs and shampoo sinks.

Herpes Simplex Type 1: Herpes Simplex is the virus that causes cold sores. It’s very common in the environment and is spread through direct contact.

As in any enclosed setting, both clients and staff are vulnerable to a whole host of other infectious or gastrointestinal disorders from the common cold to now, Covid-19. Good sanitation and hygiene are musts.

How Does a Cosmetologist Keep Clients Safe?

There’s a wide range of health risks in any work environment. In a salon, you’ll need to consider:

Infection Control

Clients can be symptom-free yet still have contagious infections. You can never let your guard down when it comes to cleanliness in cosmetology. Best practices include:

Sanitizing Workstations and Equipment – Any point of contact between you and clients, whether it’s direct or by touching tools, should be sanitized regularly with the recommended chemicals. Most need a specified contact time to be effective, so follow the instructions carefully.

Equipment, such as shampoo sinks and pedicure tubs, are sanitized between uses and disinfected daily. And don’t forget the waiting area. Doorknobs, cosmetology books, and other items touched frequently by clients can harbor infection.

Disinfecting Tools – disinfecting combs, brushes, scissors and other tools is a critical part of infection control. Approved disinfectants vary by state and include alcohol, bleach and hydrogen peroxide solutions. All EPA-registered liquid disinfectants must be:

  • Labeled “Bactericidal, viricidal and fungicidal” meaning they kill most bacteria, viruses and fungi
  • Prepared fresh daily or at regular intervals and discarded if they are visibly contaminated
  • Mixed, stored and disposed of per manufacturer’s specifications

Tools should be cleansed of debris and submerged for the recommended time. If you affix a label on your tool holders with the date and time the solution was changed, you’ll never forget or be accidentally out of compliance. Drapes should be changed between clients and laundered daily depending on the regulations in your area. State and federal agencies monitor the implementation of infection control practices in salons, so cosmetologists should be familiar with the rules.

Handwashing – remains the single best infection control measure for preventing the spread of illness. Wash your hands between each client and any time you touch a potentially contaminated surface to avoid cross-contamination.

Covid Precautions – the best way to prevent infections in salons is not to let them in. As a condition of reopening, many states require salons to defer services for patrons with Covid-19 symptoms. Masks or face shields that tame respiratory droplets and aerosols are a mandate for both cosmetologists and clients in some states.

Slips and Falls

Clients are vulnerable to injuries in salons. Water, soaps, and hair on the floor combined with heavy foot traffic are a recipe for slips and falls. What can you do to minimize the risk? Experts suggest:

  • Reduce clutter.
  • Offer plenty of space for clients to move in the salon between equipment and displays.
  • Create a clear delineation between work and waiting areas.
  • Place non-slip mats at the entrance to catch dirt, snow and debris.
  • Sweep and mop regularly.

Draping also helps because it keeps hair clipping confined where they can easily be swept up before clients and coworkers can track them throughout the salon.

Chemical Hazards

Chemical hazards in cosmetology are usually the result of spills or improperly mixed solutions. To avoid these risks:

  • Keep chemicals in their original containers, labels have instructions and precautions.
  • Never combine chemicals without knowing it’s safe.
  • Store and dispose of chemicals as directed, multiple solutions poured down a drain without rinsing can collect in pipes and emit dangerous gasses.
  • Drape clients to prevent accidental skin contact with chemicals that can cause burns.
  • Ensure the salon is well-ventilated when hair chemicals that can cause respiratory irritation are applied.
  • Keep Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for all chemicals in the salon. They contain information for handling spills and evaluating safety risks.

Electrical and Fire Dangers

Any electrical appliance in a salon, hair dryers, curling irons, washing machines and dryers, can cause a fire or electrical hazard. Follow these rules:

  • Inspect cords and outlets regularly.
  • Keep combustible debris, including hair, away from electrical appliances.
  • Don’t use or store appliances near liquid.
  • Store flammable products, such as hairspray, away from direct heat.

Draping is a crucial part of keeping hair from collecting under dryers where a spark could cause them to ignite.

How Does OSHA Help Keep Cosmetologists Safe in a Salon?

As a cosmetologist, it’s your job to keep clients safe. It’s the Occupation Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) mission to look after you. Established in 1971, OSHA sets and enforces minimum health and safety standards in the workplace. Employers and employees are expected to comply with rules, and salons may be inspected.

Students in a vocational school cosmetology program learn about how OSHA regulations keep them safe and what their responsibilities are. Cosmetologists must perform to reasonable standards to protect themselves and coworkers, but employers must ensure they have the training, tools and equipment they need to be safe. OSHA regulations cover:

  • Employee training requirements
  • Hazard recognition
  • Ergonomics
  • Chemical storage
  • Blood-borne pathogen prevention
  • Fire safety procedures
  • Emergency response plans
  • Complaint processes

Final Thoughts

Everyone in a salon plays a role in keeping clients, coworkers and themselves safe. Draping is just one part of a comprehensive approach. The most important rule for cosmetologists is always “safety first.”

Want to Learn More?

Safety is always a top priority. At Minnesota School of Cosmetology, we are dedicated to helping our Cosmetology program students develop a solid foundation and a flair for style through hands-on training in basic and advanced industry techniques. You will learn how to cut, color and style hair, give manicures and pedicures, provide spa treatments and perform various skin care techniques from industry-experienced instructors in a professional salon setting.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a cosmetologist and starting a rewarding career in the beauty industry.