Sanitation is one of the areas that far too many festival and party braiders let go. This is mainly because of a combination of lack of education and desire to cut costs on the part of both braiders and potential clients. Running a clean operation is a bit more expensive, but not so expensive that there is any excuse for endangering yourself or your patrons.
Another thing you will notice is that when you are clean, people notice. There may be 5 braiding stands at the same festival, but the ones that will get the most business will be the cleanest. You can even be a bit more expensive than the others, and it won’t matter as much as the fact that someone isn’t going to come away from your stand with a staph infection or lice. Also, people who have had bad experiences in the past may be brought back to braids and natural hairstyles, when they see how you work.
Supplies are much cheaper to by wholesale or bulk, rather than regular retail. There are some exceptions, but this is usually the case. So here’s your initial shopping list for beach, festival, or party/events and demos work. This is based on an average of 20-70 heads per day, and what you might use in a 4 day week:
- 50-100 rat tail combs. If you get the cheaper ones, you may have to smooth and blunt the edges with a rotary tool or nail file. They shouldn’t be too sharp as to scratch the scalp or too blunt as to be unable to make a good part on the first pass.
- 50-100 paddle brushes. These should be the type that have the rows of plastic bristles, not the metal ones. The balls at the ends of the metal bristles have a tendency to come off with repeated disinfections. The brushes you buy should either be solid or the brush side easily snapped on and off.
- 50-100 Afro combs. These are large toothed combs with a handle at one end.
- 10 picks. These are combs with long large teeth on one side, and a sturdy handle on the other.
- 2 small waste bins. 1 for hair and disposable things, and the other for used combs and brushes. It just makes it easier to organize.
- Broom and dustpan set, unless there is housekeeping or you’ll be working outdoors on the grass.
- Sanitizable tablecloths. This should either be white or colorfast enough to launder in hot water.
- Craft trays or toolboxes
- Needle nose pliers
- Spray bottle (for water)
Items you will need to buy with some regularity:
- Large freezer bags, preferably recyclable or biodegradable. You will be using these to store your disinfected combs and brushes, as well as to dispose of used items waiting for disinfection. Make sure to clearly mark which is which.
- Small trash bags
- Surgical masks or adhesive mask filters
- Medical grade silicone or latex gloves (you will always be using medium to very low tension in a festival or party setting, so a lot of traction isn’t necessary)
- Listerine or a like antiseptic
- Baby wipes and/or Hygenic Wipes
- Wooden tongue depressors or cosmetic spatulas (if you can’t find either, plastic knives and spoons will do, but disinfect and reuse them for the environment’s sake)
- Paper capes (many people don’t bother with them, but some patrons prefer them. If you get them, try to get your logo printed on them and maybe make them coloring pages for kids to keep after.)
- Antibacterial liquid soap
- 24 gauge wire
- Small paper or washable plastic plates or petrie dishes
- First aid kit
- Hair wax
- Hair oil
- Hair gel
- Spray gel
- Detangler spray
- Rubber bands for hair
- Pony Beads
- Hair clips
You may also need:
- Sanitizable or disposable towels
- Folding chairs
- A folding table
- A parasol or shade (beach umbrella)
- A picnic blanket
- A giant bean bag for multiple sitters, and a small bean bag (if you frequent hippie type events)
- A portable lamp or two
- Portable shampooing kit
- Extensions hair, etc.
By the way, for educational demos and classes, you should bring the supplies. This way, you know where everything came from, and how it was cleaned.
It may seem like a lot of stuff, but every one of these things has a purpose in sanitation, not just presentation. Your first priority should be the safety and comfort of your patrons.
Your Sanitary Stand
Outdoors, and even in some tents or warehouse type areas, it will be impossible to prevent any sort of contamination at all. Dust in the air, dirt kicked up from the ground, and kids who like to touch stuff can all be problematic. Not to worry though, since people who are afraid of dirt don’t go outside, and folks who can’t stand a little sand don’t go to the beach. Still, you want to keep things as clean and comfortable as possible, in the important ways.
Your stand should be set up so that all of your supplies are within easy reach. Somewhere behind you but not much more than arm’s length away, should be your waste cans and cleanup equipment. Keep enough of your smaller supplies that you will use in a day, ready on the table. This prevents alot of transfer of dirt that can happen if you’re keeping most things in bags under the table.
If you’re working in the sun, you should have some kind of shade. If you’re working at night, you should have enough light. It is your and the festival manager’s choice whether or not you use a tent, but I think it is best to be as visible as possible. I like parasols or cloth gazeboes better. There’s more venthilation, and watching the people go by makes it easier for patrons to sit through a style. Also, a big part of your advertisement will be people observing you.
Most people who come to you will have already washed their hair. In some places though, this isn’t always true. So if you’re working in an area where people may not be so fastidious, or it’s at a camp out type festival with no shower facilities, you should probably bring your own hair washing supplies. Which you bring should depend on the water facilities. Most places have at least a hose somewhere where you can fill a water tank or water bottles. If you will have to dump your waste water into the sea, use only an all natural shampoo that is specifically biodegradable. To make your own, use a 1 part lemon juice, one part aloe vera gel or juice, to 3 parts water solution. Massage this into the hair and scalp, and then rinse thoroughly. Then apply a light hair cream, oil, or mask to rebalance the hair’s pH.
If you do not have to wash their hair, you should wash your hands before you touch each patron’s head. If there is no sink nearby, you should wet your hands with your sprayer, and then wipe your hands once with baby wipes, and the second time with hygenic wipes. These wipes should have triclosan, some alcohol, or some moist antibacterial. Antibacterial lotion is also handy.
If you prefer to use something natural, tea tree oil hand lotion is the best natural antiseptic. Polygonum cream is also good, and not as harsh smelling as tea tree oil. Another not so well known natural antiseptic is white wine. You can make sanitizable natural wipes by reusing an air tight baby wipes container, and folding in some squares of cotton fabric, and pouring over some white wine until they are fully wet.
Your rubber bands and beads should be in craft trays or toolboxes. If it is possible, you should set aside what you will need for a style, before touching the patron’s head. This prevents transfer between the hair and the clean supplies in your trays. The same rule applies for extension hair. Separate how much you will need for the style before touching the patron’s head.
You will need to use a clean comb, brush, and beading tool for each head you do. You can make 50 or so beading tools, and disinfect them at the end of the day along with your combs and brushes. These things do get lost from time to time, and sometimes you may want to give them to patrons, especially if they are supposed to be helping with their hairdo. Make them fancy with some small hole beads at the ends, and they are great little free gifts to give.
When you use gel, wax, or other preparations that are in a jar, you should dip how much you think you will need, with a spatula (or tongue depresser) and place it on a paper plate. Do not double dip the same spatula. If you need more, get a new one.
If you are using something from a squeeze bottle squeeze it on the paper plate. Wipe your hands before touching your spray bottles.
At the end of the day, you must take all of your used combs, brushes, beading tools, or whatever reusable supplies, and disinfect them. Start by soaking and washing them in detergent and water for at least 10 minutes. After soaking them, pull out all of the hair that may have been caught in them, and throw it in the garbage or burn it depending on your beliefs. After removing all the hair, rinse everything, and then soak them again in a disinfecting solution. The most effective is a 10% solution of chlorine bleach and water, or you can use another cosmetic grade disinfecting solution.
After disinfecting, rinse them again, and then dry them thoroughly. You can let them set on a rack until they are dry. If you have one, you can use an ultra violet light to inhibit the growth of any airborne bacteria and the like.
Once they are dry, place them in clean plastic freezer bags. Some like to individually wrap them in small plastic bags as well, because it looks more professional. If you really don’t like to use so much plastic, put them in food grade paper “bakery bags”.
Used items however, should still be transported in sealable plastic bags.
When Things Go Wrong
Sometimes, no matter what you do, stuff happens. If you spot lice, fleas, ticks, or other creepy crawlies on someone’s head, no matter how far you’ve gotten into the hairstyle, stop immediately, and politely inform the patron. Many people have pediculosis and don’t know it until someone is closely examining their head, because they’re very clean otherwise.
After this, take everything that has touched their head, or touched your hands straight after touching their head, put it in a sealable bag, and throw it away. Don’t try to save them no matter what they cost.
Wipe down the back of the chair they were in, with straight disinfectant.
Then close up shop. You are done for the day.
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Blessings and Ashé!
©2005 Sis. Nicole T. Lasher