To Glove or Not to Glove?

gloves-karen-hodges…Why are We Still Asking this Question?

This topic comes up repeatedly in online professional groups. There are still a few who are resistant to wearing gloves during personal services–I believe they are not fully informed of today’s ramifications. One oft-quoted phrase is “I need skin-on-skin to be effective in my treatments.” Another is “my clients won’t stand for it.” And yet another objection often posted is “I would walk out of a treatment if the person wore gloves.” Now that one…I believe! In fact I believe the ONLY objection to wearing gloves is on the part of the technician themselves. Our clients really do NOT object, in my experience in the salon. Here are some thoughts about why they don’t.


Times have changed. We now have super-bugs which did not exist in days of yore. These microbes persist in our environments and are easily colonized but very difficult to fight. Many more people have immune-compromised health due to the increase in diabetes, lupus, various cancer treatments, and so many other reasons, and they are unable to fight off what would “normally” be a non-issue.  Many carry MRSA, Hep C, C. diff. and others without manifesting symptoms. You can’t look at a person and know they’re colonized for various infections that can totally take another person down. For the sake of your health, and the health of your next client, you must wear gloves that are properly turned wrong side out as you remove them.

If you need a reason to wear gloves, there is the fact that this industry is hard on your body – aches and pains from repetitive movements are not the only problems. Contact dermatitis is very common. Splitting and cracking skin from exposure to various solutions we use is another. I know an esthetician who has verruca (warts) on her hands that are commonly found on feet. No mystery what happened there. Ever heard of digital herpes? Herpes on the fingers…picked up in a facial service since herpes virus can be present more than 24 hours before a skin lesion is manifested.

And let me add another thought…you insist on working without gloves. You perform a pedicure on an elderly woman who has a little problem with continence and you didn’t see that the back of her leg was contaminated. She happens to have taken antibiotics in the last few days, and has an overabundance of C. difficile bacterium.  You lifted her legs and braced them with the back of your hand when you turned the towel over…and when you washed your hands after her service, you didn’t think to scrub the back of your hands. You went home after her appointment and picked up your infant.  Need I continue…?

The question of WHY we should wear gloves is thoroughly understood and no one should question it. Let’s talk about those objections and see if we can’t finally put them to rest.


When human skin rubs against another’s there is friction. In the direction of movement it’s called “skin press friction” and in the area behind a movement it’s called “skin pull friction.” When the skin is moved against the underlying tissues, it can cause “shearing.”  In all of these instances of pressure, the skin can be damaged. For some clients, even a minute amount of damage can be dangerous…those who are slow to heal can end up with blood stagnation in the tissue from broken capillaries which can lead to ulcers. When gloves are worn during lotion application or massage, there is less friction. More slip.

Janet McCormick and a colleague conducted a study about gloves. They performed 24 facial services which they documented. At the beginning of the service they used their bare hands and performed a facial massage without gloves. After putting on gloves, they continued on with the service without remarking about the gloves. Near the end of the service, they carefully repeated the same massage as they had at the beginning. Afterward, they asked all 24 people detailed questions about their facial experience. To the question “did you notice a difference in the massage at the beginning and the massage at the end?” every single client said they preferred the second massage. “Much smoother” “more relaxing” “felt better” were things they stated.  Not one person mentioned gloves. Not one.

During the study, one client did remark that she noticed Janet had to stop the movement to get more cream in the first massage. This is because when the provider is not wearing gloves, a significant amount of the product goes into their own hands.  1) A loss of product 2) Palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet are two of the most porous parts of the skin – hundreds of thousands more openings in sweat glands, alone. Do you really want every single product you apply all day long being absorbed into your body?  More is not necessarily better.

Smoother and more relaxing with gloves. Sounds like “skin-on-skin” is really NOT a better service!


I have always had the attitude that my clients know I am passionate about my work—that I stay up on the latest trends, continue my education, attend classes and trade shows. They automatically grant me the privileges due an “expert” (as they should!) and follow my recommendations. Over the years, I’ve been true to myself and my ethics and in my several moves, I’ve always attracted clients that seek what I’m offering. They like what I like….and in short…they like what I tell them to like!

Wearing gloves is conscious and obvious action that your clients will witness and appreciate. It is basic human nature to worry about your health when someone is touching your body – even if it is subconscious, it’s still there. Knowing you’re wearing gloves and observing your proper behavior with gloves on (no touching everything in the room with gloves on!) a client will unconsciously relax into their treatments more thoroughly. Clients are more aware and more savvy. They’re having more cosmetic treatments in medical settings and gloves are a matter of course. They’re used to being worked on with gloves. Don’t get caught up in old school mentality that clients don’t like you wearing them.

I had the great good fortune to be trained to wear gloves early in my beauty career. In my over 17 years in the salon, my clients have never one time objected to my wearing gloves. I just pop them on at the beginning and carry on…and they are happy to follow my lead.

The only instance in this entire amount of time someone even remarked on gloves…was an out-of-town visitor I gave a facial in my studio in Key West. As she was paying, I asked if she enjoyed her facial and her initial response was “yes, very much” but then she added “I would never wear gloves myself, though.” I was puzzled and after questioning her, she revealed that she was an esthetician, herself. She had not disclosed this earlier…had said she was wasn’t working at present. (I guess “at present” meant “while I’m lying here on your table on vacation.”)

So, in over 17 years, the only person who’s indicated in the least that they “don’t like gloves” is an esthetician. Hmmm….I say the objection that your clients won’t like gloves is simply not true.


Now this one seems entirely believable. I think it actually comes down to people who don’t like to WEAR gloves. They project their dislike onto the services with gloves and transfer their feelings about gloves to their clients.

We need to ask, “Why don’t you like to wear gloves?”

“They are hot and make my hands sweat.” Simple…get very inexpensive cotton glove liners. Universal sells them, but you can get them at trade shows much cheaper. They wash right along with your other laundry.

“Gloves make squeaky sounds.” Wear gloves that fit. If they are well-fitted, they don’t slip around and they are silent.

“I’m allergic.”  Allergic…to what, exactly?  Latex? There’s nitrile! Powder? Use unpowdered ones. Or liners.

“They’re too hard to put on and are too much trouble.” Again…get the liners.  They allow you to quickly slip gloves on and off.

“I don’t like the bumpy texture of nitrile gloves.” OK…buy smooth ones.  They have them now.

“I can’t feel anything in them” Hogwash!  I wear tight nitrile or nylon gloves and I can feel a hair lying across the skin. Milia? No problem. If you can’t feel what you need to feel, your gloves are too loose.

“It’s expensive.” Again…not true, if you buy them correctly.  It’s a proven fact that buying your disposables (gauze pads, 4 x 4s, etc.) are always about half the cost from medical or even dental suppliers than from beauty suppliers. It stinks…but it’s true. So shop around in medical supply websites. If you ask them to send you samples of a couple different gloves or sizes, they will. I’ve done it. Once you find the one that works…buy a case. They don’t spoil.

Why don’t you like to wear gloves? If you think about…there is really no valid answer to that question which prevents you from doing so. You just don’t want to do it. That’s on you.


Let me give you one more reason. In the United States, OSHA mandates the wearing of Personal Protection Equipment for ALL workers.  PPEs include gloves. And all workers include salon workers. I have heard so many times, “But my state board does not require it, so I don’t have to do it.”  This is so not true! The Federal OSHA mandates apply to every worker in every state. There are NO STATES that can or are able to set aside OSHA.

“State Plans can have their own penalty reduction policies and procedures that may differ from OSHA’s but must be deemed at least as effective. All State Plan policies and procedures related to penalties must be submitted and reviewed by OSHA. State Plans also have their own system for review and appeal of citations, penalties, and abatement periods. The procedures are generally similar to OSHA’s, but cases are heard by a state review board or equivalent authority.”

How is OSHA enforced? All it takes is one disgruntled employee or an unsatisfied client to “drop a dime” and call you out. OSHA has the authority to initiate unannounced inspections and penalize businesses for failure to comply. Here’s some info for you at:

For those of you who think you are a small business so you are not required to comply with OSHA, you are misinformed. Unless you are a sole practitioner (you can’t be your own employer) you are subject to OSHA everywhere in the USA and DC.

For those of you who are self-employed and may not have to comply with “providing a safe and hazard-free work place for your employees,” I ask, why wouldn’t you? There’s simply no good reason to provide less than the best possible working environment for yourself.


I think we’ve addressed the “objections” put forth by those who say they don’t wear gloves. You can’t change a person’s basic character—they are who they are. But you CAN change a person’s mind about something. The questions is, can you change your own mind?

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