A TERRIFYING illness has prompted an award-winning hairdresser to launch a low-sensory salon in Kidderminster.
Lisa Shepherd’s hugely successful career was almost cut short when she suffered a Tonic-Clonic seizure that affected her brain and left her physically unable to work in her own salon.
But she has used her frightening experience to radically transform her Mill Street salon into a low-sensory one and raise awareness of the issues sufferers can face.
The 46-year-old mother-of-two’s ordeal happened in December 2016 when the seizure caused convulsions and the loss of consciousness. As a result, she hit her head and suffered concussion which caused lasting damage to her vestibular system that helps with balance and spatial orientation. This 50 per cent damage caused a major disconnect between the brain, eyes and limbs and on top of that, she Lisa now suffers from light sensitive epilepsy.
Her 25-year career seemed to be over as the salon’s visual stimulants such as bright colours, lighting and motion caused intense physical pain while anxiety and panic attacks also flared up in the now-hostile surroundings. But instead, Lisa made a host of changes all designed to provide alternatives to standard facilities for her and potential clients in the same position.
More than 100 spotlights were removed and the remaining ones were fitted with low-voltage bulbs and filters to create a lower level of brightness. Stylists have softened, but carefully positioned, lighting around their mirrors and use head lamps for close-up colour work. There is no lighting at eye line at the backwash basins. Instead of stark white walls, the salon is now painted a muted grey to further soften the space.
The salon no longer plays loud music, which has been replaced by quiet meditative sounds while clients are encouraged to focus on breathing methods and meditation. Clients are provided with eye masks and earplugs while staff have been trained in Ayuvedic vestibular and cranial massage. Refreshments are now restricted to decaf, herbal teas, peppermint and water while candles burn to create a more relaxed environment.
Mondays are dedicated to clients who need a low-sensory salon while demand has seen designated times set throughout the week.
Lisa said: “As an industry, we could be more aware of mental health and chronic illness. We could be a lot more helpful. My aim to raise awareness of just how many people are alienated from a salon experience and we have it in our hands to change this and make the salon a positive experience and a safe place for them. The salon still runs at the same pace and our ethos hasn’t changed; we still deliver the best colour around but now it’s in a zero-stress environment which feels more like a spa. Not only is it better for our clients, but it’s better for my team too. I feel that by making these changes, it will hopefully lead them to a better future and make the workplace a much nicer place to be day-to-day.”