18|8 Fine Men’s Salon screens for melanoma while they groom
By Andy Vasoyan
Most people would say they know themselves pretty well, but how well can anyone really know the back of their head?
For a spot shown to the world on a daily basis, you could probably count on one hand the number of people who have taken a closer look. A parent, a significant other, maybe your doctor, but the one who has probably seen it even more times than you: your hairstylist.
“Most people don’t really know what’s going on back there,” says hairstylist Maren Lund, “but I do.”
Lund has been doing hair for more than 25 years, and the Culver City native is now the salon director at 18|8 Fine Men’s Salon in Playa Vista.
The shop is an upscale establishment, with hot stone neck rubs, facial hair finishing touches, scalp massages, and a new service that takes advantage of the hairstylist’s unique perspective: complementary skin cancer checks.
More than 87,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2017, according to the American Cancer Society. They say rates of melanoma have been rising for the last 30 years, and two of the increased risk factors include: 1) increased UV light exposure, which sunlight is the main source of, and 2) being male. Of those new melanoma diagnoses this year, about 52,000 are expected to be in men.
For a men’s salon on the sunny Westside, expanding services to include screening for cancer during haircuts “just goes hand in glove,” according to 18|8’s owner, Lee Short. “It costs clients nothing — literally — and they get to know that’s something we’re looking out for.”
Short has captained the salon since March 2016, and he’s heard nothing but good things about the screening process, which went into effect after a certification course though the nonprofit Eyes on Cancer.
“We got [the stylists] certified a few months back,” he says, “and if there’s turnover we’ll get them certified too.”
Short’s wife is a nursing professor at Santa Monica College, and she teaches on the topic (and also screens her husband), making skin cancer detection a more personal issue for him.
Lund has also known people who had encountered melanoma, and since her certification she feels confident offering advice in the screening process, which is thorough but not obtrusive: “We check not just your head, but we also look behind your ears, on your neck, and your shoulders,” Lund says, “and because I’m already sifting through your hair, or trimming behind your ears, it just sort of happens naturally.”
According to Lund, broaching the topic of a potentially worrisome skin situation happens naturally, too.
“People talk about all sorts of things with their hairstylist, and it gives us a certain relationship. We have a rapport, and you definitely don’t just say ‘Hey, check out this mole!’” Lund jokes. “It’s more sensitive than that.”
What definitely is a learned skill is familiarity with things to look for in a skin abnormality that marks it as one of potential concern.
“It’s an easy acronym,” according to Lund: A-B-C-D-E. That’s “Asymmetry” between the mole’s two halves ; “Border,” irregular or poorly defined; “Color,” varying from one area to another; “Diameter,” melanomas are usually bigger than the size of a pencil eraser; “and E, for Evolving. If you’re a recurring client, I can see if it evolves into new shapes and forms,” she says.
Lund is careful to mention that she’s not a doctor; ultimately she’ll be referring clients to see one if she notices something.
“I’ve found two so far — two moles, and both the clients saw specialists and got them removed,” Lund says. “Thankfully, both were benign, and the clients came back and thanked me for pointing them out.”
18|8 Fine Men’s Salon is at 12775 W. Millennium Drive, Ste. 155, in Runway at Playa Vista. Call (310) 596-8018
or visit eighteeneight.com/playa-vista-ca.