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It’s often said that to be a successful stylist you should always be upbeat, full of energy and ready for a long chat with your client. Unfortunately, for some, the strenuous nature of work that goes with being an in-demand hairstylist that’s always on their best form, can be crippling. For people living with the agony of and trying to cope with invisible illnesses, keeping pain hidden can cause further complications.

ECOHEADS who is a supporter of social responsibility and sustainability partnered with stylist, Ash Fortis, of XO Hair Lab to help raise awareness of Invisible Illness Week and support Ash, who is a client that suffers from a lifelong silent illness called Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is a digestive tract disorder that causes inflammation which often leads to severe abdominal pain, an urgent need to go to the bathroom, extreme fatigue, unwanted weight loss and malnutrition.

This disease almost ended Ash’s promising career as Xo Salons owner and Pulp Riot stage artist. Ash’s symptoms began at an early age, but like most young people, she ignored them several years out of embarrassment of talking about it. Fortis owns Xo Hair Studio in Norfolk, Virginia, and is opening Xo Hair Lab, a second, much bigger salon and education facility in Chesapeake, Virginia, said it wasn’t until she started “passing out from the pain”, that she sought medical attention and was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s.

The diagnosis meant she felt defined by her condition but after a few years decided to fight back against it and broke free of the mindset that often goes with having an invisible illness. She decided to learn how to live with Chron’s while still chasing her aspirations of being a stylist. Ash now happens to be of America’s leading high profile educators with over 208k followers on Instagram alone.

Ash explains, “People assume you are lazy or have a bad attitude because having a hidden and unpredictable illness like Crohn’s means you need to take time off or suddenly excuse yourself from the salon floor to, literally, run to the bathroom.” She went on to say that it isn’t a good illness to have as a hairdresser and it’s hard for people to understand just how debilitating it can be. She went on to say how difficult it is and often frightening to discuss.“We need to be more open about these conditions in our profession so clients and colleagues understand.”

To help raise awareness of her illness and all other hidden diseases, Ash worked with several manufacturers during Invisible Disabilities Week, which aims to encourage people who live with Invisible Illness such as Lupus, Arthritis and Crohn’s which are often found to affect the beauty industry. These illnesses are mostly invisible to the naked eye and often lead to disbelief about pain caused from the illness by those around them. This can lead to misunderstandings and rejection by family, friends, colleagues, clients and even health care providers.

To show support, ECOHEADS volunteered to donate 100% of its profits from the sale of its best-selling environmentally-friendly product, The Showerhead, during Invisible Disabilities Week. This resulted in ECHOHEADS managing to raise $2,000 which was then donated to Chron’s research on Ash’s behalf.

It was a natural fit for ECOHEADS to partner with Ash as they are passionate about empowering stylists and already focus on creating tools that help ease tiresome tasks that create tension and pain for stylists working in a salon. The ECOHEADS Showerhead reduces the time it takes to rinse for stylists standing behind a basin, and the Ping colour mixer, eliminates the need for repetitive hand mixing of colour.

The collaboration extended to instagram where ECOHEADS offered up it’s own Instagram account to Ash so that she could reach a wider audience with a takeover where she posted a number of personal pictures and comments of her daily struggles throughout the week. This complemented the wide audience found on Ash’s own Instagram account which has over 208k followers. The content produced across both accounts gained thousands of comments and meant wider conversations were had with stylists all over the world around invisible illnesses.