Image of a woman wearing a black cape getting her hair done

Beauty parlor stroke syndrome and why a shampoo funnel in your salon could save a life

You may be asking yourself, “What is a shampoo funnel?” Not many professional hair stylists have ever heard of one and most of those who have do not understand the real benefit. In fact, after 37 years as a licensed professional, I didn’t know what one was until my mother suffered a mild stroke.

HOW IT works

The shampoo funnel allows the client’s hair to be shampooed while the client is in an upright position. The funnel wraps around the head starting at the nape of the neck and is secured at the forehead with Velcro. Most are made of vinyl and allow the water to flow directly into the shampoo bowl.


Have you ever heard of “BEAUTY PARLOR STROKE SYNDROM?” Right after mom had the stroke my brother called and asked me this question. The phrase must have been coined many years ago– when is the last time your salon was called a beauty parlor?

Beauty parlor stroke syndrome can occur by having your head bent backward, or hyperextended, improperly for a long period of time during a shampoo at the salon.

Dr. Robert Coni, medical director of the stroke program at HCA’s Grand Strand Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, S.C., explains that, because of this, the blood vessels in the back of your neck could become compressed or damaged and result in a stroke.

“Sometimes the blood vessels in the spinal canal are extra-long and can get ‘kinked’ by the pressure placed there,” he said. “This can create a bulge in the interior wall of the artery that effectively blocks blood flow or cause a compressive injury to the artery.”

According to Med Page Today staff, leaning back over the sink to have a shampoo in the hair salon can exert pressure on the neck, which in rare cases can lead to a tear in the vertebral artery and a blood clot that interferes with blood flow — a phenomenon known as “beauty parlor stroke syndrome.”

Technically, the condition is known as “vertebral artery dissection from hyperextension of the neck,” and the beauty parlor isn’t the only culprit, according to a report in The Atlantic. Similar events have been reported following various innocuous events, including stretching, sneezing, and getting out of bed awkwardly.

Experts note that nothing can be done to prevent this, emphasizing that the traditional symptoms of stroke such as paralysis on one side of the body and facial slackness remain the most important signals of stroke.

So, I called Julie Nastoff, my mom’s hair stylist. I asked Julie if she would use a shampoo funnel on my mom’s next shampoo. She agreed. I asked her to let my mom think this was her idea instead of mine. Funny how we take advice or counsel from our stylists quicker than from family.

There is no way of knowing what caused my mom’s stroke or if a shampoo funnel could have prevented it but it got me thinking, what if it could prevent a health issue in the future. It would not be practical for all of your clients to have a shampoo funnel used on them, however, some senior clients or clients with back or neck issues might appreciate its use.

Mom is doing great. Julie, her stylist, is using the shampoo funnel I sent her on mom and other seniors.

It’s not clear who invented the shampoo funnel, although Betty Dain, a manufacturer of stylish salon apparel, has been selling shampoo funnels for longer than any company I know. It makes me wonder how many other ideas are being worked on right now by inventive people in our great industry that one day will become tools that could save a life or make life better for the people we serve.


Beth Hickey is a 37-year veteran in the beauty industry. Beth served as Chairperson for the Professional Beauty Association (PBA) from 2018 to 2020. An author and currently the CEO of EOH Industries consults with companies focusing on new product development and market research. Contact Beth at or call 817-706-4701.