A high proportion of British women use hair dye on a regular basis to eliminate grey hairs or to achieve and maintain a new look. Few however are prepared for the disastrous consequences that chemical-based hair dyes can cause. It is estimated that around 5% of the population are allergic to chemicals contained in hair dye, including phenylenediamine (PPD), ammonia, hydrogen peroxide and persulphates. Allergic reactions to hair dyes are becoming increasingly common, and are usually the result of a salon failing to conduct a skin patch test on a client’s skin prior to a colouring treatment. The symptoms of allergic reactions to hair dye often include burning sensations on the scalp, and skin damage which may destroy hair follicles and result in permanent baldness. Effectively the body rejects the hair dye, and reacts by shedding both skin and hair that has come into contact with it.
Chemical burns to the scalp are also caused when hair dyes contain too much of one particular chemical, or if they are left in the hair for too long. Burns of the kind are extremely painful, and often the full severity of the burn will not be immediately apparent. Initial itchiness and irritation may soon lead to skin peeling off, with weeping sores, blisters and scars developing. At some stage the hair is likely to become dry and brittle, and begin to fall out. Where a chemical burn causes damage to the soft tissues in the scalp, hair follicles may be destroyed resulting in irreversible hair loss. Other unpleasant side-effects may include in-grown hairs, and the spreading of rashes and skin conditions to other areas such as the face and neck. Apart from the disfiguring wounds and hair loss they cause, hair dye burns may involve ongoing pain and medications, as well as surgical skin grafts in extreme cases.
Often the worst consequence of hair dye burns and resulting baldness is the emotional trauma they cause. A person may feel deformed by damage to skin or hair which is clearly visible to others, making them afraid of going out in public, and causing them to cancel or miss special occasions. These feelings may progress to loss of self-esteem, stress and depression. Stress itself may cause an additional hair loss condition called areata alopecia, which may spread to the entire scalp. It is impossible to underestimate the psychological effect of baldness and skin damage, especially when they are accompanied by pain and lack of sleep. In 2008 a young British woman was reported to have committed suicide following a severe reaction to hair dye which caused all her hair to fall out. Compensation awards for hair dye burns and baldness will reflect these emotional factors just as much as physical pain and suffering.
Hair dye burns and baldness are often the result of errors on the part of untrained, unqualified and inexperienced staff at hair salons. They may fail to carry out the essential skin patch test on new customers, mix hair dyes in the wrong proportions, or leave them in a client’s hair for too long. As hairdressers are unregulated in the UK there are no official trade bodies to deal with complaints and take action against negligent salons. Customers however have the right to expect that their hair dying procedure will be carried out in a competent manner, and may take action against a salon or stylist who has injured them through errors or omissions. Compensation will also be awarded for the financial effect of an injury, including loss of earnings due to time off work, and the cost of medical treatment or corrective surgery. Injured persons should contact a no win no fee solicitor who will be able to offer the best advice, as well as helping them to secure the maximum amount of compensation of their injuries.