Just when we thought we couldn’t stand hearing another horror story about hair dye, an image of a 16-year-old girl with a swollen face and puffy eyes pops up on our screens. But five years after the incident, which left Charlotte Gilchrist blinded for almost a week at the time of her school prom, the hair salon responsible has been ordered to pay £20,000 in compensation as well as Charlotte’s £18,000 legal bill.
A trip to the hairdressers the day before her school prom in April 2004 resulted in Charlotte, now 21, being unable to open her eyes for five days after an allergic reaction caused her face to swell and blister. The trainee hairdresser failed to do a skin patch test before applying the hair dye, and moments later Charlotte’s scalp began to itch and burn.
“When I woke up the following day the right side of my face was swollen. There was a clear liquid coming out of my head, it was just awful,” Charlotte recalls. “Can you imagine waking up and not seeing anything just because of a hair dye?”
The salon suggested that Charlotte’s shampoo caused the reaction. “But I’d used the same one for years with no problem,” Charlotte said. A couple of trips to the hospital found that Charlotte had reactive eczema and would never be able to dye her hair again. She was given anti-histamines for the swelling but it was still five days before her sight returned. Charlotte now wants to warn other about the dangers of not doing a skin patch test before colouring their hair.
Blistering, weeping skin and rashes are some of the allergic reactions reported by women who have had a hair dye job gone wrong, but another rare side effect is hair loss. Scalp burns, as a result of leaving the chemicals on too long or applying them to super-sensitive scalps without conducting a patch test first, can cause bald patches that aren’t easy to regrow.
Hair dyes can impair the quality of one’s hair but they’re usually not a culprit of hair loss. Some people experience temporary hair thinning after colouring it, as the chemicals weaken the hair and lead to breakage along the shaft, but this is not permanent hair loss from the follicle root. The exception is when chemicals burn the scalp which then damages the follicle which can result in permanent hair loss.
Hair growth should continue as normal following a regular dye job but if the quality or thickness of your hair doesn’t return to normal, it’s possible the event could have triggered female pattern hair loss. There are hair loss treatments that are licensed by the MHRA to treat this genetic condition, but if chemical burns have left patches of baldness, it’s possible that a hairpiece is the only way of concealing the damage. Be sure you cover all your options though and ask a hair loss specialist to take a look and see if there is anything else that can be done.
But prevention is better than a cure, so the saying goes, and Charlotte hopes her experience will shake up the quality of service in the hairdressing industry.
“Hairdressers have a responsibility to their clients,” she said. “It could happen to anyone – they don’t know how sensitive people are so a skin test is a must.”
If you’d like to know more about hair growth after colouring, contact The Belgravia Centre. The UK’s hair loss and scalp care specialists realise that each person is unique and that their thinning or hair loss needs individualised attention and treatment. Call 020 7730 6666 to arrange a free consultation, or fill in their online diagnostic form if you can’t make it into the London centre and still receive the same level of attention and personalised service.