And there are complaints against hairdressers, quite a lot of them. In 2010 the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers carried out some research amongst its membership of nearly 5000 solicitors and learned of more than 350 cases of injuries – from burns to baldness and even blindness – at the hands of hairdressers in that year alone.
Risk of injuries at a hairdresser
It is not so much the cutting of the hair that causes the problems but the use of substances on the hair and scalp and the application of heat.
The most common danger of injury arises from the use of chemicals, including PPD for dyeing and peroxide for bleaching. When hair is coloured with chemicals it is important to carry out hair strand and skin patch testing to make sure that there will be no allergic reaction to the chemicals used. Even then there are still risks, especially if insufficient time is allowed after the test to gauge the result, or from leaving the chemicals in contact with the skin too long. Customers should be asked some basic health questions to minimise risk. For instance pregnant women should normally be advised to avoid chemical treatments.
Dyes and bleaches are capable of causing burns, blistering and inflammation to the skin, damage to the hair and even hair loss. Hair loss and scarring can be a traumatic experience and it is not uncommon for the injured person to suffer some psychological reaction in addition to the physical damage.
Curls, waves and straightening require heat, and hair dryers, curling tongs and straightening irons do get extremely hot. Carelessness or inexperience can cause burns and hair damage from overheating.
But there are some forms of hair straightening, for instance Hair Relaxers and the Brazillian Blow Dry, that use chemicals rather than heat to treat frizzy and tangled hair.The Brazillian Blow Dry is popular but controversial as it contains formaldehyde (known for its use in embalming fluid).
Hairdressers themselves also face the risk of some occupational diseases, such as dermatitis and latex allergy, from their work, and it is the job of their employer to make sure that the risks are assessed and minimised, so far as is possible.