Soft curls and permanent waves, commonly known as perms, are one of the most popular procedures performed in hair salons. Perms may be used to create a completely new hairstyle or in advance of a special occasion. A perm can straighten hair, add curls or add volume, meaning that a variety of enhancing effects can be achieved.
However, there are two major problems that cause hair perming accidents and injuries. Firstly, hairdressing is effectively unregulated in the UK with no professional code of practice, meaning anyone can set themselves up and offer hairdressing services regardless of their skill, experience and qualifications.
Secondly, perming itself is a chemical procedure that fundamentally changes the texture and shape of the hair follicles, and the strong chemicals contained in perm solutions can cause damage when applied incorrectly to sensitive hair and areas of skin on the scalp.
The use of powerful chemicals to break down and reform the hair’s protein bonds can leave a person’s hair structure permanently weakened. A perming solution may be left in the hair for too long, may not be mixed properly, or may simply be too potent for an individual’s hair type. This can result in the hair losing its natural elasticity and moisture leaving it excessively dry, brittle and susceptible to breakage and hair loss. In some cases, over-processed hair may begin to fall out while the perming rods are being removed, or later while combing the hair at home. The scalp may also be itchy, causing a person to scratch and dislodge clumps of hair.
This is not the only danger of hair perm solutions - the toxic ingredients also have the potential to cause chemical burns to the skin on the scalp, while the ammonia can lead to asthma-type symptoms. Damage to the skin may also result from barrier creams not having been applied properly, or when existing abrasions on the scalp come into contact with chemicals.
A hairdresser should always perform a patch test on new clients before carrying out a perming procedure. This will determine how both an individual’s hair and skin will react when the perm solution is applied. Clients with a pre-existing allergy may experience an adverse reaction to ingredients contained in the perm solution, with symptoms including hair loss, swelling to the skin, breathing difficulties and potentially more serious complications.
Hair perming changes the hair’s natural shape and structure permanently (or at least until the hair grows out) and weakens it in the process, potentially leaving it dry, brittle and prone to breakage. Most perming solutions contain ammonium thioglycolate as the main active ingredient. Ammonia helps to swell the hair strands, making them permeable, while thioglycolate acid breaks down the disulfide bonds in the hair’s proteins. An oxidizing solution containing hydrogen peroxide is then applied while the hair is held in place by the perming rods. The solution allows the disulfide bonds to reform, enabling the hair to be curled. This is a relatively basic explanation of what is in fact a complex chemical process, and one that can cause myriad problems if not carried out correctly.
Compensation claims for hair perming injuries will take into account the emotional repercussions of the damage caused. This could include general loss of self confidence or the cancellation of scheduled plans such as holidays and weddings. Contact our specialist female solicitors today if you have been injured while having your hair permed at a salon.
Case Study 1
Mrs W visited the hairdresser in advance of her son's 18th birthday. Wishing to look her best for the big occasion she elected to have a wash and cut followed by a perm. Her regular hair technician was away on holiday, and Mrs W was therefore placed in the hands of a junior technician who, little to her knowledge, had limited experience with hair perming procedures. Mrs W later recalled that at the time she felt the technician left the solution on for too long. The process was not timed, but Mrs W estimated it had been left on for about 35 minutes. In actual fact the recommended maximum time is around 20 minutes. She did not say anything however, and the perming rods were removed without any immediate problems.
It was only when she arrived home that Mrs W began to experience problems. Her hair felt dry and looked frizzy. While brushing it later that evening whole clumps began to fall out. Mrs W was suffering from a classic case of 'over-processed' hair. Either the solution had been left on for too long, or it had been mixed too strong in the first place. Mrs W was forced to cut out areas of hair herself, and was increasingly devastated by the results. Her scalp also felt itchy and sore. She returned to the hairdresser the following morning to complain. After a length consultation the salon owner admitted that Mrs W's hair had indeed been over-processed. The only solution the salon could offer was further complicated treatments, or for her to wait until the hair grew back. In the meantime it was insensitively suggested that she could wear a wig.
Mrs W contacted Bartletts Solicitors to discuss her legal options, and we advised her to bring a claim for compensation against the hair salon. Mrs W was in such an emotional state that she was forced to plead illness and miss her son's birthday party. She suffered from severe embarrassment, and would only venture outside wearing a hat. We wrote to the hairdressers outlining the situation, and within a week obtained an admission of liability from the hair salon's insurers. Due to the severity of the injury she had suffered, and the emotional repercussions it produced, we were able to secure £7,000 in compensation for Mrs W.
Case Study 2
Ms D was having a soft curls perming procedure carried out at a well-known hair salon in anticipation of a keynote speech she was due to make at a major trade conference the following week. When the perm rods were removed, Ms D noticed that her hair appeared brittle and frizzy, while her scalp was also dry and itchy. When she got home and was styling her hair, Ms D noticed that her scalp was irritated, and the following morning patches of hair began to fall out while she was brushing it. Ms D was in considerable distress, and saw both her doctor and another hair stylist, who told her that the barrier cream used during the perming procedure had not been effective in protecting her scalp. Furthermore, the fact that Ms D's hair had dried out to such an extent also suggested that the perming solution used had either been too strong for Ms D's hair type, or had been left in her hair for too long.
Due to scalp irritation, pain and emotional distress, Ms D was unable to make her scheduled speech, and was forced to take 2 weeks off work. Thanks to follow-up treatments, Ms D's hair eventually grew back, but she was angry and upset by the whole situation, and decided to seek legal advice from Bartletts Solicitors. We agreed to represent her in a no win no fee claim against the salon, and wrote to them, arguing that Ms D's scalp damage and hair loss were a direct result of the negligence of the hair stylist who had carried out her hair perm treatment. It appeared that the barrier cream had not been applied in sufficient quantity, or in the correct areas to protect Ms D's scalp from chemicals in the hair perm solution. This had caused both the skin on her scalp and her hair roots to dry out excessively. There were also other factors indicative of negligence, and following admission of liability by the hair salon's insurers, Ms D received £3,250 in compensation for the physical and emotional pain and suffering she had experienced.
Case Study 3
Ms R was having her hair curled at the hairdressers, when she was burned by the hot curling tong that the stylist was using on the side of her forehead. The stylist was talking to the manager of the hair salon at the time, and appeared to have not been paying proper attention to the delicate procedure she was performing. Ms R was in considerable pain, and deeply distressed by the fact that the burn was noticeable, just next to her right eye. The salon gave her some anti-infection cream, but Ms R’s burn injury was inflamed for weeks afterwards, and it is likely she will be left with a permanent scar, which may require revision surgery in the future.
Ms R was angry that she had been burned and scarred in this manner, through no fault of her own, and decided to bring a compensation claim against the hairdresser. We represented Ms R on a no win no fee basis, and wrote to the salon, stating that a lapse in concentration of the part of the stylist had caused Ms R to be burned by the hot curling tongs. The stylist had therefore negligently failed to carry out Ms R’s hair curling procedure in a safe and competent manner. The salon’s manager admitted that she may have distracted the stylist at a delicate moment, and once liability was established, Ms R received £6,000 in compensation from the salon’s insurers.