There are currently around 36,000 hair salons in the UK, with the hair and beauty industry employing roughly a quarter of a million people across the country. Despite its scale, the hairdressing industry in Britain is completely unregulated, meaning that no training, qualifications or experience are required to operate or work in a hair salon. The UK is in fact one of the only countries in the world that does not have a system of compulsory registration. The Hairdressers (Registration) Act 1964 allows hairdressers to register with the state voluntarily, but it is estimated that only 5% actually do so.
Critics of the current state of affairs argue that hair treatments have changed fundamentally over the past 50 years, and that the powerful chemicals and intense heat used in many modern hair treatments place consumers at risk of serious injury from poorly trained or simply incompetent hair salon staff.
Hair styling accidents are most often caused by chemicals contained in hair products reacting badly with the skin or hair. During hair colouring for example chemicals and toxins contained in hair dye products may cause an allergic reaction, or may cause the hair to dry up and fall out if they are left in the hair for too long. Potentially dangerous chemicals are also used in other common hair styling procedures, including perming, bleaching, tinting and adding extensions.
A negative reaction to ingredients in hair care product may cause temporary or permanent baldness, and result in scarring to the scalp caused by chemical burns. Apart from physical pain, injured persons are likely to suffer mental trauma from being partially disfigured. This often leads to chronic loss of self confidence and the cancellation of previously made plans such as special events and holidays. All these factors are taken into account when determining the size of a compensation award. Ths principle factor which will determine the level of compensation award is how long hair takes to regrow.
Allergic reaction to chemicals in hair styling products
Burns and baldness caused by poorly prepared or misapplied products
Cuts and bleeding caused by hair stylist slipping with scissors
Dermatitis and related hair loss
Hair styling salons should carry out skin patch tests on new customers to check for well-known allergies such as an allergy to hair dye. A small amount of hair dye should be tested on a patch of skin, ideally 24 hours before the treatment is due to take place. Salons should also offer a hair strand test where required to ensure chemicals in styling products will not damage hair follicles.
Hair styling customers have a legal right to expect that their treatment will be carried out by a reasonably competent professional. Forseeable injuries are regularly caused by inexperienced junior stylists who mix hair solutions to the wrong strength, or fail to remove chemical products from their clients hair at the right moment. In the case of perming this leads to a condition known as 'over-processed' hair which may subsequently begin to fall out.
Hair styling salons are subject to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), which regulates the storage, use and disposal of chemical solutions such as perming lotion. Certain chemicals contained in hair dye are also illegal under separate legislation. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 also requires that electrical appliances used for hair styling are regularly safety tested.
Hairdressers and hair salons recognise the fact that the treatments they offer can be dangerous in certain circumstances, and for this reason need to have specialist hairdressers’ insurance cover to protect them and their business in case something goes wrong and a client is injured. In the event of such an accident occurring, any subsequent compensation claim made on behalf of an injured customer will be settled under the terms of the hairdressers’ insurance policy. This being the case, making a claim against a hair salon or freelance hairdresser does not have to be a confrontational or hostile process, rather it is the inevitable result of a situation both parties would have preferred to avoid, but which requires legal and financial redress.
The question of responsibility and hence legal liability for an accident at the hairdresser will depend on the unique circumstances of the case in question and the damage it has caused. While an accident may have been unintentional on the part of the hair salon or the individual stylist, the client is still owed a legal duty of care entitling them to expect that they will receive reasonable care while visiting the hairdresser and have their hair attended to by a competent and skilled stylist. Where that duty is breached and the client is injured as a direct result, the hair salon and/or stylist can subsequently be held liable for negligence and obliged to pay compensation.
In many cases, hair salon clients are simply dissatisfied with the results of a hairdressing treatment, but even in situations where the stylist in unable to carry out a corrective procedure to produce the desired results, dissatisfaction with the aesthetic outcome will not be sufficient grounds for holding a hairdresser legally liable. However, cuts, burns and blistering to the scalp, hair loss and baldness resulting from a hair treatment, as well as the psychological impact such injuries often entail, will normally be the responsibility of the hair salon and stylist. Regardless of whether injuries and damage of this kind were the result of the stylist’s carelessness or lack of training, the salon will usually be held legally liable.
The employment status of the stylist who carried out a hair treatment that caused an injury is also relevant to establishing legal liability. Stylists may be directly employed by a hair salon or self-employed subcontractors working at the salon. Either or both parties may have their own insurance policies, and the precise commercial agreement between them will determine which party a compensation claim will be directed at. A successful compensation claim will normally involve a visit to a trichologist (a hair and scalp specialist) to assess the extent of the damage done, and this in turn will help with calculating the amount of compensation due to the injured claimant. Contact our female lawyers for free and reliable legal advice about who is responsible for damage done to your hair and/or scalp at the hairdresser.
A recent client suffered hair loss and scalp damage following a hair colouring procedure at her local hair salon after an excessively strong bleaching product was applied directly to her roots. Ms T’s first lightening treatment did not produce the desired results, and she therefore agreed with the stylist’s suggestion that a further treatment was required us to achieve the colour that was intended. Although a hair strand test had been carried out, the results should have indicated to the salon and stylist that Ms T’s hair was not strong enough to withstand repeated applications of the potent chemicals contained in the bleaching product used. Once the second procedure was completed, Ms T was happy with the results but noticed that her hair appeared overly dry and brittle. The following day clumps of her hair began to fall out and the skin on her scalp was itchy and inflamed. Her GP subsequently informed her that her hair and scalp and appeared to have been seriously damaged by chemicals.
Ms T complained to the salon and was offered restorative treatments, but the damage done was significant and irreversible in the short term, prompting her to seek legal advice from Bartletts Solicitors. We agreed to represent Ms T on a no win no fee basis and contacted the salon in question and its insurers outlining her claim. Ms T had the foresight to obtain the results of her hair strand test from the salon, and expert analysis of the results clearly showed that her hair was not in a strong enough condition to bear the chemicals contained in the specific bleaching product used by the stylist. This meant that it was highly likely that Ms T’s hair and skin would be damaged by repeated applications of the bleach, and represented a failure on the part of the salon to exercise reasonable care and skill amounting to negligence. Ms T was also assessed by a leading independent trichologist (hair and scalp specialist) who confirmed the extent of the damage caused by the bleach. Within a few months the salon accepted liability for the situation, and Ms T received £4,750 in compensation.
Our firm regularly represents clients who have had the misfortune to suffer allergic reactions and the associated symptoms following hair dye treatments at salons. In a recent case, Ms B made an appointment to visit a hair salon to have her hair dyed, but was not offered a skin patch test prior to the procedure. She was not unduly worried about this, as she had dyed her hair previously with no signs of an adverse reaction. On this occasion, however she began to experience symptoms the morning after the treatment. These included swelling to her head, neck and face, as well as her eyes, which were almost swollen shut. Her skin was red and itchy, and she later developed a severe headache. Her partner took her to hospital where she was prescribed antihistamines and steroids to combat the inflammation. Ms B’s symptoms persisted for a number of days, during which time she was unable to work and was in constant discomfort. Having read online about cases similar to her own, she decided to seek legal advice.
Our beauty treatment solicitors team went on to represent Ms B in a no win no fee claim against the salon in question. An examination by an expert trichologist (hair and scalp specialist) indicated that Ms B had recently become sensitized to PPD, a common ingredient in most hair dyes, potentially through contact with black henna. The hair salon where her treatment was carried out should have offered Ms B a skin patch test, ideally 48 hours before the procedure, regardless for whether she had dyed her hair previously with no adverse effects, as it should be common knowledge in the industry that people can become sensitized to allergens such as PPD at any point in time. The salon’s failure to take reasonable care for Ms Bs safety amounted to negligence, and we therefore argued that she was entitled to compensation for the pain and distress she had experienced. We were able to gain an admission of liability from the salon’s insurers within a few months of starting the claim, and Ms B later received £4,250 in compensation.