Hair Salon Client Severely Burned By Novice Cosmetologist


Cosmetology ExpertThis case involves a 26-year-old woman with no significant past medical history who suffered severe chemical burns to her scalp due to relaxing hair chemicals. The woman had never done chemical hair treatment to her hair before this occasion. She went to a reputable hair salon to receive the treatment 5 weeks before her wedding. The stylist in question had recently completed a cosmetology program and had only performed this particular treatment twice. Halfway through the treatment, the bride experienced significant pain on the left side of her scalp. It was discovered that the chemicals had caused a severe scalp burn. Following the incident, the bride was unable to grow hair back in the burn location. An expert in cosmetology was sought to discuss how to successfully avoid chemical burns when applying hair products.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your experience with hair perming products.
  • 2. What are the protocols to avoid chemical burns from hair perming products?

Expert Witness Response E-075578

I began my career in cosmetology in 1980 and have successfully performed thousands of perms. I am also responsible for testing up-and-coming stylists at and occupational competency testing institute. When creating the permanent waves, one must wisely follow protocol. We apply specific cream and cotton around the hairline and replace it as often as necessary if it becomes soiled. For skin that is soiled, we use cold water on a towel to blot — never rub — the skin and then replace with fresh cream/cotton. There are two common draping practices. One puts a towel next to the client’s skin, then the chemical cape followed by another towel. I have never used that method (unless I was testing) as a towel can pull the solution toward the skin.  A lot of shops are all about cutting corners, and costs seem to stop people from ever replacing that towel. I use a heavy variety of paper towel and replace after each application of the service. There can be up to 4 separate applications in the perms I have used, but 2 is standard. I can address patch tests, as they are not required by law but I was taught to always do them. With regard to this particular case, I have a few questions. Was the scalp examined? Was the client questioned about previous experiences? Was there a health change? (Pregnancy can be problematic.) Was there medication change? (Heart medication can complicate perms.) Was the client informed during the preliminary process about possible tingling or burning? Was the client questioned about the type of hair color on her head if any?

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