News and Features

Allergy just keeps breaking out

We’ve seen a rash of stories about allergic reactions recently. So hair and beauty professionals beware! If you use colour or tint – and nearly everyone does – make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on testing for allergy first. And pass this important message on to your clients too.

Actress Pauley Perrette from the TV series NCIS is a natural blonde, but she’s a deep black brunette in the series. She ended up in hospital after suffering a reaction to her hair dye.

Pauley posted a photo of her swollen face on social media and warned her half-million Twitter followers about the dangers of hair-dye allergies.

The actress has been colouring her hair for 20 years. A few months before her reaction, she suffered a rash over her neck and scalp after colouring. But she ignored the symptoms, kept on colouring and now she’s suffering the consequences.

And it’s not just colour applied to hair that can cause problems, colouring eyebrows and eyelashes can cause problems too.

Schoolgirl Katie Thompson let her beauty therapy student friend tint her eyelashes. The result: a severe reaction that caused Katie’s eyes to swell, burnt off her eyebrows and eyelashes and could have blinded her.

Another schoolgirl, Megan Billingsley, had her eyebrows waxed and tinted at a salon and she too suffered a reaction, with severe swelling around her eyes and the complete loss of her eyebrows.

To reinforce the dangers, BBC East’s Inside Out team carried out an investigation into beauty salons in Milton Keynes and Luton. Of the 32 randomly selected salons, just 13 insisted on patch testing before colour.

And did you see the story of Jo Thomson from Margate, who had a severe reaction to colour after using Schwarzkopf’s Live XXL Color Cosmic Blue at home? Even though she followed the instructions and did a patch test, she had to be hospitalised, had fluid drained from her spine and has been left colour-blind following the incident.

Another sufferer from reaction to Schwarzkopf’s Live XXL was Michelle Buckley from Liverpool. She tried to sue Henkel the owners of Schwarzkopf after suffering severe hair loss, even though she had used the patch test before colouring. Michelle lost the case. The judge said that the patch test was only an indication of allergy not infallible proof, and that the manufacturers had made this clear.

There are millions of colour and tint applications each year, in salon and in the home. The vast majority of them cause no problems. But the evidence is that allergy to colour is growing, and that everyone needs to be aware of the dangers.