WHAT better and easier way to make a change for the New Year than switch your hair colour?
Thousands of South Yorkshire people dye their hair every week - but a Sheffield hair salon boss is warning that hair dying is not always as easy and risk-free as it seems.
Andrea Carrington, managing director of Headlines Elite salons, has pointed to the case of teenager Tabatha McCourt, who tragically died last year after colouring her hair.
Tabatha, aged 17, was hit by a violent fit after she settled down for an evening of home hair colour and The X Factor.
Just 20 minutes after she dyed her hair she began screaming and vomited, before collapsing in agony.
Doctors are investigating the possibility that Tabatha, from Lanarkshire in Scotland, had a rare allergic reaction to p-Phenylenediamine, a chemical in the dye that has reportedly been suggested as a possible cause for the sudden reaction.
That is why salon boss Andrea is warning the public not to take any risks with hair colour – either at home or in the salon.
And she is calling for tighter regulation to ensure that Tabatha’s tragedy is not repeated.
“To be honest, there is probably only one person in a million, even less than that, who will have any reaction to permanent hair colour - but nobody can afford to take the risk,” said Andrea.
The staff at all three Headlines Elite salons - in Sheffield city centre, Drakehouse and Sharrow - follow a strict policy of providing a skin patch test for every client asking for a hair colour change for the first time, with regular follow-up tests too.
“It does mean we have to turn some clients away because you do get people walking into the salon and demanding a hair colour without the testing - they’ll even offer to sign a disclaimer - but it really is not worth the risk,” Andrea said.
“It’s a simple test – we just apply a small amount of colour to a small area of skin, perhaps behind the ear or on the inside of the arm, and then leave it for 48 hours to make sure there is no adverse reaction.
“The client has to sign to say that the test has taken place and that information then goes onto their record and after three to four months we will repeat the process again.
“We have a duty of care to our clients to make sure they are safe and when you read about the story of Tabatha McCourt, you really do understand why it is so important that we go through this process.
“It’s a process that takes just a minute and even though it may mean having to wait a couple of days to change your style, I believe that it’s a wait that will be worth it in the long run if you are that one person in a million who does have a reaction.
“You wouldn’t start giving nuts to somebody with a nut allergy and anybody with any sense would not put a hair colour on somebody who has an allergic reaction.”
Not only does the patch test protect the client – it also protects the salon. “I know there are some salons that will take the risk but it is important that everybody gets on board with my campaign to make sure everybody is tested regularly,” Andrea said.
“The simple truth is that even if your salon is insured – which, of course, it should be – if you haven’t done the test, the insurer won’t pay up if there is any sort of incident and it could end up with you facing massive costs and losing your business, your home and everything else.”
Andrea admits that when people walk in off the street and are told they can’t have an instant permanent colour, the majority will walk out – but that is the sort of business she would prefer to lose.
“It is hard to turn business away, especially in the current climate.
“But if you simply want to play the money game then the truth is that by not providing the test, you are compromising your professionalism as well as the lives of your clients.”