What Would You Do: Bleach Bummer
Working with bleach can be a downright pain—literally. Scalp sores, flaking, breakage, allergic reactions…unfortunately these yucky side effects can all be part of the lightening equation. So what’s a stylist to do? A salon owner recently reached out to BTC for some advice after getting into a sticky bleach situation.
“I’m a salon owner, and I had a client complain after she recently had a scalp lightener/bleach service. During the process, she did mention to the hairdresser it was hurting a little, to which the stylist asked whether it was stinging or actually burning. The client said it was stinging, but not burning. The stylist then told her she had another five to10 minutes and asked if she thought she would be OK. The client said yes and the color was completed and looked great—the client was very happy!
Now, she has contacted me and has complained that she has red sores on her scalp where the bleach has obviously reacted to her skin! She said she is extremely annoyed and has contemplated going to the emergency room. She added that when she said it was stinging, we should have listened. She states that she’s annoyed at herself for not speaking up, but thinks we should have gotten the color off as soon as she said it was stinging. I don’t know how to handle this, as at the moment, she is very angry! Any advice?”
This concerned BTC member is clearly not alone. After she reached out to us, we received hundreds of responses—making this one of our most divisive polls yet!
Read the article below, and be sure to share your thoughts!
Beauty is Pain
Poll a group of stylists about a bleaching process, and you’ll likely discover that many of them have no sympathy at all for this salon owner’s client!
“She needs to know that bleaching your hair is a very intense process, regardless of the chemical catalyst,” says BTC Member Shade Louis. “Bleaching is not for sissies.”
“Amen!” agrees Verna Racey. “I’m dark—like a Level 2—and I always have sores, but it’s worth it.”
Sarah Stephens, a naturally dark-haired client, experienced a similar incident while getting her hair lightened. “It burned like hell,” she says. “And when I complained, [my stylist] explained to me that the burn was just part of it. My head was sore, but it was the best color I ever had. Beauty is pain. Her Mama should have told her that!”
Play it Safe
Still, a handful of hairdressers came to this client’s defense. “I’m amazed at how many people say she should just tough it out and that burns and sores are normal,” says Shanell Mateer. “A chemical service should NEVER injure your client, whether it’s bleach, a relaxer or anything else! Making your guest comfortable should always be priority. If it was stinging her it should have been washed off immediately. Sometimes it takes more than one service for a client to achieve their goal, especially when going very light.”
Tara Walker agrees. “No one should be advised that a burning scalp = great color,” she notes. “You could seriously hurt someone with on-the-scalp lightener and the minute the client complains of discomfort it needs to come off.”
Other stylists take it a step further—emphasizing the need for the stylist and salon to take responsibility for the situation.
“It is our PROFESSION to try to make sure these things do not happen,” says Tara Ervolina. “And to blame the client? This client probably didn’t know she was getting chemical burns as she sat there, yet as a stylist we know this is a possibility and that those are the signs. Therefore, something should have been done right then.”
“The stylist is at fault,” agrees Kimberly Richardson. “She should have rinsed her color out, no matter if the client said she could handle it or not. We are the ones who hold the license, and we know better. STOP BLAMING YOUR CLIENTS! Take some responsibility. That’s the first thing you learn about bleach in beauty school—if it starts stinging, burning, itching, anything, to wash it off. I would offer this client a refund and free service (if she would come back) to make it right.”
OK, so hindsight is always 20/20, but so is a little prep work! According to these stylists, your best bet is to always give your clients a waiver to sign before the service, detailing what the process entails and what side effects they can expect.
“In a lawsuit-hungry society, you may find yourself being sued,” says Cynthia Brennan. “In the future, inform the client that bleach on the scalp will cause redness and irritation, and if it burns you will remove the bleach ASAP, but you will no longer be able to achieve the level she wanted. People should suck it up if they want platinum blonde in my opinion, but have them sign a document stating they are aware of the risks and you are not liable for any chemical burns.”
“I had a client with Level 3 hair and she always wanted Level 12, white-blonde hair,” says Jeannie Seiler-Laderer. “It usually took two processes of 40-volume High Lift, and we always made her sign a waiver. Anything questionable needs a wavier!”
And of course, better safe than sorry. “Give her a patch test, a waiver—simple stuff,” says Sean Gardner. “The client then is afforded a choice, thus absolving, to some degree, the owner’s liability.”