When Allergic Reactions Happen at the Beauty Salon
Updated: Oct 12
Like most women, going to a salon is probably a regular part of your beauty routine. You might go to the salon for treatments that help you look younger, or just make you feel pampered. But if you have an allergic reaction to a salon product or treatment, you may experience symptoms ranging from mild irritation to a serious medical emergency.
What Is an Allergic Reaction?
An allergic reaction occurs when your immune system mistakes something harmless for an invader. This triggers a response, and your body makes antibodies for that specific substance. If you come into contact with the same substance again, you will have another reaction.
The substances that trigger an allergic reaction are called "allergens." Allergens can be inhaled, injected, ingested, or touched. In the salon, most allergic reactions happen due to the latter, when products are applied to a client's skin or hair.
What an Allergic Reaction Looks Like
The responses to salon products vary from mild sensitivity to severe reactions that can be life-threatening. Regardless of the severity of the symptoms, they might occur instantly or within hours or days.
Allergies caused by products applied to the skin or hair are called contact dermatitis, meaning an inflammation of the skin due to touch. People with sensitive skin may react to shampoos, conditioners, and styling products over time or after a single use.
Allergic contact dermatitis occurs in response to chemicals within 24 hours after contact. Allergic contact dermatitis can cause severe itchiness, flaking, cracking, splitting, and blistering. Once a client has an allergic reaction to a certain product, it doesn’t go away. The only solution is to avoid the product or the aggravating ingredient for future use.
Some of the most common triggers of allergic contact dermatitis include hair dyes, perming solutions, and the chemicals used in artificial nails. Like contact urticaria (see below), the chemicals used in rubber gloves and hair bleach can cause contact dermatitis. The difference is that it isn’t as likely to develop into a severe condition.
Contact urticaria is a more severe type of allergy that occurs within half an hour of having the allergen applied. It causes welts on the skin, swelling, and itching. This type of response can develop into anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment. The initial symptoms include welts on the skin, swelling, itching, and cold-like symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose.
Some common triggers of contact urticaria include latex gloves, the powder in rubber gloves, and bleach. Testing for this type of allergic response requires a blood test.
While anaphylaxis rarely occurs after exposure to salon products, the potential does exist. So, when considering the types of beauty insurance coverage you need for your salon, don’t overlook the potential of severe reactions happening, even if they aren’t the most common. One devastating lawsuit could be all it takes to ruin your professional reputation and beauty salon business.
How Allergies Happen in the Salon
Beauty salons use a broad range of products to provide services to their clients. Allergies can occur after exposure to salon products, which include shampoo, conditioner, permanent makeup, nail products, facials, permanents, and hair straighteners.
So, pretty much anything used in a salon can cause an allergy. But hair dye is by far the most common cause of allergy.
What Makes Hair Dye So Allergenic?
Most people probably don’t think about what is in the dye that they use. They just tell the beautician what they want and expect a professional job. The problem is that there are some harsh chemicals in hair dye. When a client has a serious reaction to a treatment they received in your salon, it can be frightening for them and for you. It could also lead to your being on the wrong end of a lawsuit.
Some of the most dangerous ingredients used in hair dye include:
Ammonia – This chemical helps to open up hair cuticles so that colour soaks in. One problem with ammonia in hair dye is that it dries hair out and makes it frizzy. The harsh fumes are more likely to trigger allergies in people who already have asthma and other respiratory conditions, and those same fumes can also cause burns to the skin.
Para-phenylenediamine (PDD) – Nearly all types of salon and home hair dye contain PPD. The chemical allows new colour to replace the existing pigment. Some people have an allergy to PDD the first time they use a product that contains it. Others develop a reaction after years of use. The potential for allergies is why home dyes recommend doing a patch test before use.
Quaternium-15 – This preservative is used in cosmetics and hair dyes. It releases formaldehyde, which causes allergic reactions.
These ingredients used in hair dye, depilatory wax, shampoos and conditioners, and creams are the most common causes of allergies. Fragrances can also cause sensitivities and allergies. Anything that you come into contact with has the potential to trigger a reaction.
Other Common Allergens in the Salon
With so many new treatments and procedures offered in salons today, there are even more ways that beauty salon clients come into contact with chemicals. These include:
• Chemicals in rubber gloves
• Depilatory waxes
• Pigments used in microblading
• Application of cosmetics
• Chemical peels
• Keratin treatments
• Eyelash extension glue
But it isn’t just your clients who are at risk. You and other hairdressers working in your salon are exposed to these products regularly. At the very least, make sure they wear allergy-resistant rubber gloves any time they handle salon products.
Dealing with Allergic Reactions in Your Salon
Prevention is always the best method of dealing with hair dye allergies and those from other salon products. One way is to have a client consultation before performing any type of beauty treatment.
Don’t just take your client’s word for it when they request a beauty treatment. Create a file and take note of any previous reactions or allergies. For example, if they’ve had a reaction from eyelash extensions before, they should never get them again.
Always ask about any previous reactions or known allergies. You can't eliminate the possibility of causing allergic reactions, but you can minimise them.
If a client has a reaction while they are still in your salon, remove the product from their skin or hair immediately. The longer you leave it on, the worse the response will be. Refer clients for medical care, even if the initial symptoms are minor. It could turn into a major allergic reaction over the next few minutes or hours.
Protect Yourself with the Right Beauty Insurance
Finally, don’t take shortcuts when it comes to getting beauty insurance. It’s too easy for clients to have an allergic reaction for the first time in your salon. Extend your coverage to treatments you offer in-salon and for any products you sell. Don’t wait until you get hit with a lawsuit to worry about your liability for your clients’ allergies.
Getting an online quote is easy with Salonsure. If you have questions about getting the beauty insurance you need to protect your salon, contact us through our online contact form or call 07 3135 7436.