Hairstyles, Hair Care & Fashion

Bleach and Chemical Burns

Q: About a month and a half ago, I went to a hair salon to get bleach highlights put into my hair to lighten it so I could eventually go blonde (my hair was dyed black before). As she put on the bleach my head started to burn and it was immediately washed off, this wasn't the first time I have had bleach on my hair and I dye it regularly, so I knew something was not right.
About an hour afterward, I discovered I had chemical burns on my scalp but the hair looked fine. My scalp is only just starting to properly heal now. I really don't like the way my hair has turned out and I'd like to re-dye it as soon as possible. However, I have been advised by another hair stylist that I shouldn't put any kind of dye or anything on my hair for about a year because I might have damaged the hair follicle or something and my hair may fall out. My hair itself looks fine and not damaged at all. Is this an exaggeration? If it is how soon can I dye it?

A: Ok. There is always a very real concern that the hair follicle could be damaged by chemical burns from bleach if the wrong type of bleach is allowed to come in contact with the scalp. However, if the burns are severe enough to damage the follicle and cause hair loss, that hair loss will become evident relatively quickly (usually within a few weeks at the latest).
What concerns me most is that the stylist either improperly used a type of bleach not intended to come in contact with the skin, or she failed to perform a patch test beforehand. Even with skin-safe bleaches that you have used previously, you can develop sensitivities to the chemical and have severe reactions. This is why patch tests are required. It is to prevent the kinds of burns you received. I would make sure that you've reported the stylist to the salon owner/manager, or that you contact your state's Cosmetology Board about the incident and report the stylist's actions. Then I recommend you find a new stylist.
If after a month and a half, you haven't had hair loss, I think you'll be safe. However, I would suggest that you avoid any further chemical services until your scalp is fully healed. Once the skin is healed, and as long as your hair is in good condition, you should be able to get the services you were after all along.
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