Hair Dye

Reporter: Helen Wellings

The frightening and gory stories about permanent hair dyes keep coming. Donna Cooer could only watch in horror as 14 year old daughter, Brittany was rushed to hospital for emergency treatment. Chemicals in a supermarket hair dye to colour her blond hair dark brown, left her in anaphylactic shock, on drips and steroids, fighting for her life.

"I had blisters all around the back of my neck, and all my ears, and I had swollen eyes and forehead and my cheekbones here were swollen and my neck was that swollen I could hardly even breathe. Like I couldn't breathe properly" says Brittany.

"She looked like a little alien. It was like ET. Her head was sort of blown up like round, and within three, four days it sort of moved longer and made her face longer but it was very scary" says Brittany's mother Donna. Brittany was told by the hospital doctors - die her hair again and she'll die.

Anyone, including young teens, can buy and apply, potentially hazardous permanent hair dyes. The disturbing facts, almost 50% of permanent hair dyes in Australian supermarkets, pharmacies and hair product stores contain chemicals, so risky, they've been banned overseas. But our Department of Health still isn't moving to stop them. Other common irritants, para-phenylene-diamine or PPD and Resorcinol, - we found them in 10 out of 17 hair dyes.

Remember 16 year old schoolgirl, Danielle Lyall's tragic outcome when she tried to peroxide her thick dark hair at home. In hospital for 8 days, she suffered 2 skin grafts and deep burns that left her permanently bald and horrifically scarred.

Danielle bought this Australian manufactured peroxide, Hi Lift, from Hair House Warehouse, which sells direct to the public. It's marked "Professional Use Only" with safety instructions and warnings - amazingly the check-out girl recommended Danielle buy the strongest peroxide for her thick hair.

Hairhouse Warehouse told us they were "deeply shocked by the reaction Danielle suffered and that they take every measure possible to inform customers that the product is for use by qualified hairdressers. But a month later when we went into Hairhouse Warehouse, we discovered the opposite ...they were still offering the peroxide to the general public with no warnings or advice.

"You are playing with danger with DIY hair dyes... professional use only salon products should never be sold to the general public." Mario Nasso of the Professional Hairdressers Association says bleaching especially is dangerous, a job to be done in stages by qualified hairdressers. "The peroxide being the highest peroxide 40 vol peroxide creates a heat reaction and just burns you skin."

"I had red weeping sores all over my head... it then spread all over my face... it went into my ears and around my ears...it looked to me like a chemical burn and also my right eye began to swells almost shut." It's not just over the counter hair dyes that can injure. Some salon dyes can cause extreme reactions. Bernadette Trella ended up atopic dermatitis from the hairdressers. "There seemed to be nothing I could do to ease it, whether I used ice, packs, whether I was washing my hair." Doctors pumped her with steroids."I've had my hair dyed at the hairdresser about three to four times and not had a patch test ever before with it ... My doctor basically said there was no way I could go near any of those dyes again" adds Bernadette.

Sharon Klemm treated her 17 year old daughter Kristy Lee to a salon hair colour, thinking she'd be in good hands - she suffered a severe swelling and infection and is lucky to be alive. A year on, her head's still flaking. The Professional Hairdresser's Association advises if you're having colour, a patch test is essential to indicate reactions.