Hair Burn

Reporter: Jonathan Creek

The price of fashion -- scarred, disfigured, bald or burnt - an everyday risk if you colour your hair. Kylie Miller never thought a trip to the hairdresser would leave her scarred for life. Last New Years Eve she went to an inner Melbourne salon to have highlights put in her hair -- the process involves using a steamer to help the colour take. "It got to a point where I couldn't cope anymore and tried to get myself out from under the steamer, at which point the lady next to me worked out that there was a problem and asked if she could help", Kylie added.

By the time help arrived, it was too late. Kylie was left with a six centimetre by twelve centimetre thermal burn, through to the bone. It's sensitive to the sun and there's no hope of hair ever growing back. And Kylie isn't alone. 85% of Australian women dye their hair -- sometimes with devastating results. 14-year-old Brittany Cooer was rushed to hospital after suffering an anaphylactic shock brought on by hair dye. Sharon McGuire's hair fell out after a routine cut and colour and then there is Louise Barry's burn. It's almost identical to Kylie's, except it was caused by chemicals not a steamer - the result was a wound that took months to heal. Adding to Kylie's pain is that the staff at the time didn't apologise. They demanded the full $200 for being steamed like a vegetable. Medical bills and scalp surgery will cost Kylie close to $5,000. Owner Simon Barr says it's all a misunderstanding, with the compensation claim in the hands of the insurance company. "Obviously we admit negligence for that to have happened", he said.

Danielle McIlwain is the head colourist at Fancapelli Hair Academy and she says the increasing number of accidents at hair salons is a result of the growing number of overseas hairstylists coming to Australia, "That the government is bringing in, because there is such a shortage. They are under skilled and under qualified to work in our country -- they don't meet our standards", she said.