The moment you realize you should have consulted a professional before turning your fingers bright orange with self-tanner or plucking your brows a hair too thin might feel like the end of the world, but a temporary setback does not a DIY beauty horror story make. Developing severe chemical burns on your scalp from at-home bleaching gone awry, however? Well, that fiasco certainly fits the bill.
Inspired by the trendy “unicorn” hair-color craze we’re seeing everywhere these days, Kirsty Weston, a 29-year-old mother from Hertfordshire, England, purchased an inexpensive box of high-strength powder bleach from a local shop to lighten up her dark brown hair. The Daily Mail reports that, despite her claims that she followed the exact instructions given on the package, Weston started to experience a severe burning sensation just minutes after applying the bleach.
“Within 15 minutes, my hair was literally smoking. The pain was so excruciating that I started to feel dizzy, like I was going to faint,” Weston said in an interview with the Mail. “It happened quite suddenly. I could feel that it was quite warm, but it got so much worse very quickly. I immediately went to wash it all off, but I think it had already got into my scalp.” The next day, she said, her face started to swell, so she suspected that was having an allergic reaction. She went to the emergency room, where she was treated for her symptoms and released with a prescription for antibiotics.
The pain and discomfort lingered for weeks, until Weston — whose mother is a professional hairdresser — returned to the hospital and discovered that the “allergic reaction” she was suffering from wasn’t an allergy at all, but severe burns covering her head. “A plastic surgeon came to see me and when they lifted my hair, most of my scalp came away with it,” she said. (The Daily Mail has photos of the aftermath, but be warned: They're brutal.)
Since the incident, Weston has had six operations and spent six weeks in a hospital unit for burn victims. She’s lost more than half of her hair, and was given a skin graft taken from her thigh to cover the skin she lost on her head. Because the new graft doesn’t have the same type of hair follicles, doctors believe that Weston will never be able to grow hair there again. It’s now suspected that Weston left out the necessary step of mixing the straight powder bleach with the proper developer, which was not included in the kit.
“I was trying to save some money, but bleach is dangerous stuff,” Weston told the Mail. “I would tell other people to just go to a professional who knows what they are doing … I worry about this being sold to people who don't know what they are doing.” Since the incident, she says, "I've completely lost my self-confidence."
Kate Reid, a professional colorist and the design director of Kevin.Murphy’s Color.Me, puts it simply: “At-home bleaching freaks me out.” When you purchase products on your own from the store, Reid explains, you’re not able to take the condition of your scalp and hair into consideration as a trained expert would. “Every head of hair, scalp, and skin is different, and need to be treated that way,” she says.
Weston’s story goes to show that your hair color isn’t the only thing you risk wreaking havoc on when you decide to go it alone in the interest of saving money. Going to a licensed stylist can be expensive, but when it comes to something with this much potential for disaster, it’s definitely worth the extra cash. And in this case, when your mom is a professional hairdresser, it's safe to say she definitely knows best.