Hair-raising ordeal after bad reaction to dye

Louise Honeyman used to dye her own hair up until five years ago when “I swelled up very badly, and, since then, I’ve only trusted hairdressers to do it”.

She visited Style On Cue at the Glengarry Shopping Centre, in Vredekloof, to have her hair done (it cost R1 300), but she reacted badly to one of the Schwarzkopf products the stylist used and spent the night on a drip at the Durbanville Mediclinic.

The Durbanville woman asked me to help her get compensation from the salon.

Style on Cue first offered Ms Honeyman R2 000 and a voucher, which she rejected. They then upped their offer to R3 200 but withdrew it when I refused to drop the story.

After I contacted Henkel, importers of the Schwarzkopf products, the cosmetic house agreed to pay a dermatologist to do allergy tests.

“I was assured that Schwarzkopf Igora Royal Senea was ‘safe and cannot cause an allergic reaction as it doesn’t enter the bloodstream, it’s even safe in pregnancy’ and does not contain Paraphenylenediamine (PPD), the likely cause of any adverse reaction,” Ms Honeyman said.

“When the stylist did the patch test on my arm and there was no reaction, we continued the process. Then I started scratching my scalp like crazy, but the hairdresser said it was okay as long as it didn’t burn, and she helped me to wash the dye off my fingers. About three hours later, my scalp broke out into sores, and that night I had to go to the Durbanville Mediclinic for a drip (R1 800),” Ms Honeyman said.

“The next day, the hairdresser took pictures and sent them to Schwarzkopf for an opinion. The rep told her it was not the dye and it may have been the shampoo or treatment.

“A Schwarzkopf sales manager and an educator were also adamant that it was not an allergic reaction – until I sent the medical report and photos. It appears I am the ‘only person globally’ who is allergic to this specific product,” Ms Honeyman claimed.

“No one wants to admit that something went wrong. And I want compensation: R1 800 for the medical bill and R1 300 for the salon visit.”

Suzette Schultz and her husband, Alex, of Johannesburg, who apparently co-own the salon with Aniska van Zyl, offered R2 000, including a voucher, but Ms Honeyman said it was not acceptable.

Ms Schultz then offered her R3 200 in full and final settlement, on condition that Off My Trolley did not publish the story. But it doesn’t work that way.

Ms Schultz also claimed I did not ask her for comment. However, I copied the email I sent Henkel (importers of Schwarzkopf products) on October 8 to the salon, but it was ignored just as my two phone calls weren’t returned.

When I refused to retract the story, Style on Cue withdrew the offer, and Ms Schultz said their lawyer, Johan Oosthuizen, advised that “they do not engage us any further on this issue”.

“Mr Oosthuizen also asked me to inform you that your article will be read in detail to confirm that it is not negative to Style on Cue,” Ms Schultz said.

Mr Oosthuizen told Ms Honeyman in an email: “I have advised my client not to offer any compensation. Any publication will not be taken lightly. I suggest you take any discomfort or negative reactions up with Schwarzkopf. My client did not do anything to harm you and, with your permission, applied a professional product. I understand that you had some discomfort, but we cannot be held responsible.”

So I spoke to Schwarzkopf’s communications manager, Tracy Mitchley, who said they were concerned to hear about Ms Honeyman’s allergic reaction.

“Our service team spoke to the hairdresser and the client, and we understand they are trying to find an amicable solution.

“However, we will ask Ms Honeyman for more information to help us to assess the circumstances and provide further support to her,” said Ms Mitchley, who explained that all their cosmetic products fully complied with the applicable legislation and health-and-safety requirements.

“Regardless of how thoroughly a product has been formulated, permanent hair colourations can cause severe allergic reactions. General precautions and potential risks are indicated on packs and on our website.

“In case of doubt, consumers should consult a doctor before using the product or having it applied by a hairdresser,” she said.

When I told Ms Mitchley that Style On Cue’s lawyer had advised them to withdraw the offer, she said Ms Honeyman should consult a dermatologist to do an allergy test and they would foot the bill.

Henkel also gave Ms Honeyman a questionnaire which was sent to their internal dermatologists.

“It seems likely Ms Honeyman did develop a reaction to one of the ingredients but the information is confidential,” Ms Mitchley said.

However, the Panorama dermatologist found that Ms Honeyman was allergic to PPD and Senea.

The bill totalled R2 264, which Henkel paid.

Ms Honeyman could lodge a claim against Henkel and Style On Cue under the Consumer Protection Act for damage caused through product failure, hazard or defect and she wouldn’t have to prove that the supplier was negligent.

The act defines harm as death, illness, financial loss or physical damage.