A beauty fanatic claims she was left with horrifying chemical burns and needing a skin graft on her head after getting her hair bleached. Ellie Swain was left with a permanent bald batch after booking scalp treatment to lighten her brunette hair.
The 24-year-old claims she began to feel a burning sensation on her head just ten minutes after the bleach had been applied at a beauty salon in May 2021. Days later her scalp blistered and began oozing pus and she claims she was told she had suffered serious ‘chemical’ burns.
She was forced to have half of her head shaved off, and horrifying photos show a skin graft which was needed from her thigh to replace dead skin on the back of her head. The travel worker is now forced to wear extensions for the rest of her life to hide the bald patch, which measures ten by seven centimeters.
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Ellie said: “About three or four days after [getting my scalp bleached] my scalp started to blister and it was oozing with puss. I went to the doctors and was prescribed antibiotics because I had an infection. I just thought hopefully the antibiotics will kick in and it will be okay.
“About a week passed and then my head basically began to turn black and I started to lose feeling, it was really numb. I went to A&E and they were trying to clean the area because my hair was basically matted to the burn. I don ‘t think they could really see the severity of the burn because my hair was stuck to it and I didn’t want to have it shaved off so they prescribed more antibiotics.”
A couple of days later, Ellie claims her head was “pouring blood” and she was beginning to lose her hair so called 111. She says she was informed she needed to go to hospital straight away.
“Then I didn’t have any option but to shave my head at the back and it revealed a ten centimeter black burn, covering almost the whole back of my head,” she said. “The surgeon came in and said because I’d lost the feeling the skin was all dead and I had no other option than to have a skin graft. I just completely broke down. It was awful.
“I will never get growth on the skin graft part because my hair follicles were completely killed. It’s hard to understand. You don’t expect to go to the hairdresser and then have life changing injuries and scars.” The travel worker says she first visited the salon a year earlier for a treatment after friends recommended it, but as she opted for a balayage no product was applied to her scalp.
After the first successful appointment she felt confident returning to the stylist in May last year to have her entire head of hair lightened. She says the hairdresser applied the bleach all over Ellie’s head before covering it in plastic.
Ellie, from Sutton, Surrey, said: “After about ten to 15 minutes or so I started to feel a burning sensation and eventually I got up and basically demanded that she wash it off. My whole head felt like it was on fire. When she took the plastic off it was like when you open an oven door – steam just rose from my head.
“When she washed it off my hair was bright yellow and all of it was fried and then she applied another dye to try and take away the yellowness. After about five minutes I said to her you need to take this off, my head was literally on fire and my hair was fried and damaged.”
Ellie says the hairdresser conditioned and plaited her hair before sending her home with an ice pack and telling her to return in the morning so she could try and ‘fix’ her hair. The following morning her previously long healthy locks de ella, which reached the bottom of her back de ella, had to be cut off to shoulder length because of the damage caused by the bleach.
Following the skin graft Ellie was left with another scar. “My self confidence just literally went to zero – I didn’t leave my house unless it was for a hospital appointment,” she said. “I am a pretty confident person in general and I do care about the way I look and it just completely took it away from me, I was devastated.”
As well as ongoing check-ups on her scalp and microneedling to reduce the scar on her thigh, Ellie has had counseling to cope with the traumatic injury and its effect on her confidence. Now that the hair around the skin graft on her scalp has slowly begun to regrow, she has been able to attach extensions to cover her ‘lifelong’ bald patch.
She now hopes to raise awareness about the severity of injuries you can suffer from bleach treatments. Ellie said: “The hair around it has started to grow a bit but it is really slow and weak. I’ve had to get extensions put in to cover the bald patch and make it look like I’ve got fuller hair.”
The hair salon who gave the bleach treatment was contacted repeatedly but declined to comment.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.