The UK beauty services industry appears to be immune to prevailing economic conditions, with the number of high street salons continuing to grow at a rate of 10% a year. Two prevailing factors explain the health of the sector. Firstly people seem to be prepared to forgo most other luxuries ahead of beauty treatments and pampering which make them look and feel good. Secondly beauty salons have succeeded in appealing to a younger audience, influenced by the cult of celebrity which values physical looks above everything else. Surveys show that over a quarter of beauty salon customers now come from the 18-30 age group. The number of small salons has increased markedly to meet growing demand, and 75% of businesses in the sector have fewer than 5 employees. The industry is completely unregulated in the UK, making setting up a salon relatively straightforward. While this ensures that smaller enterprises can compete with larger rivals, it also means that many professionals in the industry lack any training, qualifications, or the necessary experience to perform beauty treatments competently and safely. This is leading to more and more injuries among salon customers every year.
Many treatments at beauty salons require therapists to apply strong chemical solutions or heated substances such as wax to sensitive areas of the body. New customers should always be offered a skin patch test at least 48 hours before a treatment is carried out to ensure a product is safe to use. They may suffer an allergic reaction to waxing products, or more commonly to chemicals contained in dyes used during procedures such as eyelash tinting. Many solutions used in beauty treatments contain highly toxic chemicals which can severely damage skin if they are spilled, mixed incorrectly or poorly applied. Intensive chemical peels involve solutions containing phenol (carbolic acid), which will burn the skin if it is not removed at exactly the right moment. Eyelash dyes meanwhile contain peroxide and ammonia which may cause blindness in extreme cases if spilled in the eye. Different hair removal waxes require heating to different temperatures, and mistakes by a therapist in this area may lead to burns, blistering, swelling and unsightly scarring. It is this combination of toxic and heated solutions in the hands of negligent staff which poses the biggest danger to beauty salon customers.
There are numerous other situations in which poorly trained or inattentive therapists can injure their clients. During waxing for example, the strips may be removed too quickly, causing the skin to tear and bleed. This can lead to rashes, ingrown hairs, pain, embarrassment and infection. Eyelash extensions may be attached with too much glue, or may be too heavy, resulting in the natural eyelashes being gradually torn out. More generally an unhygienic beauty salon will provide a breeding ground for bacteria which may cause infections among clients. It is essential therefore that all surfaces and equipment are routinely and effectively disinfected. Equipment used at beauty salons should also be regularly inspected to ensure it is safe to use. A malfunctioning sunbed or IPL laser for example could cause permanent blindness if the eye’s outer layer (cornea) is over-exposed and burned.
Despite the lack of specific industry regulations, customers are still protected against negligent beauty therapists and salon staff by basic consumer laws. Clients have a right to expect that their treatment will be performed to a reasonable standard, similar to that which they could have expected had they taken their business elsewhere. Damages for botched beauty treatments will reflect the full and ongoing effects that an injury has caused. An injured person may therefore claim for loss of enjoyment if they have been forced to miss or cancel a special occasion, or for psychological injuries such as extreme self-consciousness or loss of sexual desire. Compensation claims do not usually end up in court, as salons and therapists have public liability insurance to protect them in the event of a claim from an injured customer. It is always best to seek the advice of a specialist lawyer with experience of injuries at beauty salons if you wish to make a claim. Solicitors will normally handle cases on a no win no fee basis, meaning there will be nothing to pay win or lose.