Thursday, June 20, 2013
Should you Sue your Hairstylist?
In my opinion, there are accidents and then there are acts of gross negligence. Let's discuss what I think is considered gross negligence, and you should have no problem winning a lawsuit against a hairstylist.
1) Gross Negligence is when manufacturer's instructions are not followed resulting in immediate hair loss.
Example: If the hairstylist is not using the proper measuring cup for sensitive scalp relaxers. In the picture above, the measuring cup on the left is for Avlon's Affirm, Fiberguard Affirm relaxers. The measuring cup on the right is for Design Essentials Sensitive Scalp relaxers. There are lines on the measuring cups. The activator liquid should be as precise as possible when mixing the sensitive scalp relaxer. In the picture below, I have an almost expired tub of sensitive scalp relaxer and the appropriate measuring cup. So when does this procedure become gross negligence? If the hairstylist scoops out half of a "fresh" tub to conserve on product to possibly get two uses out of one "small" tub of sensitive scalp relaxer then she/he pours activator liquid into the reduced amount of relaxer without using the designated measuring cup. So in essence, the stylist creates a "beyond super strength" customized relaxer and then puts it on the client's hair, and the client's hair breaks off 3 inches in the bowl and the cuticle is blown wide open. This is gross negligence. The activator liquid is the "fire" that makes the sensitive scalp relaxers work. This mixing of a chemical should follow the manufacturer's direction exactly. If the hairstylist uses another brand of neutralizing shampoo, then that is not gross negligence. That is just bad practice. But again, mixing the chemical improperly is gross negligence in my opinion.
Some of you may think that this story is far fetch, but I assure you it is not. I was the customer when this happened to me and the hairstylist that ruined my hair that day still avoids me at all cost. The only way that I knew what happened was because I had brought my own relaxer system with me because she was out. (Flag!) Then she attempted to base my scalp with "Equate petroleum jelly" until I told her "no." So she borrowed another stylist's proper relaxer base appplicator bottle. (Flag!) After my hair length went from below my chin in the front to cheek level by the time that I left the salon, I just sucked the situation up until when I got back to my own salon and unpacked my relaxer system and realized that there was a half a tub of relaxer in my bag. I called her to ask what did she do . . . she explained exactly what I described to you. She was a "discount" stylist and was trying to conserve on relaxer. After later researching how sensitive scalp relaxers work, I concluded that the permanent color (double processed hair) in the front and the "Super, Super Strength" relaxer concoction she created broke my hair off immediately. She admitted that she did not notice the permanent color in my hair until after the relaxer service. So did I sue her? "No" Could I have sued her? "Yes" She did not follow the manufacturer's directions. I had a half tub of sensitive scalp relaxer as proof plus some before and after pictures.
On a separate note, sensitive scalp relaxers should be immediately used after mixing them because they become increasingly unstable. A hairstylist should NOT pre-mix the sensitive scalp relaxer to save time and store in the refrigerator. A sensitive scalp relaxer mixed too soon before application can be more aggressive on the hair and cause some breakage. This bad practice in my opinion is not gross negligence, but I would be cautious if the relaxer feels cool during the application process. And yes, I had a different hairstylist who used to refrigerate the sensitive scalp relaxers that she pre-mixed. I personally do not offer sensitive scalp relaxers because long term they have been proven to be more drying to the hair. In addition, the Affirm relaxer line has improved to the point that it is tolerable for all clients including those with sensitive scalps.
2) Gross negligence is also experimenting on a client with a new chemical without knowing the ingredients or the chemical base of the new product causing immediate breakage due to chemical incompatibility.
Example: It is basic knowledge from "hair school" that thio based chemicals and relaxers are NOT compatible because they soften two different hair bonds. Typically, thio based chemicals produce a distinct smell when applied. So if the chemical procedure has a strong odor, then that is a "clue" to you that it may be a thio based process and should not be applied to a client with previously relaxed hair. Breakage will occur if those two chemicals meet. So with that said, some manufacturers will promote Keratin based services with a thio derivative to avoid saying it is thio based which is deceptive marketing. If it is a thio derivative, then it still is not compatible to hydroxide based relaxers. Some "texturizers" are also thio based. I believe "Vigorol" is also a thio based liquid relaxer which is NOT compatible with traditional relaxers.
As a consumer, you should have the hairstylist write down the exact name of the "new" chemical that is being used so you can research the product in case you see abnormal changes with your hair.
All other "hair accidents" are just that "accidents." If the hairstylist is overworked, lapse in judgement can happen. In addition, some hair types respond differently to different procedures.
Also, hair extensions can cause damage to the hair during the removal process. So if someone is wearing adhesive based hair extensions for three years straight, then yes, they may expect some damage has occurred over a three year span of removal and re-applications. Who is at fault? I believe that the courts would rule that hair extensions as well as relaxers are "use at your own risk" because both processes can cause damage, but most people take the risk because they like the finished look of a successful service.
Consumers should know that hairstylists are on the "front line." If the manufacturers change their ingredients, then hairstylists are at the mercy of the new formula working, and customers must being patient enough to work through any additional changes that need to be made to continue achieving successful results.
Hair is a practice like a doctor/dentist/attorney. It is never going to be perfect for everyone all the time. We all make the best of it by continuing to learn and progress. Let me know if you have questions about a particular hair situation.
Also, if you pursue small claims court, it may cost you over $90 to file the case. So if your hair service in question costs less than $100 then why pay $90 trying to get $90?
So, unless the hair service costs over $200, then I do not recommend pursuing small claims court to get a refund. Most professional hairstylists will refund some monies before it gets that far.