HAIRDRESSERS could face legal action if clients develop new and potentially life-threatening allergic reactions to hair dye after having Covid-19 and have not been offered a recent sensitivity test, a legal expert has said.

The National Hair and Beauty Federation (NHBF), which represents businesses across the UK, has urged salon owners to stay vigilant and adhere to safety guidance, saying there can be a ‘heightened reaction’  to the chemicals in hair colour after serious illness.

While there is no concrete scientific evidence yet, patients with so-called ‘Long Covid’ believe an increase in allergies post-virus may be another symptom. Research has shown that in around 15 percent of people battling any serious infection, the immune system remains ‘over-stimulated’ after the virus is no longer a threat.

The hairdressing industry is not formally regulated but it is considered good practice to ‘patch test’ all new clients, where a small amount of dye is placed on the client’s skin, 48  hours before an appointment.

READ MORE: Edinburgh GP brands lack of Scottish Long Covid clinics a 'slow motion car crash' 

This should also include those who have experienced a new medical condition but the guidance for regular clients is less clear.

The NHBF said it should be done once a year while others advocate for every six months. The Glasgow franchise of UK-brand Toni & Guy patch test all colour clients every three months.

Most allergic reactions are mild, but occasionally a severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can occur which can be life-threatening.

One owner shared an image online of a regular client who suffered a reaction ten minutes after having a patch test - the dye is normally left on the skin for 24 hours - and said it was the second case she had experienced.


Charlotte Barker, a L’Oreal Colour Specialist, also shared her experience online of having to call an ambulance to her salon earlier this year after a regular client suffered a more serious reaction. She removed the colour immediately and gave the client antihistamine and was praised for her actions by paramedics.

She said:  “Covid like any other illness affects the immune system.

“There is nothing within our industry to state that we do need to do skin tests. Bare in mind that some people might not even know they have had Covid.”

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Jennifer Watson, of Scottish legal firm Digby Brown, who specialises in beauty industry claims, said a failure to offer patch tests could lead to claims, “if the medical expert could link the reaction to the hairdressing treatment.” 

She added: “If a client is getting the same colour or treatment but has had a change of circumstances such as a new medical condition, or hasn’t been to the salon in over 6 months then it is considered good practice to carry out an updated patch test before proceeding with the treatment.”

However, it is not clear how much of an onus would be on clients themselves to notify salons if they have had Covid.

Patch test advice would also apply to beauty salons offering services such as eyebrow and eyelash tinting. 

READ MORE: What researchers know about the long-term effects of Long Covid 

A spokeswoman for the NHBF said: “While millions of people have their hair coloured every year without any problems, a small number of people can have a severe allergic reaction to some of the ingredients in hair colour in the same way that some people are allergic to certain foods. 

“On occasion there can be a heightened reaction after any serious illness. 

“Salon owners will need to be extra vigilant when clients request hair colour services. It is important to carry out a post-lockdown consultation with your client.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The clinical community look at all reported effects of Covid-19 and the Chief Scientist’s Office have launched a call for applied research proposals designed to improve understanding of the longer term effects of Covid on physical and mental health and wellbeing in Scotland, and research with the aim of developing effective clinical interventions to support recovery and rehabilitation.”