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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Low-income residents in UAE facing burn risk from 'illegal' cheap hair dye

Leading physician calls for clampdown after resident hospitalised

A woman has her hair dyed professionally. Doctors have warned against using cheap hair dyes lest they cause burns or reactions. 
A woman has her hair dyed professionally. Doctors have warned against using cheap hair dyes lest they cause burns or reactions. 

Low-income residents are at risk of injuries and burns when they purchase cheap hair dye, a leading physician has said.

Marwan Al Zarouni, head of plastic surgery at Rashid Hospital in Dubai, spoke out after a particularly severe case in which a woman suffered chemical burns after dying her sister’s hair without gloves and needed to be admitted for four days of treatment. Her fingers had swollen to twice their normal size.

The physician said low quality imported dye, sold over the counter in shops, often did not include protective equipment. He is concerned that the true extent of the injuries the products are causing may be vastly underestimated as the low-income groups attracted to the cheap products are also the least likely to seek out medical care.

The 29-year-old patient he recently treated, who wished to remain anonymous, had previously injured herself with hair dye but used it again with bare hands because she was “in a hurry”. The second case proved more serious, forcing the resident to seek professional care after trying unsuccessfully to treat her injuries with moisturiser for four days.

A woman's hands are badly burned after attempting to colour her sister's hair using a cheap dye. Courtesy Rashid Hospital
A woman's hands are badly burned after attempting to colour her sister's hair using a cheap dye. Courtesy Rashid Hospital

Dr Al Zarouni said that more effort is needed to educate people about the dangers of chemicals that can be found in cheap hair dye and called for tougher regulations on the products, some of which he suspects may be smuggled into the country illegally. Use of dyes in salons is subject to heavy regulation to protect hairdressers and customers, he said, but there is little protection for users of shop-bought products.

“We need to reach the people through proper channels,” he said. “We need to spread awareness. We also need to have more control of the shops and what they are selling.

“We see only a few cases only because the majority don’t come to us, because the people that do this are the low-income people and they don’t seek the healthcare services. The people with better incomes will go to the salon. I think it’s only the severe cases that come to us.

“Usually, they buy this dye from the neighbourhood shop, it’s very cheap and the material is sometimes sold illegally or brought in illegally.”

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Respected hair dye brands will provide detailed instructions and safety equipment. However, Dr Al Zarouni said these were often not included in the dyes causing problems as they were designed to be made as cheaply as possible. The chemicals themselves are also more likely to cause swelling and burning, he said.

He described his recent patient, who he treated last month, as being in severe pain and distress when she arrived at his hospital with blisters covering her hands. She is believed to have suffered an allergic reaction as well as chemical burns. Those attempting to ignore pain or attempting to treat themselves risk further complications such as infections, he warned.

“People don’t take this seriously,” he said. “But once they arrive at our emergency room they realise it is serious.

“We need better of control of this. Everybody thinks that all of these materials you will find only in the salons, and that’s why we put rules and regulations there. But actually there are other people who have low incomes who go to the neighbourhood shops, which are not under the Ministry of Health. We need more control over that to prevent such injuries.”

The incident follows a court case last month about a Moroccan woman suffered scalp burns and lost much of her hair following a botched beauty treatment in Dubai in February. She was also treated at Rashid Hospital. The hairdresser was convicted of endangering lives and was ordered to pay a Dh4,000 fine.