Afro-Caribbean hair is dryer than any other hair type, and therefore more susceptible to damage including breakage, thinning and baldness. The risks of long-term use of hair extensions has been in the news recently, with several high profile figures including Naomi Campbell pictured apparently suffering from a hair loss condition known as traction alopecia. Hair loss may have many other potential causes however. Hair may be over-processed at salons, particularly during straightening and perming treatments. Afro-Caribbean hair is more likely than any other hair type to get damaged during these procedures. Other treatments including dyeing and bleaching pose an additional threat if the chemical-based solutions used are too strong for a particular hair or skin type. Essentially therefore Afro-Caribbean hair is the most fragile of hair types, and hair loss among black women following hair treatments is unfortunately common.
During hair straightening (also known as relaxing) hot irons may either be heated to the wrong temperature, or may be applied to the hair for too long by a hairdresser. In both cases the hair will then dry out, and may begin to break or fall out. Heat-based treatments such as straightening may also cause burn injuries to clients, potentially leading to scarring and skin discolouration. Burn injuries may also be caused if chemicals such as those found in hair dyes are spilled onto the skin, poorly prepared or left in the hair for too long. Often salons fail to carry out a hair strand test on new customers, something that is incredibly important for black women due to the sensitivity of Afro-Caribbean hair. Poorly performed styling procedures, including braiding, weaving, plaits and ponytails may also place excessive tension on hair follicles, potentially resulting in temporary or permanent hair loss.
One particular problem faced by women with Afro-Caribbean skin is when scalp disorders and cuts cause keloid scarring. Keloid scars are red, raised scars that often continue to enlarge over time as scar tissue continues to form long after the healing process should be complete. Keloid scarring may be the result of a cut from a hairdresser's scissors, or an improperly performed procedure such as weaving or perming. Burn injuries from chemicals in hair salon products may form prominent keloid scars on the scalp or face. When this is accompanied by hair loss and bald patches, the results can be extremely distressing. Some of our clients have developed agoraphobia and even depression following these types of injury. In other cases they have been forced to take prolonged periods of time off work, representing considerable loss of earnings. All these factors are considered for the purposes of a compensation claim.
The other major issue for those with Afro-Caribbean skin types is the possibility of hyperpigmentation developing following a cut or burn. In such cases the area of affected skin produces excessive amounts of melanin during the healing process. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes, which control skin colour. Known medically as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, when skin cells are damaged excess melanin causes the skin to darken. The effects of hyperpigmentation on a person may be similar to those caused by keloid scarring. They may suffer from a perception of deformity which may have knock-on consequences in all areas of their life. Where hyperpigmentation is the result of a burn or cut caused by the negligence of inexperienced, poorly trained or inattentive hair salon staff, compensation may be claimed for the injury itself, emotional trauma, loss of earnings and the cost of medical treatments, including cosmetic surgery.