The UK beauty market has grown at an impressive rate over the past few years as it continues to broadens its appeal across age groups, demographics and price points. The success of the beauty industry does however have a downside, namely the fact that injuries from treatments at beauty salons continue to blight the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of women across the country every year. Such injuries are caused mainly by errors on the part of beauty therapists in failing to properly assess the suitability of clients for specific beauty treatments, or else in failing to carry them out in a reasonably competent manner. This in turn is due to the lack of statutory regulation of the industry in the UK, an issue that continues to generate fierce criticism from safety campaigners.
Problems mainly occur when poorly trained or unskilled beauty therapists handle and apply beauty products containing potentially dangerous chemicals, make mistakes while performing heat-based treatments, or fail to use the instruments involved in beauty procedures correctly. It is essential that the chemical solutions utilised in beauty treatments are prepared, handled and applied by skilled and experienced beauty therapists. Therapists should also be adequately trained in how to carry out specific treatments, thus ensuring that they perform them safely and to an acceptably high standard.
Accidents at the beauticians are particularly upsetting when a treatment is performed in advance and in anticipation of a special occasion. We have had clients who have been forced to miss holidays, family weddings and birthday parties due to injuries at their local beauty salon. Apart from compensation for pain and suffering, clients may also receive a separate award for 'loss of enjoyment' in these circumstances.
Injured persons may be ashamed of their appearance, especially if damage has been done to the face or scalp, and may be too self-conscious to go out in public. This may lead them to take time off work, and compensation awards often include 'special' damages for loss of earnings as well as the cost of specialist medical treatment, for example if you need to visit a consultant dermatologist. All related travel costs are also likely to be awarded.
Employees in any business serving the public are obliged to take reasonable care for the health and safety of their visitors. A beauty therapist is therefore expected to perform treatments in a reasonably competent manner, and to a standard that a client could expect to receive from other beauty professionals.
Compensation claims may be the result of errors made by beauty therapists during treatments, or else a beauty salon may be responsible for failing to provide adequate pre-treatment care. Skin patch tests are essential for new customers to detect potential allergies to chemicals and substances contained in beauty products. This should involve the testing a sample of a product on a small area of a client’s skin at least 24 hours before a treatment is carried out. Clients must also be provided with appropriate aftercare instructions where necessary.
The safe handling, storage and disposal of chemicals contained in beauty salon products is governed by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH). Many compensation claims for injuries at the beauticians are based on badly trained, unqualified or inexperienced therapists causing chemical burns through mishandling or missusing products.
In spite of calls for tighter industry regulation from bodies including the British Association of Dermatologists, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons and the British College of Aesthetic Medicine, the UK beauty treatment industry remains unregulated, meaning that no common safety standards are enforced industry-wide. While this situation is likely to change in the not too distant future, customers injured at beauty salons currently have no other option other than to seek legal advice if they wish to take action against a negligent beauty salon and seek compensation. It is worth remembering that a salon’s insurance cover will protect the owner or operator from the financial repercussions of a successful compensation claim being made against them.
In order to establish that a beauty salon was legally responsible for an accident, it will be necessary to show that a beauty therapist failed to use reasonable care and skill when carrying out a treatment and that their acts or omissions caused an injury. The benchmark for assessing whether a therapist breached the duty of care they owed a client in such circumstances is whether they carried out a procedure to the same standard that would be expected from a reasonably competent professional operating in the same industry. Where they fail in this regard, they and their employer can be held to have acted negligently, and will be obliged to pay compensation if their actions or lack of precautions resulted in a customer sustaining an injury.
The UK beauty industry’s lack of regulation and official oversight mean that salons are able to employ underqualified and inexperienced beauticians to perform what can be complicated beauty procedures involving chemicals, heated products (e.g. hot wax) and equipment and tools that need to be properly sterilized between treatments. A beautician may fail to follow a manufacturer’s instructions when preparing or applying a product, such as when wax is heated to an inappropriately and dangerously high temperature, or may simply use a product carelessly or a piece of equipment incorrectly. In any of these scenarios, the therapist is likely to be held responsible and the salon legally liable for any resulting injuries, for example, when overheated wax causes burns and potential scarring.
In addition, certain beauty procedures require that relatively extensive pre-treatment precautions are taken to ascertain whether a product is safe to use on a client, most notably a skin patch test to prevent allergic reactions when chemicals are being applied to the skin (e.g. during a chemical skin peel). A thorough medical consultation should also be carried out with prospective clients to detect any pre-existing allergies or other contraindications that make a particular treatment unsuitable for an individual. Beauty salon customers are further at risk of contracting post-procedural infections from unhygienic premises or unsterilized equipment, which can have extremely serious long-term consequences. Slips, trips and falls meanwhile may lead to injuries if a salon is cluttered or if liquids are spilled on the floor and not immediately cleared up. To summarise, there are numerous potential causes of accidents for which beauty salon proprietors can ultimately be held legally liable. Contact our female lawyers for free and reliable legal advice if you have been injured at a salon and believe that the beauty therapist and salon was responsible.
A recent client visited a beauty salon to have her eyebrows and face waxed in advance of her daughter’s wedding. Immediately after the treatment was carried out Mrs N’s skin was red and painful. The beautician recommended that she apply an aloe vera gel to soothe the skin and told her that the symptoms were entirely normal. Mrs N was still in pain the same evening, and when she awoke the next morning the skin on her eyebrows and upper lip was inflamed and sore. She saw her GP later the same day who diagnosed burn injuries caused by the hot wax applied at the salon, and informed her she was likely to be left with scarring that would take a long time to fully disappear. Mrs N was still able to attend her daughter’s wedding, but felt embarrassed and humiliated by her physical appearance that day, as well as when she returned to work to face clients and colleagues. Angry and upset about the situation, she decided to seek legal advice.
Mrs N contacted Bartletts Solicitors after reading about our firm’s experience with beauty treatment injury cases, and we subsequently agreed to represent her in a no win no fee compensation claim against the beauty salon in question. In correspondence with the salon we argued that the beautician had failed to use reasonable care and skill when carrying out the treatment, as the wax had been prepared at a temperature that was high enough to cause serious burns to Mrs N’s skin. Her burn injuries had also taken a significant toll on her confidence which negatively affected both her personal and working life. A specialist doctor’s report confirmed the extent of Mrs N’s burn injuries and the fact that she would be left with long-term scarring around her eyebrows. The beauty salon acknowledged liability for Mrs N’s injuries within a few months, and our client later received £4,750 from the parent company’s insurers.