Woman needed a skin graft on her head after hair bleach caused horrific chemical burns

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A woman who experienced horrifying chemical burns after having her hair bleached has claimed she was left needing a skin graft on her head and with a permanent bald patch.

Ellie Swain, 24, from Sutton, Surrey, booked in with a hairdresser at Signatures Hair Studio in Crawley, West Sussex, for scalp bleach treatment to lighten her brunette hair in May 2021. It is understood that the studio deny responsibility for the injuries, but failed to provide a response for publication when approached.

The beauty fanatic claims she began to feel a burning sensation on her head just ten minutes after the bleach was applied.

Days later her scalp blistered and began oozing pus and she claims she was told she had suffered serious ‘chemical’ burns.

Horrifying photos show how in the end she was forced to have half of her head shaved and a skin graft from her thigh to replace dead skin on the back of her head.

Ellie Swain, 24, (pictured) from Sutton, Surrey, claims she was left with horrific chemical burns after having her hair bleached at Signatures Hair Studio in Crawley, West Sussex

Ellie Swain, 24, (pictured) from Sutton, Surrey, claims she was left with horrific chemical burns after having her hair bleached at Signatures Hair Studio in Crawley, West Sussex

Ellie said her scalp blistered and began oozing pus just days after having her hair bleached and required medical treatment. Pictured: In hospital having her scalp burns dressed

Ellie said her scalp blistered and began oozing pus just days after having her hair bleached and required medical treatment. Pictured: In hospital having her scalp burns dressed

Ellie (pictured in hospital) claims she will have to wear hair extensions for the rest of her life because of the bald patch she was left with

Ellie (pictured in hospital) claims she will have to wear hair extensions for the rest of her life because of the bald patch she was left with

The travel worker will now need to wear extensions for the rest of her life to hide the bald patch measuring ten by seven centimetres.

Ellie said: ‘About three or four days after [getting my scalp bleached] my scalp started to blister and it was oozing with puss.

‘I went to the doctors and was prescribed antibiotics because I had an infection. I just thought hopefully the antibiotics will kick in and it will be okay.

‘About a week passed and then my head basically began to turn black and I started to lose feeling, it was really numb.

‘I went to A&E and they were trying to clean the area because my hair was basically matted to the burn.

‘I don’t think they could really see the severity of the burn because my hair was stuck to it and I didn’t want to have it shaved off so they prescribed more antibiotics.

Ellie said she was prescribed antibiotics for an infection when she initially went to the doctors about her scalp's reaction to the treatment

Ellie said she was prescribed antibiotics for an infection when she initially went to the doctors about her scalp’s reaction to the treatment 

Ellie said she went to A&E after her head began to turn black and she started to lose feeling, however she didn't want to shave her hair so was given more antibiotics. Pictured: Signatures Hair Studio in Crawley

Ellie said she went to A&E after her head began to turn black and she started to lose feeling, however she didn’t want to shave her hair so was given more antibiotics. Pictured: Signatures Hair Studio in Crawley

Ellie was rushed back to hospital after her head began pouring blood, where a surgeon told her that had no other option than to have a skin graft. Pictured: Ellie's bandaged thigh after having a skin graft taken to replace necrotic skin

Ellie said she broke down in hospital. Pictured Having her burns dressed

Ellie was rushed back to hospital after her head began pouring blood, where a surgeon then told her that she had no other option than to have a skin graft. Pictured left: Ellie’s bandaged thigh after having a skin graft taken to replace necrotic skin. Pictured right: Ellie in hospital after having her burns dressed

‘But a couple of days after that my head was pouring blood and I was losing hair so I called 111 and they told me I needed to go to hospital straight away.

‘Then I didn’t have any option but to shave my head at the back and it revealed a ten by seven centimetre black burn, covering almost the whole back of my head.

‘The surgeon came in and said because I’d lost the feeling the skin was all dead and I had no other option than to have a skin graft. I just completely broke down. It was awful.

‘I will never get growth on the skin graft part because my hair follicles were completely killed.

Ellie said she had previously visited the hair salon for a balayage, where no product was applied to her scalp. Pictured: Ellie's hair when it was infected and burns on her scalp

Ellie said she had previously visited the hair salon for a balayage, where no product was applied to her scalp. Pictured: Ellie’s hair when it was infected and burns on her scalp

Ellie said she began to feel a burning sensation about 15 minutes after her hair treatment began and demanded that it was washed off. Pictured: Ellie after suffering chemical burns

Ellie said she began to feel a burning sensation about 15 minutes after her hair treatment began and demanded that it was washed off. Pictured: Ellie after suffering chemical burns

‘It’s hard to understand. You don’t expect to go to the hairdresser and then have life changing injuries and scars.’

Ellie said she first visited the salon a year earlier for a treatment after friends recommended it, but as she opted for a balayage no product was applied to her scalp.

After the first successful appointment she felt confident returning to the stylist in May last year to have her entire head of hair lightened.

She claims the hairdresser applied the bleach all over her head before covering it in plastic.

Ellie said: ‘After about ten to 15 minutes or so I started to feel a burning sensation and eventually I got up and basically demanded that she wash it off.

Ellie claims the hairdresser sent her home with an ice pack and told her to return in the morning so she could try and'fix' her hair. Pictured: Ellie in hospital for a skin graft

Pictured: Some of Ellie's hair that had to be cut off after the scalp burns

Ellie claims the hairdresser sent her home with an ice pack and told her to return in the morning so she could try and ‘fix’ her hair. Pictured: Ellie in hospital for a skin graft and having had some of her hair cut off

Ellie had her hair cut to shoulder length the morning after her initial appointment, however her injuries continued to worsen. Pictured: Ellie's scalp after being burned

Ellie had her hair cut to shoulder length the morning after her initial appointment, however her injuries continued to worsen. Pictured: Ellie’s scalp after being burned 

‘My whole head felt like it was on fire. When she took the plastic off it was like when you open an oven door – steam just rose from my head.

‘When she washed it off my hair was bright yellow and all of it was fried and then she applied another colourant to try and take away the yellowness.

‘After about five minutes I said to her you need to take this off, my head was literally on fire and my hair was fried and damaged.’

Ellie claims the hairdresser conditioned and plaited her hair before sending her home with an ice pack and telling her to return in the morning so she could try and ‘fix’ her hair.

The following morning her previously long healthy locks, which reached the bottom of her back, had to be cut off to shoulder length because of the damage caused by the bleach.

Ellie said it'devastating' having to take skin from her thigh for her skin graft at the specialist burns unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Pictured: Ellie's permanent bald patch

Ellie said it ‘devastating’ having to take skin from her thigh for her skin graft at the specialist burns unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Pictured: Ellie’s permanent bald patch

As the days progressed her injuries worsened and she was forced to visit the A&E department at St Helier Hospital in Surrey, where doctors confirmed she had an infection and prescribed her with antibiotics.

When two courses of antibiotics didn’t resolve the issue doctors shaved the back of Ellie’s head, revealing the serious burn and black necrotic skin.

She was then transferred to the specialist burns unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital where she underwent a skin graft surgery on 17th June to replace the dead area of her scalp with skin from her thigh.

Ellie said: ‘I still had a bit of hair on my crown and round the sides but all of the underneath was gone. I’d gone from hair to the bottom of my back to nothing.

Ellie (pictured) who has been having counselling since the injury, said she has been using hair extensions to cover the bald patch and create the illusion of having fuller hair

Ellie (pictured) who has been having counselling since the injury, said she has been using hair extensions to cover the bald patch and create the illusion of having fuller hair 

‘The other thing that was devastating as well was that they had to take skin from my thigh so I knew I was going to be left with another scar that was even more visible.

Ellie said'you don't expect to go to the hairdresser and then have life changing injuries and scars'. Pictured: Ellie at Signatures Hair Studio in Crawley, West Sussex,

Ellie said ‘you don’t expect to go to the hairdresser and then have life changing injuries and scars’. Pictured: Ellie at Signatures Hair Studio in Crawley, West Sussex,

‘My self confidence just literally went to zero – I didn’t leave my house unless it was for a hospital appointment.

‘I am a pretty confident person in general and I do care about the way I look and it just completely took it away from me, I was devastated.’

As well as ongoing check-ups on her scalp and microneedling to reduce the scar on her thigh, Ellie has had counselling to cope with the traumatic injury and its effect on her confidence.

She has been able to attach extensions to cover her ‘lifelong’ bald patch, since the hair around the skin graft on her scalp has slowly begun to regrow.

The travel worker now hopes to raise awareness about the severity of injuries you can suffer from bleach treatments.

Ellie added: ‘The hair around it has started to grow a bit but it is really slow and weak.

‘I’ve had to get extensions put in to cover the bald patch and make it look like I’ve got fuller hair.’

Kennedy News contacted Signatures Hair Studio but they declined to comment.  

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