Woman warns of salon dangers after sustaining chemical burns

'$170 color treatment led to thousands in medical bills,' woman says

ORLANDO, Fla. – A News 6 investigation into the world of beauty has revealed an ugly side many people have no idea exists.

While beauty salons and workers have to be licensed and pass a test to show just how sanitary they are, there is nothing regulating the industry or licensed stylists when it comes to what kind of insurance they have.

That is something one Orlando woman said she learned the hard way.

"I had no idea that I could walk into a salon and walk out permanently disfigured," said Morgan Reynolds, who says a $170 professional dye job back in 2014 led to thousand of dollars in medical bills.

Reynolds is no stranger to coloring her own hair. But she said when she decided to go from basic brown to platinum blonde, she knew she'd have to go to a professional.

"I was really excited," said Reynolds. "I'd never had my hair bleached before, so I was excited to be able to dye it pink."

Reynolds said she did her research, and picked a salon that had good reviews. She says she also had a friend who recommended a stylist there.

"I thought I was doing everything right," said Reynolds. "But as it turns out, there's a little bit more that you need to know."

One thing Reynolds said she did not check was whether the salon had insurance to cover things like a hair color catastrophe.

"That's not something you think about as a customer," said Reynolds. "You trust these people."

She said while she was getting her hair bleached by a licensed stylist at the salon, something went terribly wrong.

"She had already done half my hair and was moving on to this half, and it started burning," said Reynolds. "And I let her know. I asked if it was normal. And she said, 'Yes that could happen,'and just let me know if it gets really bad. And it did get really bad."

Reynolds said she told the stylist right away, and was surprised by her reaction.

"She had no idea what was going on, she didn't know I was being burned," said Reynolds. "She didn't know how to neutralize it. She tried to say it might be an allergic reaction."

Reynolds said she even went to a local clinic to check if it was just a reaction and was told to go to the emergency room immediately. She said she did -- and was diagnosed with a third-degree chemical burn on her scalp.

News 6 checked with both the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Florida Department of Education, and were told cosmetologists are required to complete 16 hours of continuing education every two years to keep their licenses. The education includes training on occupational safety and health measures, and knowing the chemical makeup of hair color.

Reynolds said if that's true, she doesn't understand how something like this could have happened to her with a licensed cosmetologist at the helm. She said it felt like someone was trying to rip her hair out during the color process.

And then she said pieces of her scalp and clumps of her hair started actually falling out two weeks later while she was in the shower.

"Got out of the shower and used a mirror to kind of see what was going on, and I saw the inside of my own head," said Reynolds while holding back tears.

Reynolds said not only did she have a gaping wound on her scalp, it would not heal without medical intervention.

"It was a full thickness chemical burn, which means that all of my skin was completely gone," said Reynolds. "For about the next 10 months, I was left with about 5 inches of my scalp exposed."

Reynolds said she was referred to a burn clinic and had to have thousands of dollars worth of medical treatments done, including multiple surgeries. In addition, she said she may have to have two to four more surgeries in the future.

Reynolds even contacted a local law firm to see what could be done, and a civil lawsuit was filed, but then dropped. She said when the attorneys finally got back to her, they told her the salon owner's general insurance didn't cover this kind of claim- and legally did not have to either. That left Reynolds high and dry, and drowning in medical bills.

Reynolds said she wants to warn everybody out there about the caustic and dangerous nature of high-powered hair bleach.

"And I'm just wondering how many stylists even know if someone is being burned, and what to do about it," said Reynolds.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation is aware of this case, but currently, can't comment on it.

But they state consumers can report any adverse reaction to a hair dye or any other cosmetic product by contacting the FDA's problem-reporting program at 1-800-332-1088, or you can access the link here about what the FDA does and does not regulate.

Search the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, here.

Since the civil lawsuit was dismissed for lack of prosecution by an Orange County judge, News 6 has chosen not to name the salon or stylist involved in this case. We are focusing only on Reynolds' experience to serve as a warning to others to do their research and ask questions before making any extreme hair color decisions.

We also checked with other stylists about what happened to Reynolds. One licensed stylist in Oklahoma City who asked to stay anonymous, said he often has his clients sign a waiver if they want any extreme color change or chemical processes performed on their hair. He also said some customers simply don't know to tell their stylist about their hair color history, hair processes history, or medical history -- not knowing that it could lead to altered color or process results.