The Cost of Beauty

Teenage girls have now replaced toddlers as the most at risk group from serious burns caused by hair straighteners and curling wands in the West of Scotland.

Now NHSGGC is launching a hard hitting campaign – backed by former Scottish Hairdresser of the year Gary Thomson – to raise awareness of the dangers and advise teenagers how to stay stylish and safe at the same time.

The hair styling tools, if not handled with care, present a real and present danger.

Hotter than a steaming iron they reach temperatures of 230°C  - and that’s 300 per cent hotter than a fresh cup of tea!

Our hospital staff say they are now regularly seeing severe skin burns resulting from teenage users dropping the straighteners or wands on their bare legs – or serious burns to their hands when they attempt to grab the falling tongs.

A few years ago staff at our children’s hospital launched a major awareness scheme due to the number of toddlers being brought into emergency departments with serious burns after standing on or picking up heated hair tongs that their mums were using and had left sitting on the floor or on a bedside while still switched on.

That campaign of awareness was really effective and encouraged more awareness of the dangers resulting in a sharp decline in injuries to young children.

Now it’s teenagers who need to be alerted to the risks.

Sharon Ramsay, Burns Nurse Specialist at the Royal Hospital for Children said: “Until recently it was mostly toddlers we saw here, where they had stood on them or picked them up.

“We are now seeing more teenagers, where girls have dropped the straighteners or curling wands onto their bare legs, which is really painful and can lead to scarring.

“We don’t want to tell girls not to use them - just to be very careful when using them and to remember that if they do drop them, resist the temptation to catch them! Another important tip is to make sure arms and legs are covered when using them.

Also, if they have young brothers and sisters it’s really important that the hair stylers are turned off and stored safely – preferably in a heat resistant bag.”

Teenagers have much thinner skin than older adults so the damage from such a serious burn can be very significant leaving unsightly scars and sometimes requiring plastic surgery to repair the skin.

Gemma aged 13 was treated by Sharon in the summer, when she got burned while doing her hair. She said:  “I was getting ready and the straighteners fell of the table because the wire was twisted. 

“I had nothing covering my legs and they landed on my left leg.  I didn’t think it was that bad but my mum and dad had to take me to hospital where they put a dressing on my leg.

“The dressing has now been removed but I am still having to use cream on the area that was burnt. 

“This has made me very cautious when using my straighteners.  I always have on long trousers or cover my legs with a towel.  I also make sure the wire is straight so they won’t fall.”

This latest NHSGGC campaign has the full  backing of former Scottish Hairdresser of the Year Gary Thomson.

Speaking from his south-side salon he said: “Hair straighteners and wands have revolutionised the hair industry but they come with a word of warning…

“In my business I often hear about girls, and salon staff included, who have dropped these appliances causing burns to legs and feet. If dropped by accident it’s a natural reaction to try and catch them resulting to bad burns to the hand.

“This is great campaign led by our local health board in Greater Glasgow and Clyde and me and my staff  will do everything we can to get behind it.”