Case study: Julie
Sector : Hairdressing
Condition: Allergic contact dermatitis
Julie has been a hairdresser for 17 years, initially working part-time for her mother-in-law, but increasing to full-time hours when she bought her own salon 10 years ago. After a while in full-time work, her hands became dry, cracked and sore, to the point that just wearing her wedding ring became unbearable.
Now and again her skin would worsen, so Julie went to see her doctor. He could not determine the cause of her condition and prescribed steroid cream to treat her painful hands. This treatment was unsuccessful, and so eventually she was referred to an allergy clinic.
Julie was diagnosed with contact dermatitis resulting from an allergy to two chemicals used in the colour application process. Her skin is sensitive even to dry, coloured hair as well as hair coloured months ago. Applying colour to her own hair also became a problem – resulting in severe scalp irritation. Julie’s consultant advised that it would be difficult for her to continue in hairdressing.
‘When I worked for my mother in law, she used to wash off the tints – and put them on – without wearing gloves at all. She didn’t have any problem, and used to say that when washing off you had water running across your hands anyway so it didn’t matter. Now we know better. ’