Have a parlour appointment this weekend for that crazy streak you've been waiting for so long? Or did you plan a haircut? Go if you must, but be careful. Beauty parlours can get ugly when it comes to your health. We kid you not.
Elizabeth Smith, a mother of two, had a stroke caused by a visit to the hair salon. A CT scan revealed that an artery in her neck had been damaged by this shampoo chair and sink at Blowbunny: Blow Dry & Hair Extension Bar in San Diego, according to court documents.
There's even a medical term for it - beauty parlour stroke.
While a lot of women have enviable swan-like long necks, we can't deny how uncomfortable shampooing can get at beauty salons, with the neck tipped far backwards over the edge of a sink. It can diminish the blood supply to the brain, sometimes precipitating strokes.
According to Steven R. Zeiler, M.D., Ph.D., head of stroke research at Johns Hopkins, “When one of those cervical arteries is damaged in some sort of way, you can get what’s called a dissection, which is damage of the inside of the blood vessel, leading to abnormal flow and clotting, and then those clots can shoot north into the brain and cause a stroke.”
Smith’s first symptoms appeared eight days after a visit to the salon.
"I had weakness in my left arm and leg. I just didn’t feel right. I was standing up to point, and I couldn’t stand."
“But by the time the paramedics had arrived, my symptoms had resolved.”
After six days, Smith got very nauseous and was projectile vomiting.
“I went downstairs to unlock the door, and I was able to get a cold pack out of the freezer because my head was hot,” she said. “They took me by ambulance to the emergency room.”
After months of suffering, Smith finally took a decision to sue the parlour and is spreading the news to the public.
“I was a bit sceptical when she first came in and said she had a stroke two weeks after she had gone in there, and there was no ostensible traumatic event there that seemed like it could be medical causation,” said personal injury attorney Spencer Busby. “When we got into it and saw what the doctors wrote, it was independent, reputable doctors who tied it into this event.”
“I asked every friend I had to check with their stylist, and it came back about 80% [of stylists] knew - not about the mechanism, but knew you could have a stroke getting your hair washed. So I thought, If they all know, this isn’t right,” said Smith.
“Also, the effects were so devastating. Even though I’ve recovered physically, there’s a huge emotional component.”
The reason behind this rare and bizarre but dangerous phenomenon is still unknown.
“In a beauty parlour stroke, it’s unclear if it’s because the neck is kinked or if it’s that the beautician kind of jerked the head around. We may never know, because these are relatively rare events,” said Zeiler. “To put it into perspective, driving your car is probably more dangerous than going to a beauty salon. It’s a very rare thing.”
To prevent beauty parlour strokes in the future, go for an adjustable chair with adequate neck support or just pad it up with towels so you are not hyperextending.
“It’s a simple fix. Even if it doesn’t happen every day to every person. I’ve been getting my hair cut for years, but it only takes one time.”
“They’re teaching techniques so that some people have their hair washed in a different way as opposed to having the neck lay back,” said Busby. “That makes Elizabeth very happy. One of the things she’s focusing on here is that they’re aware of this danger and take some precautions in the future of it not happening again.”
“Common symptoms are loss of a use of a limb; all of a sudden you get weak on one side of the body; your face begins to droop; you begin to speak like you’re drunk; you might lose vision; the world is spinning around you horizontally or vertically; double vision,” said Zeiler.
If any of these follow, do not take any chance and contact a doctor.