Hair straightener habits putting children at risk

19 October 2016

Hair straighteners to blame for 5% of serious burns in children

This National Burns Awareness Day, Electrical Safety First with the support of the Children’s Burns Trust, is calling for greater awareness of the dangers associated with hair straighteners among parents.

According the latest UK figures, last year there were 392 children’s admissions to specialist burns units as a result of hair straighteners[i]. This accounts for 5% of all admissions to paediatric burns units[ii].

To investigate this worrying trend, Electrical Safety First carried out research among parents of children under five. Of those who used hair tools, almost one in 10 parents (9%) reported that their child or a child in their care had received a serious burn from a heated styler. A serious burn was defined as: contact which broke the skin, caused the skin to blister, or left a permanent scar.

Serious burns like these can often be caused by leaving a hair straightener unattended. Hair straighteners and curling irons can reach temperatures of 235°C and stay hot up to 40 minutes after they have been switched off. As the majority of these incidents are caused when toddlers touch, grab or tread on the hot hair straightener plates[iii], Electrical Safety First is campaigning for greater awareness among parents.

The research confirms Electrical Safety First’s concern that many parents are taking dangerous risks by leaving hair tools unattended. Of the parents who use electric hair tools, one in four (27%) said that they had left one on and unattended. Over half said that they have left hair tools unattended when it was still warm or cooling down. And almost one in five (18%) admitted to leaving one of these products on and unattended when children were in the room, or when children could access the room.

According to Electrical Safety First, hair tool manufacturers also need to do more to protect consumers. The Charity surveyed best-selling hair tools in the UK to see what manufacturers were doing to mitigate the risk of burns. Only six of the top 10 hair straighteners on Amazon supplied a heat proof mat or pouch with the product, with only half of the top 10 curling tongs and wands supplying a similar safety accessory.

Emma Apter from Electrical Safety First commented:

“It’s worrying that many of us are taking risks with hair tools can get as hot as an iron.The research shows that many parents are not storing products like straighteners properly or keeping them out of children’s way. Parents have to juggle many tasks in the morning and while we don’t want to add to that list, it’s vital that hair straighteners are kept out of reach of small hands and feet. We are urging manufacturers to play their part in protecting consumers by providing safe storage for their products.”

Paul Fuller, Chairman of Trustees at the Children’s Burns Trust added:

 “Children are at even greater risk of burns since their skin can be 15 times thinner than that of adults. A burn or scald at this age could need years of repeated surgery as the child grows, because scarred tissue does not grow with them. To protect children, we need to recognise the potential dangers of hair straighteners. I would advise any parent that uses a hair tool to put it away after use, store it in a heat resistant pouch and out of reach from children.”

Keep your children safe

If you use hair straighteners or curling irons, keep them out of reach of children. Children’s skin can be up to 15 times thinner than that of adults. Follow our top tips to make sure that you, and your children, stay safe from electrical burns:

  1. Keep hair straighteners out of reach of children
    Children’s skin can be 15 times thinner than that of adults so it’s important to keep hair tools out of reach.
  2. Use a heat proof pouch
    Hair straighteners stay hot up to 40 minutes after they have been switched off. A heat proof pouch is the easiest and safest way to store a product after use.
  3. Follow the three C’s
    In the event of a serious burn, follow the three Cs:
    • Cool the burn with running tap water for 20 minutes if within 3 hours of burn injury. Do not apply ice, butter or toothpaste. Remove any clothing, jewellery, nappies.
    • Call for help – 111, 999 or local GP for advice.
    • Cover the cooled burn with loose Clingfilm or a clean non-fluffy cloth.Warmthe patient.


For more information please contact:

Christina Copp T: 020 3463 5129 E:

Muireann Kirby T: 020 3463 5105 E:

Editors’ Notes

  • Electrical Safety First is a UK Charity dedicated to reducing and preventing damage, injuries and death caused by electricity. For more information and resources about hair straightener safety visit beauty-burns or our campaign partners
  • All research results unless otherwise stated are from Populus. Total sample size was 2,030 UK adults. Fieldwork took place from 30th September to 2nd October 2016. Research results from parents of children under 5 were taken from a representative sample of 137 UK adults. Surveys were conducted across the United Kingdom and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.
  • Electrical Safety First investigated the 10 best-selling hair straighteners and 10 best-selling curling irons and tongs on on 10 October 2016, which included six leading manufacturers. The investigation looked at the products on sale and whether they were sold with heat proof mats or pouches.

[i] International Burn Injury Database (iBID) 2015 figures for the UK

[ii] iBID 2015 (392 burns admissions caused by straighteners out of a total of 8274 burns admissions)

[iii] According to data released by the South West Regional Paediatric Burns Service at Frenchay Hospital, 49% of hair straightener burns among children are caused by them touching or grabbing the appliance