Hair Dye Allergies

Whenever we talk about the allergy to the cosmetic products and skin sensitivity, hair dye allergies are the third most common allergies that come after fragrances and preservatives. Hair dying has become the most modern aesthetic trend among youngsters. It has also taken lead on the tattoos and body piercing.

Most of the hair dyes cause allergy resulting in burning, redness, and itchy scalp. This problem can be easily coped if treated early on; when you feel irritation in your scalp right after the implementing dye.

Unfortunately most of the people are unaware of the allergic reactions of hair dyes and they buy special shampoos and conditioners which may aggravate the condition instead of curing it.

Contact allergen

The culprit compound that used to cause allergy and present even in the most selling brands is known as paraphenylenediamine (PPD) or “contact allergen” or in scientific terminology, “sensitization dermatitis”. This ingredient is mostly found in oxidation and permanent hair dyes. If you know that you are sensitive to PPD, you should avoid such dye.

This chemical is also used to prepare leather dyes, printing inks and photograph development products. Manufacturers of these products have already clearly explained that direct contact with the PPD should be avoided. But some hair dye manufacturers are putting the end user in dangers associated with the PPD.

Allergic reactions

You may suffer all of the following but it is most common to just notice one or two of the symptoms. Like other forms of contact dermatitis repeated exposure may cause the allergy to develop therefore alternatives to permanent hair dye should be researched as soon as an allergy is confirmed.

Following is the set of symptoms that has been compiled through the most common reactions, occurred to the different people. These allergic reactions may occur in the first time use or like other types of contact dermatitis with repeated exposure.

  • Skin and scalp redness
  • Terrible itching and pain in scalp or skin
  • Sneezing or the symptoms of hay fever
  • Nausea during the application of hair dye
  • Sever swelling around eyes or facial oedema
  • Mild dandruff like symptoms
  • Scaly skin


Anaphylaxis is a sever type of multi system allergic reaction in mammals, including humans. In this condition trace amount of any allergen may trigger life-threatening anaphylactic reaction. Anaphylaxis occurs after skin contact, ingestion, injection of an allergen or inhalation.

Anaphylactic shock is the most severe form of anaphylaxis that takes place when an allergen activates a sudden release from mast cells of large quantities of immunological mediators leading to dilation of blood vessels and bronchioles constriction resulting in difficult breathing. Anaphylactic shock may cause death within minutes if left untreated.

Since today, two deaths have been attributed to anaphylaxis shocks due to hair dye allergy. This event is very rare but it shows the worse state of allergic reaction.

Patch test

Those hair dyes that contain PPD, usually carry a warning on the pack of the product; patch test should be done prior to use. There are two methods to check the allergic sensitivity to PPD.

Method 1

The test involves, application of 20 cent sized spot of solution of dye and developer, either behind the ear or at inner bend of the elbow. Leave the patch to dry uncovered for two to three days. If no skin rash or irritation occurs during this period then test is considered as negative and one can apply that specific hair dye to the whole head.

Method 2

This method is specific for the detection of PPD sensitivity. In this process, 2 percent PPD mixed in petrolatum is used for patch test. A PPD measuring scaled is used to identify that the person can use the PPD hair dyes or not. 1+ to 3+ results showed that allergic dermatitis will occur with use of hair dyes.

Both of the positive results confirmed that PPD is the key cause of dermatitis and products that contain this ingredient should be avoided.

Tips to avoid hair dye allergy

Most of the people use hair colors to look younger but now the trend has changed. Today, youngsters are using hair dyes to boost their looks and make their hair more beautiful. Some people even wear dyes of unique colors to look prominent in the crowd. Whatever is the reason, following tips will ease you hair dying.

Choose dye with conditioner

Although manufacturer of hair dyes made products by keeping in view the customer’s safety, but you cannot be really sure if product should not harm your hairs. So, first defensive act to protect your hair from damage is to select one that has conditioning property. This will provide maximum protection against the allergic reaction of the hair dye.

Prefer lighter hair color

If you just want to cover your gray hairs to look younger, it would be better to select color that is little darker than your natural hair color. These colors will give you most appropriate and natural look.

Avoid hair conditioning before dying

Wash your hair to remove dust and skin oil before applying any hair color as these can affect the absorption of dye. But don’t apply any conditioner just before dying your hair. If your have already damaged hair, apply conditioner at least 24 hours prior to dying.

Protect your hand and skin

Use hand gloves before coloring hair, usually found in the hair-coloring kit to protect hands from any contact allergen. Keep your neck, hairline and other exposed body parts, covered during hair dying because these colors are hard to remove from your skin even after few days of application.

Always go for patch test

Hair dyes, most of the times contain PPD and other allergens that cause pain, redness itchiness and skin inflammation. It is essential to always do a patch test (as have mentioned above), while you are applying your trusted dye. Using these tips might reduce your chances of allergy and you may find hair coloring enjoyable.

Related Images and Trusted Links

  • Dermatitis, close-up of allergic contact
  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis

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