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Allergic reactions to Hair Dye – Symptoms and Treatments


It is extremely important that hairdressers carry out patch tests on clients before dying hair. It is most likely that when someone has an allergic reaction to hair dye they are actually allergic to one of the chemicals used in the dye. There are three chemicals commonly used in hair dye that can cause reactions to skin, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide and para-phenylenediamine (PPD).

The allergic reaction is caused by contact dermatitis, which as a skin reaction when it comes into contact with the dye. The reaction can cause dryness, redness, irritation and swelling. PPD is a known irritant and allergen and is the main chemical used in most hair dyes and is responsible for most allergic reactions.

Always follow instructions provided when dying hair at home and always be sure to carry out a patch test 48 hours before dying hair, this should be a small patch of dye applied behind the ear or the inner elbow.

Symptoms & Treatments

An allergic reaction to hair dye can vary from mild irritation to much more serious symptoms, symptoms can appear up to 48 hours after contact or stronger irritants can cause a reaction almost immediately.

A mild reaction to PPD in hair dye can cause irritation and inflammation to the scalp, neck, ears or eyelids. The skin that has come into contact with the dye might develop a burning sensation and appear red, swollen and blistered.

The relief mild symptoms of a reaction, make sure the hair is rinsed thoroughly and washed with a very mild shampoo. If the irritation persists steroid cream can be prescribed from a GP or even purchased over the counter in some pharmacies.

A severe reaction to PPD in hair dye can cause the client to go into anaphylactic shock, symptoms of this include:

  • Itchy skin or a raised, red rash
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Swelling of eyes, lips, hands and feet
  • Mouth, throat or tongue swelling, which can make breathing difficult
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

If someone is experiencing a severe allergic reaction they must seek medical attention immediately and 999 should be dialled.


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