Hair dye reactions

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Various permanent and some semi-permanent hair dye products include paraphenylenediamine (PPD). This is considered as a known allergen and irritant and the usual culprit for most cases of hair dye reactions.

Close look on PPD

Hair dyes that include PPD are safe to use if the safety instructions are strictly followed. If the safety measures are ignored, one is at risk for serious reactions.

One is at risk if the individual has or formerly acquired a black henna tattoo. These impermanent tattoos must be avoided since the paste frequently includes toxic amounts of PPD which can sensitize the individual to the chemical.

The immune system will trigger a defensive reaction upon the next exposure to the chemical. The individual is at risk for developing a dangerous reaction if a hair dye product is used.

Hair dye reactions
A severe allergic reaction that arises in just minutes is called as anaphylaxis.

What are the signs?

The response to PPD can vary from minor irritation in the scalp to an allergic response that can possibly instigate serious symptoms all over the body.

Minor irritation

If the individual is slightly irritated to the PPD in hair dye products, the scalp, neck, ears, forehead and/or eyelids become irritated and reddened after using the product.

The skin that was in contact with the hair dye might turn reddened, dry, swollen, blistered, cracked and thickened. There is also a stinging or burning sensation.

The symptoms are likely to manifest within 48 hours, but strong irritants can cause the skin to react right away.

Allergic reaction

If an individual is allergic to the PPD in hair dye products, the scalp and face will start to feel itchy and become swollen.

The chemical can also initiate symptoms all over the body such as itchiness and generalized feeling of being sick. These signs might not manifest until hours or even days later.

A severe allergic reaction that arises in just minutes is called as anaphylaxis. The usual indications of anaphylaxis include the following:

  • Itchy skin or elevated, reddened skin rash
  • Lightheadedness or feeling faint
  • Swollen lips, eyes, hands and feet
  • Wheezing
  • Swollen mouth, tongue or throat that causes breathing and swallowing difficulty
  • Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
  • Collapse and loss of consciousness


Call for emergency assistance if anaphylaxis is suspected and provide a shot of epinephrine if on hand.

In case an individual is experiencing a hair dye reaction, but not an emergency, the following must be done:

Mild symptoms

  • Wash the scalp and hair thoroughly using mild shampoo to get rid of any excess hair dye
  • Gently apply an emollient such as an aqueous cream on the affected area


In case the skin is significantly reddened, inflamed and sore, a steroid cream can be used. It is available over-the-counter or prescribed by the doctor.


If an individual develops a hair dye reaction, even a minor one, it is vital to cease using products that contain PPD. Remember that there is a risk for developing a severe response in the future.

It is recommended to switch to a harmless substitute such as a temporary hair dye that is free from PPD. On the other hand, it is still likely to end up with a reaction.

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