Hair Dye Allergy

Allergic reactions due to the application of hair dyes, is not altogether uncommon. These reactions can range from mildly irritating to quite severe. The irritation can remain at the point of contact with the product and result in localised contact dermatitis.  Or, the application of the product can trigger a full blown immune response within the body. Symptoms can include burning, itching, rash, swelling and possibly anaphylaxis.

One of the main chemicals that cause the problems associated with hair dye allergies is something called paraphenylenediamine (PPD). This can be found in most permanent hair dyes, especially the more dark coloured ones. What happens is the PPD is combined with chemicals in a separate bottle (typically the fixing agent which is normally hydrogen peroxide based). The PPD undergoes an oxidisation reaction when the mixing occurs. It is while this reaction is taking place that the mixture has the properties necessary to cause a sensitisation reaction to occur in the immune system. This can last up to several days but symptoms will usually subside as the oxidation process completes.

Slightly less likely to cause reactions are substitutes for PPD, para-aminodiphenylamine or PADA, and paratoluene diamine or PTDA. These are more commonly found in slightly less dark colours such as those based on reds. However, it is more than likely that once you become sensitive to hair dyes, the only way to avoid reactions is to avoid ALL types of dyes.

One possible way to circumvent this is to go through a series of patch testing. This can at least eliminate the most obvious chemicals that your immune system is responding to while allowing you to perhaps use some of the available substitutes now on the market.

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