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  5. Hair Dye Allergies: Why It Happens & How Can It Be Treated?

Everytime you visit your salon and look at that sheet of hair color options, or when you spot those eye-grabbing shades of hair colors in the fashion magazine, are you tempted to dye your own hair? For some, it could also be a necessity due to premature aging. But, stop!

Before you decide to drop the dyes on your hair, you must be aware of the allergic reactions they could cause. Hair dyes contain a ton of harmful chemicals that can cause your skin to react adversely. Let us understand why this happens and what you can do to treat it.

What Causes Allergy To Hair Dye?

Hair dyes, like many other products, contain a number of chemicals that can irritate your skin. One of the main culprits is Paraphenylenediamine or PPD. This chemical is responsible for giving you long-lasting hair color that seems to appear more natural, when used on hair.

PPD is mainly used in dark hair dyes. It has a reputation of being an allergen for those with sensitive skin or some dry skin conditions. On application, PPD becomes oxidized. This is what causes the allergic reactions. The reaction usually tends to fade away once PPD is fully oxidized.

Some people may only experience skin irritation while for some others, it may get more serious. Contact dermatitis is not an uncommon symptom of this allergic reaction. This may even develop into hives and in some very rare cases, anaphylaxis.

Did You Know?

  • PPD is found in tattoo ink, gasoline, dark cosmetic products and printer ink also.

Hair Dye Allergy Symptoms

1. Stinging sensation

2. Inflamed, red skin

3. Itching of the scalp or face

4. Swelling of the scalp/face

5. Swollen eyelids, lips or hands

If you are sensitive to hair dye, you may also develop contact dermatitis symptoms/flare-ups.

If you are allergic to hair dye, your symptoms may take upto 48 hours to show up. It is recommended that you conduct a patch test before using hair dye.

Word of Caution:

Some severe reactions may include a fatal, serious condition known as anaphylaxis. This reaction will need you to visit a doctor immediately.

The symptoms of anaphylaxis are:

  • Skin reactions like tingling, stinging and burning
  • Rashes
  • Fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swelling of throat or tongue

Treatments For Hair Dye Allergies

The treatments for allergies due to hair dye depend on how severe your reaction is:

  • If you have mild and immediate/instant reactions, wash the dye off immediately with warm water and mild shampoo.
  • If you are experiencing contact dermatitis flare-ups or symptoms, treat the affected area with a topical corticosteroid. Other OTC treatments are also available, which can be used on your skin.
  • A shampoo that contains topical corticosteroids like Cobex can be used as well.
  • Mild antiseptics like a 2% hydrogen peroxide solution can be applied to the affected area to soothe symptoms.
  • Oral antihistamines such as Benadryl can also be consumed to reduce symptoms like itching.


If you don’t see an improvement in symptoms or experience severe ones, visit your doctor immediately. He may prescribe you corticosteroids or other medications that will help reduce these symptoms.

Topical Home Remedies For Hair Dye Allergies

1. Honey

If you are experiencing contact dermatitis symptoms, you can use honey as a remedy. Honey possesses immunomodulatory properties that can help improve symptoms and reduce rashes (1).

honey as a remedy

2. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera gel possesses wound-healing and anti-inflammatory properties. This can help reduce redness and may speed-up the wound-healing process (2).

3. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is popularly used to reduce skin irritation and redness. Its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce the redness and inflammation associated with hair dye allergies (3).

4. Olive Oil

Application of Olive oil can reduce symptoms associated with hair dye allergies. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce swelling, inflammation and redness (4).

Alternative Hair Colors To Use

There has been an attempt by manufacturers to substitute PPD with other ingredients like para-toluenediamine sulfates, which are considered to be safer than PPD.

However, if you think you are allergic to PPD, you can use henna to color your hair instead. Remember that PPD is used in high concentrations in darker hair colors especially.

Prevention Tips

  • It’s important to learn what you’re allergic to. Hair dye allergies can occur at any time, even if you have color-treated your hair before. In case of any symptoms, immediately rinse off and stop using the product.
  • Don’t add any extra color as that can result in more adverse allergic reactions.
  • Always conduct a patch test before you use a product that contains ingredients like PPD. If you do not notice any reactions after 48 hours, you may continue to apply it to your hair.

Wrapping Up

Hair dye allergies could be both mild or severe. The symptoms range from redness and itching to anaphylaxis in rare cases. Conducting a patch test is recommended before you apply hair dye to your hair. The ingredient that has a reputation of causing these reactions is PPD. To avoid allergies from hair dyes, you could opt for hair colors that use para-toluenediamine (which is considered safer) or henna.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin