How many of you really read the hair dye box warnings? The box alerts us to do a skin patch test 48 hours before using the product. However, if you are like me, you may only wait 24 hours before dying your hair or you may not do the test at all if you have used that hair dye before. The trouble is an allergic reaction to hair dye can occur even if you have used the same product before. That is what happened to a lady in Manchester, England and she ended up going to the hospital.
In 2009, Susan Taylor used a Garnier hair dye product. She had done a skin test but only waited 24 hours before going ahead and dying her hair since she had used this brand hair dye before. She dyed her hair at 4 p.m. but by 10 p.m. she developed a burning sensation, itching and redness on her scalp. She woke up at 1 a.m. having difficulty swallowing and saw increased swelling around her ears. Her husband had to rush her to the hospital where an I.V. was started and she was given antihistamines. Still in pain two days later, her doctor prescribed oral steroids and a week later she was started on antibiotics as her symptoms continued.
Allergic skin reactions, also called allergic contact dermatitis, can occur even after having had contact to a substance for many years. Susan had been dying her hair for over 35 years but it was this last time that gave her the skin reaction. Frequently women have less obvious reactions to their hair dye of mild itching or redness and it isn’t clear at first that they are developing an allergy. However, continued exposure to the dye may develop into a more severe reaction later.
What is in hair dye that causes the allergy?
A chemical called PPD, para-phenylenediamine, which is in over 60 percent of commercial hair dye products is the culprit. PPD allows the dye to adhere better to the hair shaft. Hair dye typically comes as two bottles that are mixed together. The one that is clear has the PPD in it and is in a non-oxidized state. The other is the developer, which has hydrogen peroxide in it. When the two are mixed together, the one with the PPD turns color and becomes partially oxidized from contact with the peroxide. When PPD is in this partially oxidized state, it can cause allergic reactions on the skin.
In the beginning, it may take several days after an exposure to PPD to develop symptoms of skin irritation such as redness or itching so one may not relate this to the hair dye. However, as more contact to the PPD occurs, skin reactions may happen sooner, in as little as six to 72 hrs after, since the body has become sensitized to the chemical. Itching, burning and redness may start. If the reaction is more severe, facial swelling and swelling of the eyelids can occur and a person can even develop difficulty breathing. If this happens, the person must immediately go to the emergency room.
Next time you plan to dye your hair, plan ahead and do the 48 hour skin test. Mix a sample from both bottles together to make the PPD react. Don’t ignore the warnings on the box. It just might just make the difference between spending the night at home in your bed or a night at the hospital.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele can be read at http://www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles