Hair Coloring

Allergic Reaction To Hair Dye: 5 Vital Facts You Must Know

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I agree with you that an allergic reaction to hair dye can be the worst nightmare that will happen to anyone in broad daylight.

It is one of the worst things that will ever happen to your head, scalp, or hair because the symptoms and effects afterward are like death warming.

If you are a victim, right in this post, I will show you some quick home remedies to relieve the symptoms, pains, and reactions before going to the hospital for a medical checkup – which is very important.

But before then, I will love to share a short story with you. I know you aren’t here to read novels, but please exercise little patience and read.

Client Hair Dye Allergy Story

I prayed he never suffer an allergic reaction to hair dye again in life because it hurts so bad. I felt so sorry for him when he entered my salon to shave off his long-time trained hair with a swollen face (it’s over a year plus now, if I am not mistaken).

This isn’t the first, second, or third time he dyed his hair, but this time around, the whole story changed. John wanted to meet his girlfriend at the forthcoming live show within our neighborhood.

He felt like he needed to stand out by dyeing his hair gold. So he entered a salon, (This is not the colorist fault, because he is a professional,  he was in a hurry, no strands test was done)

At the end of the coloring, he got what he will never wish for his enemies. To cut the story short, he lost 30% of his hair; experienced severe itching on the scalp, swollen head, headache, and redness with severe pain.

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Let’s Continue.

Questions I Asked Myself

After shaving off everything (now bald head), I washed his scalp very well with water and shampoo. While doing this, some questions popped into my head, and I was like:

  • This isn’t the first time he dyed his hair; why now?
  • What brand of hair dye made him lose hair, plus the reactions within a few hours?
  • Is it permanent, semi-permanent, or temporary dye that was used on his hair?
  • What is an allergic reaction to hair dye?

Many more questions kept coming in, but no answer came. So I quickly decided to research why this happened, causes, and treatments. Now, this was what I found.

I discovered that he was not the only person that is allergic to hair dye that month. Many people in forums cried and vowed never to dye their hair again, while some sought help and alternatives.

What It Mean To Be Allergic To Hair Dye

When someone is allergic to hair dye, the body system reacts against specific chemical(s) in the dye. Most times, the end physical outcome (symptoms) is severe, painful, and terrible.

You might be wondering, How do these reactions occur? Well, according to Verywellheath.

“The body will release a substance known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) into the bloodstream, and the release of IgE will trigger the eruption of specialized white blood cells, known as mast cells, which flood the body with histamine. Histamine is the very substance that triggers the cascade of symptoms we recognize as an allergy.”

How Long Does an Allergy to Hair Dye Last?

Allergy to hair dye can last more than six days if not treated early. Some cases become severe to the extent that they can exceed more than six days.

It also depends on your skin and the chemical responsible for the reaction.


Most cases I found online showed that allergic reactions to hair dye could last up to 2 days, sometimes more than depending on how your system reacts (too early or late) and how effective the treatments are.

Early Signs

The early reaction signs differ in everybody, but most cases at the initial phase of reaction:

-The scalp, ears, beards, or any part near the affected area starts itching, turns red, or becomes inflamed.

-Irritation: Some people have very sensitive skin and scalp; due to this, irritation signs usually start appearing almost immediately or a few minutes later (but it doesn’t exceed more than 48 hours after exposure)

Later Signs

Swelling of the affected areas and some parts of the body close to the areas exposed.

Difficulty in breathing and swallowing, which can cause wheezing and sneezing.

Don’t think that “The signs started shooting out of John this way; mine will start the same way it started with John if I am allergic.” Hell No, if you are allergic to it, the following signs might be the early sign in your case.

For example:

Some people will notice that their skin may become stretched, dry, or even cracked. The scalp may tighten or feel as if it is burning at the early stage, while some experience it after some days or even not at all.

Sorry if I am repeating myself repeatedly, just that I want to emphasize this very well.

Ingredients in Hair Dye that Contribute to Allergic Reaction

The common chemical in hair dye responsible for most dye allergy cases is Para-phenylenediamine (PPD).

However, it is not the only chemical that can contribute to allergy; others do have a hand in the reaction.

Don’t be scared yet; dermatologists and other field experts confirmed that– PPD or other dye ingredients are more or less harmful.

Their percentage composition in the dye and the ability of the scalp to resist the adverse effects is what matters.

That’s why the strand test is essential or, let me say, compulsory. Also, applying hair dyeing a few inches away from your scalp can be the best way to do it.

According to Wikipedia, PPD can come with different names.

  • Benzene-1,4-diamine
  • Paraphenylenediamine
  • 1,4-Diaminobenzene
  • 1,4-Phenylenediamine and many more.

I don’t think there’s any hair dye at the stores or supermarket that doesn’t contain PPD because it gives hair the desired color after exposure to air. 

It would be best to have a proper guide, caution, technique, common sense, and quality dye with PPD in its appropriate measure (usually around 1%-3%). 

Update: Some hair dyes do not contain PPD. Henna, for example, is a natural hair dye from India. The thing there is that these natural hair dyes do not give out all the colors we need.

Quick Home Remedies

If adverse effects start to show off early, wash it off with warm water and shampoo immediately. But if signs showed up late or persist, do this.

1. Apply Hydrogen Peroxide on Scalp: It helps to oxidize the PPD, making it non-reactive. But if it looks like the situation has worsened, discard hydrogen peroxide and go for other remedies.

2. Apply Unrefined Shea Butter From Africa on the Affected Areas: Apart from Benadryl, Shea butter works like magic to relieve swelling, inflammation, and pains. The only thing that you might find displeasing is the smell (Because it is unrefined).

But if you can withstand it, which I think you can. Then you have one magic wand in your hands. Aside from remedy for allergy symptoms, you can also use it on anybody of any age for other burning and painful skin-related problems.

How and When to Use Shea Butter.

You can apply Shea butter on any part of your body any time, any day. All you need to do is apply and massage like body cream on the areas that are reacting. Then watch and wait to see it perform African magic.

3. Use Steroid Creams And Olive Oil: Studies stated that olive oil reduces the risk of dermatitis. Likewise, steroid creams can be used to reduce inflammation, swelling, and irritation if the case is less severe.

If reactions persist with more symptoms like hair loss and severe headache, you have one last hope: consulting the Doctor or Dermatologist.

Safety Precautions to Avoid Reactions

An old African proverb says, “Prevention is better than cure.” It is advised you play safe and apply caution than be ignorant and turn to big-headed or face dude.

Here are precaution measures to have in mind:

  1. Be creative when you move to another dye brand because the new dye may not favor and blend in with your hair and scalp.
  2. Ensure you wear gloves and wash your hands before and after application.
  3. Patch testing is a must: Before you apply any dye, make sure you have tried it on your hair and parts of your body that can be covered with clothes. If you notice something bad, discard the dye and go for another brand, alternative, or your previous brand.
  4. Testing should be done 72-42 hours before the D-day to know and see the full dye effects.
  5. Follow the instructions by the manufacturer to avoid over or under usage problems.
  6. Wash hair thoroughly with water. Some dye doesn’t allow you to wash hair with shampoo.
  7. Don’t wash too early or too late. Be accurate with your timing.

Allergy To Hair Dye Alternatives

If you can’t stop dyeing your hair and you are allergic to hair dye. What will you do next?

Well, It’s simple, look for an alternative, and here is one.

To avoid allergens totally, one of the most natural types of hair dye to use is Henna.

Although it’s not common, that is, you can’t find it in every part of the country, and it’s very technical to use, except you bought the ready-made.

I have witnessed cases where my client bought fake henna that has hidden PPD. So when buying, make sure you get pure Henna from a trusted supplier.

Most importantly, allow the professional and experienced colorist that deals on Henna dye do their work. Or you can learn from youtube. Like I said earlier, Henna hair dye can be tricky to use.

Other alternatives include tree dyes, vegetable dyes, and semi-permanent dyes that are certified by experts. These dyes are always labeled as “plant extracts made”

FAQs On Allergic Reaction To Hair Dye

Q: What Hair Color Is PPD Free?

There are lots of hair color dye that is PPD free; you have to manually and carefully check the ingredients listed by the manufacturer.  Black and brown refined dye without PPD is very rare.

Q: Do Semi-Permanent Hair Dyes Contain PPD.

Yes, some contain PPD, while some don’t; as I said earlier, you need to check out the dye pack for its constitutes.

Q: I Am Allergic To hair Dye. What Can I Use To Cover Grey Hair?

Henna is an excellent alternative to cover grey hair if you are allergic to the dye.

Finally, we have thoroughly discussed the allergic reaction to hair dye, the precautions, and its quick remedies.

Now I would love to hear from you;

Which remedy are you going to try out?

Or maybe you have something different to tell us on this topic.

Either way, do let us know by leaving a comment below right now.

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I am Stanley. A Unisex Hairstylist, Writer, and book lover. After 12 months of the apprenticeship program as a stylist, I started working with my boss for an extra one year. This time frame made me accumulate knowledge and experience in the hair industry, of which I will love to share with friends all over the world through my blog.

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One Comment

  1. I have used 2 to three different brands of hair dye and I recently tried a new brand Colour Sensation by Garnier. I am not against the product, just sharing my experience and this is not to rate the brand. I didn’t have allergies to the dyes I used in the past, so I thought it was safe to skip the patch test this time. On application, I felt a stinging sensation and asumed it was harmless. I thought it had a strong mint chemical or maybe ammonia but on the box, there was no such chemicals, such as ammonia or lye listed. I began to feel irritable like the stinging travelled from my scalp to my body, down to my legs. Most of my hair was already covered now but I had to wash it out quickly because of the stinging sensation. I relaized it could be an allergic reaction or a cheemical that may have been in the product that was not listed. I didnt know, but when I began feeling nauseous, I washed it out with water and soaked my head with a deep conditioning treatment. I didn’t shampoo it out until one day after she I felt itchy in the scalp. I realised I had lost some hair around the perimeter but it was not burned or red. It wasn’t swollen either. Thank goodness. I read some reviews and noticed what possibly happened to me and how bad it could have been. The colour was nice and the fragrance but I cannot advise anyone to use it nor would I use it again. All I can do, is advise that the patch test is done in advance and that if the product had PPD as research suggests, then it should be listed or may be listed on the box, so it is best to read about the chemicals used in the product before applying to the hair

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