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Hair Dye Allergies


Allergies to hair dye are a common problem. About 5% of people who use hair dye develop a form of contact dermatitis and many hair dressers develop hand dermatitis. Dermatitis is immunologic skin reaction causing redness and itching generally on the scalp. A substance called Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) is present in over two thirds of permanent hair dyes and is a main cause of allergic reaction.


Hair PictureThere are different types of allergies that you can develop:

Contact Dermatitis: The skin becomes red, forming a rash that is itchy and has a burning sensation.  This is where PPD molecules are destroyed by macrophages and cytotoxic T-lymphocytes which are both types of white blood which are cells of the immune system. These appear as granulomas which are ball-like collections of immune cells trying to destroy foreign substances.

Contact Urticaria: This can develop in minutes to an hour after exposure. In this case PPD induces massive production of the antibody IgE which leads to swelling or oedema and skin redness.

In extremely rare cases anaphylactic shock can develop as an allergic reaction. The face swells, you gasp for air and there is a fall in blood pressure, this condition is life threatening.



One of the main causes of allergic reactions to hair dyes is PPD.  Hair dye usually comes in two bottles, one is a PPD-based dye which is non-oxidised and colourless, and the other is usually hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) which is a developer. In the hair dying process the H2O2 is used first to break down the natural hair pigment: melanin. Then the PPD-based dye is added to replace the melanin. PPD reacts with the H2O2 becoming oxidised and coloured. It is in this form that PPD can cause allergies; fully oxidised PPD does not cause allergies.


Alternative names for, and related substances to PPD include:

  • PPDA
  • Orsina
  • Rodola
  • Ursola
  • Azo groups: R-N=N-R (where R can be any group) found in temporary hair dyes


Other potential allergens contained in hair dyes include:

  • 6-hydroxyindole
  • Isatin
  • p-Methyl aminophenol


Unfortunately, at the moment there are no permanent hair dyes which are safe to use if you are allergic to PPD.



Hair PictureIn order to determine whether you are affected by an allergen (the substance that causes an allergic reaction) a sensitivity test can be carried out. This involves applying a 20 cent-sized spot of solution behind the ear or in the crook of the elbow and leaving it for 48-72 hours. If there isn’t a rash or irritation then the test is negative and the product can be considered safe to use. If a rash of a certain size develops then the test is positive and you should not use that product. A patch test should be performed every time you have your hair dyed because the risk of developing sensitivity increases with frequency. This involves applying a solution of 2%PPD in petrolatum to the upper back and checking after 48 hours to see if it is positive.

These allergic reactions can be treated and controlled. If the case is acute and severe then thorough washing of your hair with a mild shampoo is essential. 2% H2O2 or compresses of potassium permanganate in a 1:5000 dilution can be applied to oxidise PPD. Alternatively a wet dressing of olive oil or lime can be used to soften the crust.


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Legal Advice:

It is very important because of the nature of PPD that a patch test is taken before applying hair dye to the head. If you have suffered an allergic reaction to a hair dye and a patch test was not performed at the salon before the procedure was undertaken, then you may have a valid claim for compensation towards any extra medical or hair treatments that you required to help rectify the situation.

Call Macks Solicitors by Free phone 0800 980 9389 or 01642 252828 for expert legal advice and help about your situation. Alternatively, visit our compensation claim website and complete the online claim form. Our specialist solicitors are here to give you no-obligation advice on the possibility of making a compensation claim. Many sufferers of a hair dye allergy discovered through hairdresser negligence are liable to claim compensation for the expenses of any treatment to rectify the problem as well as the emotional and physical damages in result. If this applies to you,  Macks are committed to securing you the compensation you deserve.