- A UK-based woman had a severe allergic reaction to an ingredient in hair dye that made her eyes swell closed. She couldn’t see for 24 hours, Daily Mail reported.
- The hair dye ingredient, paraphenylenediamine or PPD, can make the skin itchy, dry, or cracked, and create rashes and burning sensations in people with allergies.
- Avoiding PPD is the best way to prevent a reaction, but if someone with an allergy does come into contact with the substance, a topical or oral steroid medication can help.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
Countless women get their hair dyed at salons, but recent news of a woman who had a severe allergic reaction due to an ingredient in her dye illustrates how a simple beauty treatment can take a dangerous turn.
The 24-year-old named Steph O’Dell went to her local hair salon to primp before her sister’s birthday, according to the Daily Mail.
O’Dell already knew that she had an allergy to one common hair dye ingredient, paraphenylenediamine or PPD, but her stylist assured her that she was using an organic dye that wouldn’t be a problem. Her stylist also did a “patch test” in which she applied a small amount of the dye to O’Dell’s skin to see how she’d react before dying all of her hair.
Even though O’Dell had suspicions about the patch test because the stylist wiped some of the dye off her arm before it dried, she told the Daily Mail she “felt happy to go ahead” with the treatment since she didn’t react to the test.
Later that day, however, O’Dell said her neck itched and burned, and her glasses felt tight against her head. By the next morning, her head was “massive,” she told the Daily Mail, and her eyes had become so swollen, they closed up and she couldn’t see at all.
With such severe side effects, O’Dell went to the hospital where she stayed for five days while doctors gave her steroids to stop the swelling. After 24 hours, the swelling reduced enough that she could see again.
O’Dells’ hair dye reaction is fairly common
O’Dell isn’t the first to have such an intense reaction to PPD. INSIDER previously reported that a French student also reacted in a similar way to the ingredient, where her head swelled to double its size after she used brown hair dye.
PPD reactions from hair dye are most likely to affect the scalp, but if the dye drips at all, it can get into a person’s eyes, neck, or face and cause reactions there too, dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner told INSIDER.
Usually, PPD reactions aren’t as severe as O’ Dell’s and typically only cause a skin rash called contact dermatitis, a type of eczema. According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 6.2% of people living in North America have had adverse reactions at varying levels to PPD.
“The big problem with this particular ingredient is that once the hair dyes are placed, they are permanent and can lead to a continued reaction,” Dr. Zeichner said. “In some cases, special chemicals may be needed to remove the permanent hair dye, the hair needs to be cut, or systemic medications may be needed to calm the reaction.”
According to Newsweek, PPD is found in 90% of hair dyes, including certain organic ones. The ingredient is also found in black henna tattoo dye, so it’s recommended that people with PPD allergies stay away from the temporary tattoo method, according to the UK’s National Health Service. PPD can also be found in certain black rubber, dark-colored cosmetics, and printer inks, according to DermNet New Zealand Trust.
In order to treat an allergic reaction to PDD, steroids are used in a topical cream or oral form, according to the National Institutes of Health. Antihistamines are often used too, like with O’Dell.
Unless a person has an allergy, PPD-containing hair dyes are safe
People who don’t have PPD allergies don’t have to worry about the ingredient when getting their hair dyed. Hair dyes with PPD are strictly regulated in both the U.S. and UK, and there’s a maximum concentration of PPD allowed in hair dyes, according to the National Health Service.
If you’re unsure whether you’re allergic to PPD, the easiest way to find out is to do a patch test, which involves dabbing a small amount of PPD-containing hair dye on the skin behind your ear or in your inner elbow and letting it dry. If you notice your skin starts to get swollen, red, dry, or itchy, it likely means you have a PPD allergy and shouldn’t use the dye.
You can also go to an allergy clinic where a professional can perform a similar test for you.
According to Dr. Zeichner, most people won’t have an allergic reaction to PPD the first time around, but if exposed a second time, an allergic reaction is more likely to happen. It’s a good idea, then, to do a patch test before any hair dye job.
Regardless of whether you react to the dye or not, you should always be cautious when using hair dye and follow the instructions on the box. You shouldn’t, for example, leave the dye on longer than instructed or apply it without gloves on.
There are also non-PPD hair dyes available for people who have allergies, according to the National Institutes of Health.