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Signs & Symptoms of Hairdye Allergy

author image Craig McHugh
Craig McHugh has worked as a newspaper copy editor since 1999. He now serves as deputy sports editor for "The State" newspaper in Columbia, S.C. McHugh holds a bachelor's degree in print journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Signs & Symptoms of Hairdye Allergy
You might pay a price for changing your hair color.

If you use dye to color your hair, you might be among the 5 percent of people that develop an allergy to the product. ParaPhenyleneDiamine, or PPD, is found in most commercially produced hair dyes, as is peroxide. When the two react, the PPD becomes partially oxidized and colored; in this state, it can lead to an allergic reaction.

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This is the most common symptom of an allergic reaction to hair dye, and the risk of developing the condition rises with usage. Dermatitis involves inflammation of the skin. Sufferers will experience redness, itchy or swollen skin around the eyelids, ears, hair line, beard or neck. A person who develops a sensitivity to PPD will not experience symptoms until at least 10 days after her first usage. Subsequent exposures can produce a reaction in 6 to 72 hours.


Symptoms of this condition, also known as hives, can include red skin, eyelid swelling, red patches on the body, wheezing, sneezing, difficulty swallowing and vomiting. Symptoms can be seen about an hour after exposure to hair dye. Urticaria occurs when PPD triggers a series of chemical reactions that leads to the leaking of blood plasma into the skin.

Anaphylactic Shock

This is the most serious potential symptom of a reaction. It is rare but can result in swelling in the face, shortness of breath, a drop in blood pressure and death, in that order. Someone suffering these symptoms should seek immediate medical assistance.

Patch Test

To determine if you are allergic to the PPD in hair dye, follow the instructions provided with the product. In general, you will be directed to apply a small sample of solution (dye and developer mixed together) behind your ear or to your inner elbow. Wait 48 to 72 hours to see if symptoms develop. If not, the product is considered safe to use.


Remove dye from your hair by washing with a mild soap or soapless shampoo, then apply a 2 percent hydrogen peroxide solution. If your scalp feels tight because of a reaction, apply a moist dressing of cold olive oil and lime. Contact a dermatologist if symptoms persist.

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