Allergic Reaction to Hair Color: Learn More About This Condition

Allergic Reaction to Hair Color: Learn More About This Condition
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Hair Color Allergies

A common ingredient in permanent hair colors is paraphenylenediamine (PPD). This chemical substance is popular because it is a permanent hair dye that gives a natural look. Many people can tolerate PPD, but there is a small percentage of people who can have an allergic reaction to hair color because of it.

Semi-permanent and temporary hair colors containing azo dyes, substances related to PPD, may also cause an allergic reaction. Be aware that it is possible to have a reaction to a hair color that you have used many times before without incident.


Symptoms of mild cases normally only involve dermatitis (inflamed itchy skin) to the rims of the ears or upper eyelids. In more severe cases, the scalp and face can redden and swell, and eyelids may close completely. Systemic reactions involving the whole body are possible in severe cases, but rarely does anaphylaxis occur. People who work with PPD, like hairdressers, may develop dermatitis on their hands.


If you are experiencing symptoms, wash your hair and scalp with a mild soap to remove excess dye. Taking an antihistamine like Benadryl can help relieve symptoms. If you have a severe case, seek medical attention immediately.

Patch Test

A patch test should be performed before every treatment, even if you used the hair color before without problems. Follow the product’s instructions. Basically, you apply a small amount of hair color to the inside of your elbow, leave it uncovered and undisturbed for 48 hours, and if no reaction occurs during that time you can consider it safe to use. If redness, itching, or burning occurs, do not use.

Alternative Hair Colors

Henna for Hair Color (safe alternative to hair colors containing PPD)

If you have an allergic reaction to hair color containing PPD or if you just prefer to not use these products, you may want to try dyes that are derived from plants such as henna and indigo. If you use one of these hair colors, be sure the product is all natural without any added chemicals.

You may also want to try one of the following homemade recipes:

Pour one of the below rinses through your hair 15 times with the same liquid. After the final rinse, wring your hair and let it set for 15 minutes before rinsing your hair with clear water.

  • Blonde: Mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in 1 gallon of warm water
  • Brunette: strong black tea or black coffee
  • Red: strong tea of rosehips or cloves

You must do this daily for a few weeks to be effective.


Derm Net NZ: Allergy to paraphenylenediamine -

Henna for Hair -

Pioneer Thinking: Hair Dyes -

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