Anyone can have an allergic reaction to hair dye. If prone to chemical sensitivities, one should pay extra attention to the warning labels on any hair dye product. Anaphylactic shock or death can result from an unexpected reaction.
The average person who colors his or her hair may unlikely have a problem. Only about 5% of consumers are allergic to the chemicals in hair dye (about the same percentage of people who might have an allergic reaction to tattoo ink). The reasons are the same – some of the chemicals used in pigmenting tattoo ink can also be found in hair dye.
Hair Dye Allergy Symptoms
Most allergic reactions to hair dye tend to be more cosmetically disfiguring than life-threatening. Mild symptoms may include skin inflammation. A temporary form of dermatitis can also occur, showing up on eyelids, the top part of the ears, or on the face, neck, upper back, or chest. These are places where hair dye or its fumes may come into contact. Surprisingly, because the skin of the scalp is so thick, many times it is not affected.
More severe reactions can cause swelling of the face and scalp. Eyelids can swell closed. More importantly, difficult breathing and anaphylaxis can occur, sending the whole body into an allergic reaction.
Hair Dye Allergy Prevention
The list of potentially harmful chemical ingredients in hair dyes is formidable. Many of these substances can commonly be found in shampoos; thus, the average person may think the hair dye is safe. It is, however, the stripping and coloring agents (harsh enough to pigment hair for many weeks) that are the culprits.
The first step in preventing a hair dye reaction is to carefully read the label and the enclosed warning pamphlet. These cautions can aid those who already know to what they might be allergic. For those unsure (and trying a product for the first time) a wise move is to conduct a skin patch test before committing to the product. This entails nothing more than mixing up a small quantity of the hair dye and applying it to a small patch of skin in a non-critical area (such as on the forearm or calf). Leave the product in place for the length of time it might be on the scalp. If no reddening, burning, blistering, or other outward allergic signs occur within 24 to 48 hours of use then the product is likely safe to use on the scalp as directed.
Another option is hypoallergenic hair dye. Although these products may use vegetable dyes for colorant, many still contain irritants. Finding a truly chemical free hair dye is almost impossible. Careful shopping (and consultation with an allergist or dermatologist for those in the most extreme cases) can help.
If a reaction does occur, flushing the scalp with water immediately can slow the process. For mild skin irritations an over-the-counter cream can ease the itching. Obviously, if one exhibits a severe hair dye allergy medical attention may be required.