Is hair dye dangerous?

By: Health Local Staff May 11, 2012
  Article
hair dye dangers

Learn about paraphenylendiamine and the symptoms of a reaction.

Whether you are dying to rid yourself of gray that ages you or you are going for an overhaul, slow down! Maybe this is your first time dying your hair or you’re a veteran chameleon, changing your hair colour nearly as often as you do your clothes, have you looked at the directions lately?

What You Don’t Could Kill You
What is one of the first steps in the directions that most of us have a tendency to overlook? Yes, the strand test. Most of us assume that because hair dyes are sold in pharmacies, beauty supply and chain stores they must be safe. And for most people, they are. But there is a very good reason why hair colouring manufacturers want you to test a little bit first. What they are concerned with is an allergic reaction.

Although extremely rare, some people are allergic to something known as paraphenylendiamine (PPD for short). Never heard of it? Indeed it’s listed on the ingredients of the box you just bought, but so are many other things, right? It is a colour-enriching agent. What does that mean? It means that if you want your red more vibrant, your blonde more shimmering and enticing or your pink more well, what more can pink possibly be? PPD will achieve that for you.

If are one of a tiny percentage of people who has a reaction to PPD, you may experience any of the following symptoms:

• Redness at the site of exposure
• Swelling
• Irritation

For most of that tiny percentage, that’s where the allergic reaction ends. But like peanut allergies and bee stings, for an even smaller subset of people, anaphylaxis can occur. Maybe you’ve heard of it, but didn’t know exactly what it meant. It means that sometimes a reaction so severe can occur from something either topical or that is ingested that a person can stop breathing and die. As with bee stings and peanuts, the problem is that this can happen with the first exposure.

What Can You Do?
You can do one of three things. You can go to your dermatologist and ask him or her to test you for PPD. Or you can do as the instructions advise: do an allergy test, and exactly according to the directions. You can also use semi permanent dyes or henna as PPD isn’t present in those.

Although the likelihood is slim that you are one of the tiny percentage of people who is allergic to PPD, is it worth taking that chance and not following the directions?

The Health Local Staff is a team of writers and experts dedicated to bringing you the latest health, nutrition and lifestyle information at www.healthlocal.ca.