backup og meta

Allergic Reaction to Hair Dye: Everything You Should Know

Medically reviewed by Martha Juco, MD · Aesthetics

Written by Jen Mallari · Updated Feb 21

    Allergic Reaction to Hair Dye: Everything You Should Know

    Most hair dyes contain an ingredient called para-phenylenediamine or PPD for short. This particular ingredient is included in hair dyes since this is responsible for giving coverage to hair and making it look darker. Also, PPDs are mostly found in permanent hair dyes. However, this ingredient can cause an allergic reaction to hair dye in some individuals.

    There is another ingredient in hair dyes called para-toluenediamine or PTD for short. This ingredient is responsible for giving color to hair. Like PPD, PTD is also a cause of skin allergic reaction to hair dye. 

    While there may be other ingredients in hair dye that can cause skin allergic reaction, the most common ingredient that causes allergic reactions is PPD. 

    Symptoms of Allergic Reaction to PPD

    Once a person has PPD applied topically on their skin, there are several allergic reactions that may appear on the skin itself, for instance:

  • An itchy rash affecting the upper eyelids or the rim of the ears (mild reaction)
  • Blistered, swollen and red skin on the scalp, face, eyelids, and neck (severe reaction) 
  • Hand dermatitis (especially for hairdressers)
  • Pruritus (can be mild as well)
  • Vesicular
  • Bullous dermatitis
  • Erythema 
  • Eyelid and facial edema, blister formulation, and exudation 
  • Lesions on the central face for men who dye their facial hairs
  • Photosensitivity
  • It is common for  people to have acute, subacute, or chronic contact dermatitis once PPD comes in contact with their skin. The symptoms listed above do not show up immediately after the skin comes in contact with the dye. Symptoms only occur after some time (a few hours to a few days). 

    If the skin receives frequent exposure to PPD, the allergic reaction would become more severe over time and would last on the skin longer. 

    If a person develops dermatitis, they may be prone to having post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, scarring, or hypopigmentation. Moreover, people must take note that even though their symptoms have already disappeared, it is most likely that they will be sensitive to PPD for the remainder of their lives. 

    Diagnosis of Allergic Reaction to Hair Dye

    Allergists or dermatologists commonly use a patch test to see if there is a skin allergic reaction to PPD or other ingredients that are present in hair dye. There are two methods classified under patch testing, namely uncovered patch tests and covered patch tests. 

    Uncovered patch tests are usually for people who have not used hair dye yet. For this type of patch test, there is a possibility that people would get a primary allergic reaction to the hair dye used for patch testing. On the other hand, a covered patch test is used for determining the sensitivity of a person to PPD. 

    If the results for both patch methods are positive then that would mean you are allergic to PPD and should avoid it. Other than PPD, there are also other ingredients that may cause skin allergic reactions, namely fragrances, preservatives, and other types of hair dyes. 

    Treatment for Allergic Reaction to PPD

    Luckily, there are treatments for those with dermatitis from PPD.

    • When washing your hair, make use of a mild soap or a soapless shampoo to remove the dye. By using mild products, you are not risking your already sensitive skin to other possibly harmful ingredients present in shampoo or soap. 
    • Use a cold mixture of lime and olive oil to soothe a crusty scalp. This mixture also helps the scalp to loosen up as well. 
    • Make use of 2% hydrogen peroxide or potassium permanganate (1:5000 dilution) to oxidize the PPD on your scalp.

    Other treatments  include topical ones such as emulsion of water, corticosteroid cream, or oral corticosteroids. If other parts of your body came in contact with PPD and started to form dermatitis, the treatments for those would be emollients and topical corticosteroids. 

    Preventive Tips of Having Allergic Reaction to Hair Dye

    The best way to prevent having skin allergic reaction to hair dye would be:

    • Avoiding oxidizing hair dyes
    • Avoiding permanent hair dyes 
    • Being careful around semi-permanent hair dyes as these also have a possibility of triggering dermatitis
    • Doing a patch test with every purchase of hair dye. This is a safety measure that can help users know whether or not they should continue using the dye.
    • Using gloves when applying hair dye 
    • Avoiding henna tattoos 

    Key Takeaway

    Skin allergic reactions are common for people who use hair dye. Anyone using hair dye must proceed with caution. Reading the ingredient list on hair dyes is an absolute must if you want to prevent having an allergic reaction. Should you have sensitive skin, you may opt to use organic hair dyes which claim to be nontoxic. However, when in doubt, always do a patch test.

    Learn more about Skin Allergies here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Martha Juco, MD


    Written by Jen Mallari · Updated Feb 21

    advertisement iconadvertisement

    Was this article helpful?

    advertisement iconadvertisement
    advertisement iconadvertisement