Rainbow hair is becoming more and more common with people gaining more courage to experiment. No one can deny it’s edgy and glamorous appeal, but there is a flip side. We’re talking about hair dye allergies. This does not pertain to rainbow hair only but all types of colored hair.
PPD Is Mostly To Blame For Hair Dye Allergies
For over a century, para-phenylenediamine (PPD) and other aromatic amine compounds have been used in permanent or semi-permanent dyes. PPD is one of the primary compounds responsible for hair dye allergies. This is why, during the 20th century, it was banned from being used in hair dyes in Sweden, France, and Germany. Currently, it is allowed by the European Union but its concentration cannot exceed 6% of the dye.1
The darker dyes have more PPD. To our dismay, 2 out of every 3 hair dyes contain PPD. That probably gives you some perspective about the risk we are actually exposing ourselves to every time we color our hair.
Symptoms Of Hair Dye Allergies
PPD can penetrate the hair shaft and follicle and possesses the chemical properties necessary to make it a good hair dye. Sadly, these properties also make it a potential allergen (a substance that causes allergies).
First and foremost, you may not exhibit an allergic reaction to hair dyes the first time you color your hair. It may develop the second or third time around. Symptoms of hair dye allergies typically crop up within 48 hours, but depending on the concentration of the irritant, it may be sooner as well.
There are two basic types of adverse reactions to a hair dye:2
1. Mild Irritation
The constituents of the hair dye may directly irritate your skin and scalp. Red inflamed skin (dermatitis) becomes visible around the hairline (neck, forehead, ears, and/or eyelids) and on the scalp. Your skin and scalp may feel itchy and/or flaky as well.
2. An Allergic Reaction
Because of PPD and the other constituent allergens in the dye, your body may invoke an immune response. Henna that has been made darker artificially often has high concentrations of PPD. If you have conditioned your body to PPD, say by regularly getting temporary henna tattoos, your body will immediately react on the next exposure, which may be your hair color. You may develop an itchy rash, something like nettle rash, and you may generally feel ill.
In extreme cases, this allergic reaction may escalate into anaphylactic shock or anaphylaxis. Your face swells up so much so that your eyes may close. Swelling may occur in your mouth and throat as well, making it difficult to breathe or swallow. You may feel lightheaded and nauseous and finally even become unconscious. This, of course, is usually in addition to the itchy skin rash.
Home Remedies For Hair Dye Allergies
Unfortunately, there are no satisfactory and widely accepted alternatives to PPD for use in permanent hair dyes. Which leaves us in a “just deal with it” situation.
1. Wash Your Hair With Baking Soda
To get rid of mild irritation, you need to wash off the excess dye clinging to your hair and scalp. Mix a little baking soda (about 1 tablespoon) with a mild sulfate-free shampoo and hot water. Gently massage the resulting paste into your scalp. Wash it off after about 15 minutes. This should help get rid of any remnant dye particles.
Do note, however, that this is helpful only for mild irritation. If your scalp is very inflamed, do not try this method as it will cause an even stronger burning sensation.
2. Use A Lemon Juice And Yogurt Hair Mask
This hair mask will help soothe the inflammation. Mix 1 teaspoon of lemon juice with about 4 tablespoons of yogurt. Apply this mix on your hair, focusing on your scalp and other inflamed areas. Wash it off after about 20 minutes with cool water and a mild sulfate-free shampoo.
Do not leave this hair mask on for a long time as lemon has bleaching effects.
3. Apply A Soothing Natural Oil
Coconut oil, sesame seed oil, or olive oil – take your pick. Apply some oil to your inflamed skin 2–3 times a day. You may also sleep overnight with the oil on.
Gently heat the oil before applying it. The oil helps relieve some of the discomfort.
4. Concoct A Mint Or Basil Astringent
Mint and basil leaves are naturally soothing and are a godsend for irritated skin. Boil a few leaves in some water for about 10 minutes. Allow the decoction to cool. Then using a cotton ball, apply it on the affected areas. You should experience instant relief. Alternatively, you may crush the leaves to extract the juice and applied the juice to your skin.
This method offers only temporary relief. Again, if your condition is more severe, seek the advice of a healthcare practitioner before trying anything yourself.
5. Resort To Honey
Mix some honey with olive oil to obtain a medium-consistency liquid. Apply the mixture to your scalp and other affected areas. Honey, too, relieves irritated skin and reduces inflammation. Wash your hair with a mild sulfate-free shampoo after about 30 minutes.
Though there are restrictions on the usage of PPD, often hair color manufacturers fail to adhere to them. So, we need to be extra vigilant about the brands we trust and read the labels on the packaging to know the exact percentage of PPD.
If you decide to go through with coloring your hair, always do a preliminary test first. Apply a little dye behind your ear or on the inner part of your elbow and wash off after the recommended time on the packaging. Do this even for products that you have been using regularly.
If you regularly color your hair, getting an allergy patch test done to know whether you are allergic to PPD is recommended.