OCT. 7, 2017

Don’t Die of Hair Dye


I do not know anyone more sensitive than I when it comes to hair products. I have been rushed to the emergency room twice and in both cases ended up being hospitalized after having my hair treated in the salon.

All my dermatologists were right all along about my allergies getting worse as I age. When I was in college, my doctor applied some

hydrogen peroxide to my ear lobe. In minutes, my ear was red and extremely swollen. She told me to remember that I am allergic to hydrogen peroxide. A fact that I completely overlooked 20 years ago when I had my first hair color treatment in a salon. Peroxide is the developer or oxidizing agent in a hair dye. There was a burning sensation on my scalp while the dye was left to penetrate my hair. From then on, I looked for a hair color that  not have peroxide and found Clairol Loving Care.

Whenever I  was in the US, I would buy several bottles for my personal use since supply there was very scarce. Unfortunately, the product was completely discontinued sometime in 2011. That was when I was first hospitalized. I bought hair color that didn’t have peroxide and had my salon apply it on me. Confused, I had a complete allergy sensitivity test. The doctor said I have a severe reaction to paraphenylenediamine or PPD, which is present in almost all hair coloring products.

After that incident, I had to do a patch test every time I would like to try a new product. I couldn’t find an alternative I didn’t react to. Desperate, I checked online on PPD-allergic individuals who mourned the discontinuation of Loving Care to find out if they had succeeded in discovering an alternative.  Most gave good reviews to another Clairol product, Beautiful, which is a professional product available in salon supply stores. I got one to try and I did not develop a reaction. Happy, I always buy a year’s supply whenever I am in the US.

So, how did I get hospitalized a second time when I have been using Beautiful ever since I discovered it? According to my doctor, it was most likely PPD contamination from the salon’s mixing bowl, comb, brush, etc.  He told me to bring my own personal tools next time.

Lessons learned. Take your allergy seriously. Do a patch test for new products you want to try. Dab a small amount of the dye solution behind your ear or on your inner elbow and leave it to dry. Observe if there will be an adverse reaction. Always check the labels for a complete list of ingredients. Bring to the salon not only the product to be used but also all the tools necessary to apply it.

When I was admitted in the emergency room, they immediately placed me in an isolation room. I guess I looked too red and my face was swollen, and one eye closed.

It is possible also that the salon (not my regular one) staff felt that I was just exaggerating about my allergy. Maybe she was not careful. In the UK, there are reported cases of death from PPD allergies.

“Many permanent and some semi-permanent hair dyes contain PPD, which is a known irritant and allergen. This is the culprit of most reactions to hair dye. You’re particularly at risk if you have (or have previously had) a black henna tattoo. These temporary tattoos should be avoided because the paste often contains toxic levels of PPD, which can sensitize you to the chemical. This means your immune system has ‘remembered’ the chemical and will launch a defense reaction the next time you’re exposed to it. So, you could develop a life-threatening allergic reaction when you next use PPD hair dye,” warned NHS Choices, UK’s biggest health website.

Your reaction to PPD can range from mild irritation in the scalp to an allergic reaction that can trigger serious symptoms. If you think you are allergic to PPD, have your blood and skin tested for allergens. It pays to know. (www.philstar.com)

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