Hair Dye Allergy

Hair Dye Allergy

What is it?

Allergic reactions to hair dyes are common. They often appear in the form of contact dermatitis, a red, flaky, itchy rash in the areas of the skin that have come in contact with the dyed hair. The most common affected areas are the face, eyelids, ears, and neck. Allergic reactions can appear anywhere from three to six weeks after a hair dye treatment, especially when the hair comes in contact with the skin for prolonged periods of time or when the hair is rinsed directly onto the skin. There are multiple ingredients in hair dye that have been found to be common allergens, including, but not limited to, para-phenylenediamin (PPD). PPD is a chemical that is often used in hair dyes to create a more natural look. It can cause redness, scaling and itching of the upper eyelids and ears. More severe reactions include swelling of the face, eyelids, scalp and even anaphylaxis.

Treatment and Prevention

Rashes can be treated with topical steroid ointments; to prevent further flare ups, discontinue use of the hair dye that caused the rash and other hair dyes or products with the same ingredients.

Before anything is applied, make sure to patch test the color on your inner wrist or arm to see which colors or brands you react to. This is the most effective way to avoid a rash or reaction to certain dyes. Every color (both at home and professional types) is constituted differently and it is important to know how you respond to each kind.


  • Putting a few packets of Sweet N’ Low in with your color can cut irritation and itching due to the cream of tartar and saccharin in it that helps neutralize some of the irritants.
  • Look for products like Antidot Pro, which can be added to color to help eliminate itching and burning. It contains an antihistamine, making it more comfortable for those with mild reactions to color.
  • Avoid contact between the hair and skin when washing and drying the hair.
  • Rinse the hair away from the body, rather than directly on it.
  • Lean your head forward while rinsing your hair in the shower and let the water rinse away from your body.
  • Immediately after rinsing hair, use a towel to gather the hair and towel dry it.
  • Blow dry the hair downwards to avoid any contact with the skin.

If your rash does not resolve itself within a week of steroid ointments or if you continue to experience problems with these products, contact Dr. Lily at (703) 356-5111.

Request an appointment with a Dermatologist

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