Allergies are nothing to sneeze at and you definitely know when you’re suffering from them. Whether it’s a scratchy throat, watery eyes, hives or worse, it’s your body’s way of fighting back. The common medical definition of allergies, according to Daniel More, MD is, “an abnormal reaction by a person's immune system against a normally harmless substance.” What that basically means is that when a person who is allergic encounters a trigger, the body reacts by releasing chemicals which cause allergy symptoms. It can range from being uncomfortable to downright unpleasant and when it happens, you’ll be running for cover. Here a few common questions that you should know the answers to.
Am I allergic to hair color?
A hair color allergy is exactly what you think it is, a reaction to chemicals found in any product that colors your hair. According to HealthHype.com, about 5% of people who use any sort of hair color develop an allergy, which means that it’s pretty rare. But when an allergy does strike, it can be just as severe as a nut or shellfish allergy. If you see any signs of swelling, itching or burning, listen to your body, you’re having a reaction. It’s very common for these symptoms to start within a short period of time after application, but it’s possible that an allergic reaction to hair color can develop days or weeks after the treatment, which displays itself as redness or itch on or around the head. This is important, so let’s repeat that: symptoms of hair dye allergies aren't necessarily immediate and they can occur two, three or even up to seven days after exposure to the product. According to Debra Jaliman, MD and author of Skin Rules, “If you develop a severe allergy, you could get blisters and hives and, though rare, difficulty breathing similar to an anaphylactic reaction.”
Is there an hair color ingredient that is setting off my allergic reaction?
The most common hair color ingredient that people have a reaction to is a substance known as PPD, shortened from the scientific name of paraphenylenediamine. It’s frequently used in commercial hair dyes—both drugstore and salon brands—and is primarily used to fight color fade. According to researchers at WebMD, PPD is found in more than two-thirds of commercial hair dyes. In her book Skin Rules, Dr. Jaliman states that, “Black dye is known as being worse than others, but you can get a reaction no matter the shade you’re using or the original color of your hair.” If you're having a severe PPD reaction, it can show itself as a painful rash around the hairline, as well as facial swelling. Reactions can be serious and although it’s rare, hospitalization can occur.
It’s not uncommon that all the sudden the hair dye that you’ve used for years starts giving you a reaction. Your body can develop immune reactions to certain molecules over time, meaning you can start having an allergy at any point in your life. Just because you’ve been loyal to your tried and true brand for 10 years, it doesn’t mean that you can’t develop an allergy.
Even if you’re not allergic to anything else, you’re not exempt from chemicals reacting negatively with your body. That is why it is important to always do a patch test prior to coloring. To perform a sensitivity skin patch test, mix a little color cream with a little activator. Apply mixture with cotton swab to your skin and wait 48 hours. If there is no sign of change to the area, then you’re ready to color. If you notice swelling, a rash or redness, you may have an allergy. Always consult your personal doctor if you have questions or concerns.
I may have an allergic reaction to hair color - what should I do?
Multiple sources and doctors suggest that if you’re having a reaction make sure to immediately wash out any remaining hair dye using a clarifying shampoo. If you’re not sure what that is, or if you don’t have it on hand, reach for the strongest shampoo you have to eliminate all residue. You can also pop an antihistamine or any over the counter allergy product to help block the reaction. If you’re afraid of becoming drowsy, an alternative is to apply a cortisone cream directly to the itchy skin, which can help to calm the itch and reduce inflammation. If you feel like your reaction is more severe, you’re in pain or experiencing facial swelling, see a doctor immediately. Get to an emergency room or get on the phone to your general practitioner ASAP. DON’T WAIT. Allergic reactions on the scalp can cause problems with the face or neck and can even affect breathing. It is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health.
Why do I have allergies?
It’s a bit of a mystery why some people have allergies and others don’t. Research shows that they can run in families, and in some cases, anyone in your gene pool can share allergies to specific foods or medications. It’s widely believed that your body’s allergic response was once meant to protect against parasitic infections, although now seems to be an abnormal response to noninfectious triggers.
What’s the answer?
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