We first heard about Barclay Cunningham through an in-depth piece about the history of hair dye and its implications for personal health. In the article, we read about Barclay’s arsenal of antihistamine pills, creams, and plastic bags wrapped around her head… all to combat severe allergic reactions triggered by coloring her hair with drugstore brands.
"Every two months, Barclay Cunningham goes through a process that begins with taking an antihistamine tablet. After a few hours, she smears a thick layer of antihistamine cream across her forehead, around her ears, and over her neck. Finally, she shields the area with ripped-up plastic shopping bags… if she dyes her hair without these measures, she gets an itchy, blistery, pus-filled rash that lasts for weeks."
It got so bad that Barclay was about to give up coloring her hair to protect her health. Luckily, she learned about Madison Reed’s commitment to replacing harsh chemicals with healthier, high performance ingredients. Read on for her story.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Barclay! How long have you been coloring your hair?
I started lightening my hair around age 12 with Sun-In, because that's all my parents would let me use. I had been a super blonde kid, but around age 7 my hair started to darken until I finally had to declare it brown. Which would have been fine, except my mother had the most gorgeous strawberry-blonde color, and I wanted to look like her!
What have you tried?
I used the Sun-In, then at-home highlighting kits, then went to college and graduated to permanent colors. I tried everything—blonde, red, platinum, purple, even brown—then settled on kind of a honey color.
In college I colored it myself. Shortly after college, I had my hair done at a salon. Then in my late 20s, I got super busy and didn't have time for the salon experience anymore (I usually color my hair at 11pm).
When did you first get allergic reactions to hair color?
In my late 20s. The things that changed at that time were that I moved to Philadelphia, stopped smoking, and started doing marathons/triathlons.
That’s ironic, since those are healthy changes. Have your symptoms gotten worse or stayed the same since then?
They were the same for about 10 years and have worsened over the past 2-3 years (after 40). The last 2 times I used a drugstore dye, the reaction was pretty severe, and I even had the itchy rash on parts of my body other than my head and neck.
Have you gotten an allergy test through your personal doctor?
No, since it was pretty obvious that the hair color was the cause. I didn't bother to check the chemical components or anything like that.
What brands of hair color have you tried?
I couldn't tell you what brands the salons used. I've probably tried every prominent drugstore brand out there for the past 10 years.
What was your reaction with Madison Reed?
I was so happy to find Madison Reed! I thought I was going to have to stop coloring, but wanted to give it one last try. I loved the whole kit!
I did the patch test. I had a tiny itchy bump in one small section of where I'd applied the color, so I thought hey, that's way better than my old color... I'll go for it.
Usually when I color my hair, I wake up a few hours later scratching at the back of my head, and it just gets worse from there, with a scabby scalp and a rash all over the back of my neck. Heaven forbid I get it on my ears.
With Madison Reed, I just had some itchiness on my scalp that popped up a day later. And I had even skipped my normal precautions, like antihistamines and a steroid cream barrier on my skin and wrapping my ears and neck with plastic. So, a slight reaction, yes, but nothing like my old color.
Thanks for sharing your story, Barclay, we are so happy you discovered us! Here’s a safety note from Dr. Jan Hansen, our medical advisor:
I would recommend Barclay do a patch test EVERY time she uses hair color. It’s best to take that precaution. It sounds like she is able to tolerate Madison Reed, hurray!
This is why we created Madison Reed. We wanted to give women a healthier option for high performance hair color that frees up your schedule, your budget, and your concerns. Build your Hair Profile today and experience Madison Reed for yourself.