Allergic Reaction to Hair Dye Symptoms, Treatment and Testing

What is and what are the symptoms of allergic reaction to hair dye? How to you treat hair dye allergies or what do to do these allergic reactions? Get info on allergic reactions to hair dyes and colors, treatments, symptoms and hypoallergenic hair dyes. You will also learn on testing. 

Allergic Reaction to Hair Dye – Symptoms, Treatment, Hypoallergenic, Testing, How to Treat for Hair Dye Allergy
Allergic Reaction to Hair Dye

With the many hair dyes available in almost available in almost any color, you are likely to get into the temptation of buying any hair dye and trying it without testing to see if you are allergic to it or not. Who bothers testing for allergy to a new dying product when it worked just fine on your friend?

Unfortunately, upon using the dye, you realize you are allergic, so what are some the symptoms you will show?  What about ways of treating hair dye allergies? We will discuss all these and much more.

What Causes Hair Dye Allergic reactions

People, especially those with sensitive skins, can suffer fro

m hair dye allergies more often than those who have normal skin. Furthermore, people who are fond of permanent hair dye, especially the darker or black hair dyes will suffer from these commonly allergic reactions to hair dyes since they contain Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) and other chemicals such as resorcinol used in varying the dye color, ammonia for reaction and peroxide (especially hydrogen peroxide) to help fix the dyes (oxygen donors).

The above chemicals often cause cross sensitivity to other chemicals. For instance, other chemicals, which have shown moderate sensitivity to a few people who have already been sensitized (cross sensitized) include azo dyes (found in temporary dyes, medications and foods), benzocaine (local dental anesthesia) Para-amino benzoic acid (common preservative to lotions, sunscreens and creams) etc.

Allergic Reaction to Hair Dye Symptoms and Signs

When you suffer from hair dye allergic reaction, you are bound to experience some symptoms directly on the affected area (contact dermatitis allergic reactions) or suffer from systematic symptoms on other parts of the body because of using the dye. For both the two scenarios, the allergic reaction to hair dye symptoms might be mild or severe.

Localized allergies to hair dye might cause irritation that often affects the scalp, forehead, hairline, neck region, eyelids or ears where you will suffer from itchy and tingling sensation, urticaria or nettlerash, inflamed patches, flaky red rashes, lesions, generally feeling unwell and at times anaphylaxis. There are many other symptoms of allergic reactions to hair dyes, which may vary from one person to another.

The above allergic reaction to hair dye symptoms often begin showing within two to three days from the time you dye your hair. They might then last for several days or weeks depending on hair dyes allergy treatments given.

Diagnosis and Testing for Allergic Reactions to Hair Dyes

If you realize you suffer from allergic reactions from hair dyes, you need to undergo tests to know the exact chemicals in hair dyes that cause your hair dyes allergies.  There are two ways of going about it where you can do a patch test at home if you have never suffered from any severe allergic reaction to hair dyes or go for a formal patch test in a dermatological clinic.

If you opt for patch test at home, you need to take a small amount of hair dye solution and put it behind your ear, inner elbow, or on your neck region and leave it there, for at least 48 hours uncovered. If nothing happens, the dye might be safe for use. This should be done each time you want to use a new dye since as Dr. Rajani Katta, Dermatology Professor at BCM notes, “you can develop an allergy to a product at any point in time.” However, if you suffer from any unwellness or irritation, do not use the dye.

A more sure way of testing for allergic reaction to hair dyes is undergoing a dermatological patch test in a clinic. Most of the chemicals that cause allergic reactions to hair dyes or colors as well as potential sensitizing chemicals are known. Although limited number of chemicals will be tested as a drawback of this method, you will be able to point out which ingredients in hair dyes causes allergic reactions to you.

Allergic Reaction to Hair Dye Treatment – How to Treat Allergic Reaction to Hair Dye

When you notice you are allergic to a certain hair dye brand or type, it is normal to want to know how to treat or what to do with hair dye allergic reaction. This section is going to focus on this hair dye allergic reaction treatments as well as ways to ensure you never suffer from the allergic reaction to hair dyes.

Wash Affected Area Thoroughly

The moment you notice you are allergic to the dye you have just applied, get the strongest shampoo you have or a clarifying shampoo to be specific and wash off all the dye on your hair. This will help reduce the worsening of hair dye allergy symptoms you will be experiencing.

Over the Counter Hydrocortisone Cream for Hair Dyes Allergies

If you are suffering from mild allergic reactions to hair dyes, you need to consider going for the over the counter hydrocortisone cream. You need to use these them for at most a week and if no positive change is noted, see a dermatologist for further treatment. Hydrocortisone cream will help in soothing the affected area.

If you have rashes on your face, you should instead go for safer tropical creams such as Protopic and Elidel, which have lesser side effects when used for longer durations as opposed to hydrocortisone tropical creams.

Systematic Corticosteroids and Anti Histamines Tablets – Severe Allergies

Going on with our discussion on how to treat allergic reaction to hair dye, if you have severe allergic reactions, especially rashes, you should consider going for systematic corticosteroids, which will be prescribed by a dermatologists or professional health care personnel. They are often administered as injection or pills.

Furthermore, to treat these allergies, use any other anti histamine tablets such as Benadryl, Loratadine or Cetrizine to help contain the allergic reaction.

Stop Using Hair Dyes

If you find you suffer from allergic reaction to hair dyes too serious, you need to consider not using these dyes at all. If you already have developed cross sensitivity, stop using any of the chemicals such as azo dyes even in foods and other chemicals mentioned above.  This is a great way of preventing such hair dyes allergies.

Go for Alternative Products that Might not Trigger Hair Dye Allergies

As we have seen, paraphenylenediamine and other chemicals, it is a good idea to go for based on Para-amino diphenylamine (PADA), 3-nitro-p-hydroxyethylaminophenol or paratoluene diamine (PTDA) which are much safer. They are though less dark or deeper in color but they are less sensitizer for most people.  In addition, buy vegetable-based dyes or henna dyes, which normally do not cause allergic reactions.

Some of the safe products to buy include the ammonia free hair dyes, hypoallergenic hair dyes as well as all natural hair dye. Furthermore, use temporary hair dyes, sprays, rinses, and highlight (bleaching agents) without PPDA and go for lead oxide dyes that can help in darkening grey hair.  Some of the safe hair dyes to buy include Advanced Cosmetic Technologies Permanent Hair Coloring Kit

Eat a Good Diet

Eating a good diet has been found to reduce instances people are affected by allergic reactions generally. Go for green leafy foods, carrot juice and fruits as they help in treating a number of skin disorders. Diet is particularly important to people whose skin has been affected already and they want to treat it.

Hypoallergenic Hair Dye – Top Brands

If you are prone to hair dye allergies, you need to consider going for hypoallergenic hair dyes. These are types of dyes, which causes lesser allergic reactions or none at all. Therefore, if you want to deal with hair dye allergies, you need to try these products too as they can help you.

With the knowledge of what hypoallergenic hair dyes are, and how they can help in minimizing chances of suffering hair dye allergies, you might need to try them, especially best brands. Some of the best hypoallergenic hair dye brands include the following:

  • Clairol Hypoallergenic Hair Color
  • Aubrey Organics Color Me Natural
  • No Limits Semi-Permanent Hair Color (Ammonia Free Hypoallergenic Hair Dye)
  • Clean & Simple Hypoallergenic Conditioner for Dry/Color Treated Hair (Conditioner)

Note: Some users have experienced allergic reactions while using Herbatint Permanent Hair Color.

These are some of the best hypoallergenic hair dyes you can go for to help reduce instance of suffering from associated allergies. However, before using any of the hypoallergenic hair dye, ensure you have done the normal hair dye allergy test for dyes to be certain they are not going to affect you, as not every product branded as hypoallergenic will not cause hair dye allergic reactions.


  1. Hi. I just want to note that there are alternatives. I go to a person I consider to be an expert in “all natural” herbal/henna hair color. (Not the “fry your hair with henna of the 70’s”–Liz Henao of in Durham NC is a former New York colorist who has studied herbs and can even do natural blonds….So…. grey is amazing but there are great alternatives.

  2. Just want to let you know I bought Herbatint which is listed here as non allergenic and I had a really bad allergic reaction. It wasn’t the color you list, it was dark blond, but nonetheless, maybe you should remove it from your article,
    I was never allergic to hair dye which I used for 20 years and suddenly I had a reaction with a product called Just for Men which I’ve used all my life. So I switched to herbatint with really bad results.
    Thank you,

    • Juan I have the same experience as you ……. Used “just for men” for years on my beard and sideburns but now I can’t use it. The rash and itching is unbearable to live with. Creams do Relieve it a bit but not entirely. Have you found any other products? Thanks Alan

  3. Used just for men for the past 2 yrs this last time my face broke out rash itching blisters never again will I use this product feels like my face is on fire

  4. please i need an advise on how to cure the swollen and numb face due to hair dye reactions aside from taking medicines?thank you ang God Bless…