An Australian teen just gave us reminder No. 247 about the importance of patch tests.
Durie’s reaction to the dye was described as simply “[going] through hell.” The response was quite severe: Her eyes swelled shut, she had chemical burns on her eyeballs, and her lashes fell out. “I woke up almost blind because of the reaction. My eyes had blown up like huge balloons. I was crying and screaming,” she said.
Until she landed in the hospital, Durie had no idea that she was even allergic to Paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a common ingredient in dark hair dyes. Henna hair dyes in particular may contain PPD. Another such incident involved a woman in Austin, Texas, whose salon told her that its henna dye was natural. Soon after the woman left the salon, her eyes were swollen shut.
These are just two of the latest reactions in a string of PPD-related hair dye incidents. Just this week, Mish Whalen, a senior multimedia editor at Today, shared photos of her swollen head after an allergic reaction to hair dye. At the time, dermatologists suggested that the allergen in question could have been PPD.
About 7 percent of people test positive for reactions to PPD, making the 24-hour wait period after a patch test even more necessary.
If this particular dye ingredient is so dangerous, why do so many companies seem to use it? “PPD is still a very common ingredient in hair dyes for the scalp but is luckily becoming less common in hair dyes for eyebrow or eyelash tinting,” Arash Akhavan, MD, founder and director of the Dermatology and Laser Group in New York City, tells Yahoo Beauty.
PPD is a common ingredient despite its status as a “known allergen to dermatologists,” Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, founder and director of Capital Laser and Skin Care in Chevy Chase, Md., tells Yahoo Beauty. That means consumers have to be vigilant about monitoring for any sign of reaction, which may look like a “sting, burn, or red, itchy, blistering” skin.
“Around the eyes it can cause moderate to severe swelling,” says Tanzi. As in the cases that have surfaced in the news, “the eyes are swollen shut in the worst cases.”
Before proceeding with a dye, make sure your skin can handle PPD or any other harsh chemicals that may be in the formula. As Tanzi notes, “the fact is that any dye can cause an allergic reaction.” To be safe, test a small amount of dye behind your ear or on the back of your hand before applying it to the scalp.