The symptoms of a hair dye allergy

Updated February 21, 2017

The dashing red dye may look great on your hair, but it can also set off a red rash all over your face. An estimated 5 per cent of folks who try permanent hair dye end up with some type of allergic reaction, according to an article at Those reactions come in several forms and can be treated in several ways.

Contact Dermatitis

Itchy red and scaly skin, a rash and burning sensations can be symptoms of contact dermatitis. When caused by hair dye, these symptoms usually crop up at the hairline, tips of the ears and sensitive facial areas, such as the eyelids. It can also spread to other facial areas, the neck and even the hands, if the latter were not properly protected when handling the dye. On its first outbreak, symptoms can take up to 10 days to show up, but they will appear more quickly if the same dye is used again.

Contact Urticaria

Swollen eyelids and red skin can be a sign of contact urticaria. This condition comes with a more severe reaction than dermatitis and can often include red, scaly patches that spread across the entire body. It may be accompanied by sneezing and wheezing, having a hard time swallowing and even vomiting. Symptoms can show up immediately upon contact or take as long as an hour to appear.

Anaphylactic Shock

While anaphylactic shock is rare as a result of hair dye, it is potentially deadly. Immediate symptoms include swelling of the face, eyelids and lips; shortness of and gasping for breath; and a plummeting blood pressure. Immediate medical assistance is required.


Taking the time to do an allergy test with hair dye, as suggested on the box, is not an exercise in futility. Although allergic reactions are rare, they can be reduced even further when a small amount of dye is applied to a sensitive area, such as the inner arm, and waiting 24 to 48 hours to determine if a reaction occurs. This test may not catch every potential reaction, but it can save much grief for many.


Rinsing the scalp and washing with a gentle shampoo, followed by a 2 per cent hydrogen peroxide solution, can help alleviate the allergic reaction, said. You can also purchase over-the-counter skin salves to lessen the itching or visit a dermatologist for a more potent prescription ointment.

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