Tattoo ink & hair dye allergies

Written by john mack freeman
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Tattoo ink & hair dye allergies
Henna tattoos are one of the most common sources of PPD. (ornamente image by Patrizier-Design from

Allergic reactions to both hair dye and tattoo ink are rare and do not occur in large numbers of people. However, for people who commonly use oxidising hair dyes and henna tattoos, the connection between these two disparate allergies may have a common source. As with all allergies, to be diagnosed properly, a physician's opinion should be sought.

Connection Between Hair Dye and Henna Tattoos

The common connection for people who are allergic to both hair dyes and henna tattoos is their sensitivity to paraphenylenediamine (PPD). As many as two-thirds of the hair dyes commercially available today use PPD as a primary colouring ingredient. This common chemical substance can also be found in textiles, cosmetics, printing inks and black rubber.


People suffering from an allergic reaction to PPD may develop allergic contact dermatitis, resulting in the development of granulomas, redness and itching or burning feeling in the affected area. Contact urticaria is a less common reaction that causes red patches over the entire body, wheezing, difficulty swallowing, sneezing and vomiting. Lastly, though rare, some cases of anaphylactic shock, resulting in a drop in blood pressure mixed with swelling that blocks the airways, have been reported as being connected with PPD allergies.


To treat the contact dermatitis, wash the affected area with a mild soap to remove the excess dye and then apply either a 2 per cent hydrogen peroxide solution or a compress of potassium pomegranate in 1:5,000 dilution. To soothe tightness in the skin, apply a chilled dressing of olive oil and lime. For extreme symptoms, such as contact urticaria or anaphylactic shock, medical attention should be sought immediately.

Avoiding PPD Sensitivity

Stay away from all hair dyes that employ an oxidation system, usually recognisable by coming in a 2-bottle set that has to be mixed before applying it to the hair. Wear protective garments if exposure to PPD is an occupational hazard where you work. Also, PPD is used in some local anaesthetics, so inform your doctor of your allergy or sensitivity before undergoing surgery.

Other Possible Causes

For both hair dyes and tattoos, latex gloves may be used by the person applying the hair dye or tattoos to your body. If you have a history of latex sensitivity, this may be the true cause of your allergic reactions, not the PPD that is being used on you. If you find that you are allergic to latex, ask your hair stylist or tattoo artist to use non-latex gloves that are readily available from many retailers.

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