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What you Need to Know About Home Hair Dyes

Updated on June 28, 2020
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Loves to share her views on issues that everybody should be aware of.

Dyeing your hair at home
Dyeing your hair at home | Source

Hair colour trends are constantly changing. Pink, Eve and Gwen Stefani were some of the first artists that had hair colours that were not the norm.

Every season a new hair style and a new hair colour are introduced by the fashion industry. You will see on the fashion catwalk, around Hollywood and especially in the music industry different stars and celebrities at shows and awards with a new hair colour and hair style.

Many men and women today refuse to dye their hair with chemicals and instead prefer to let their natural colour shine through. Other men and woman prefer to get their hair highlighted every few weeks to keep the grey hairs at bay or to simple change their natural hair colour to one that they like better.

Whatever your reason for dyeing your hair, there's one thing that we all agree on, it is that sometimes it's a lot cheaper to dye your hair at home compared to the hair salon.

It's more convenient for people to visit the drug store, their supermarket or chemist to purchase one of the well-known commercial brands of hair dye.

Many hair stylists don't approve of these home hair dyes because they have not been put through the same vigorous testing compared to the hair dyes that are used in salons.

You often hear horror stories of people who have experienced harmful side effects from home hair dyes. That's why is vital to do the 48 hours patch test prior to applying it on your hair.

Always do a Patch Test

When you buy commercial hair dye, there is a leaflet within the box informing you to do a 48 hour test patch prior to application

There is a reason that that message is put in the box and it is to inform the user to be cautious in case they have a severe allergic reaction or worst case scenario a fatal reaction.

A mild reaction could be a little redness around the area where you applied hair dye. A severe reaction could be large painful rash or an allergic reaction.

Doing this test is a very important step your should always follow before applying any brand of hair dye to your hair.

Some people use hair colour to express themselves.
Some people use hair colour to express themselves. | Source

Regulation of Hair Dye in Europe

In Europe, hair dye is regulated under Regulation EC NO 1223/2009. Under this regulation companies are required by law to list the chemical ingredients, the percentage used, the product it is used for, the region where the dye should be applied, and on the label, the list of care instructions when using this chemical.

There are 181 substances that have been banned from being used in commercial hair dyes in Europe.

Regulation of Hair Dye in the United States

In the United States, most hair dyes are made from petroleum which is referred to as Coal-tar hair dyes because this is the name of the substance that hair dye was previously made from.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act, 601(e)), requires colour additives to be approved first by the FDA. In regards to Coal tar dyes, no prior approval is required.

As long as there is no harmful effects on the population from using the products containing this chemical the correct way and no other substances in the product is harmful, then there is no input from the FDA.

Effects of Hair Dye

Not doing a test patch prior to applying hair dye can be deadly for some individuals. Some people are unaware that they are allergic to the chemicals in hair dyes.

On application of the dye to the scalp, there is an immediate reaction which can become very serious.

A mild reaction might be a rash, hair loss or hives. A more serious reaction could result in an anaphylactic shock which results in hives, swelling of the face and the airways leading to shortness of breath. An anaphylactic shock if not treated is deadly.

The 48 hour patch can give you an indication on whether you can expect some mild or serious reaction from application of the hair dye.

In 1980, the cosmetic industry took drastic action after chemicals, 4-chloro-m-phenylenediamine, 2, 4-toluenediamine, 2-nitro-p-phenylenediamine, and 4-amino-2-nitrophenol which were shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

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Reaction To Hair Dye

Long Term
Itchy scalp
Cancer (Alleged)
Burning sensation in the scalp
Hair loss
Dry hair
Anaphylactic Shock
Brittle hair

How to Deal with a Reaction to Your Hair Dye

If you start have a funny feeling like tingling in your scalp after you have applied hair dye to your scalp or you are in the process of applying it, then you need to immediately stop applying it and wash your hair and remove all the hair dye from your scalp.

This tingling sensation you experience can be due to:

  • Switching from one brand of hair dye to another
  • Switching from one type of hair colour to another

Dealing with reaction to home hair dyes.
Dealing with reaction to home hair dyes. | Source

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Hair Dye and Cancer

A report done by London Professor Kefah Mokbe, from Princess Grace Hospital, found that there is a 14 percent increase in woman getting breast cancer if they dye their hair.

Other tests done in laboratories have found that carcinogens found in hair dyes cause cancer in their test subjects. The main reason that they are reluctant to use this as evidence is that the studies are done in labs and are done under certain condition which is nothing like the real world.

Some other studies carried out investigated whether there is a link between breast cancer and leukaemia from using hair dyes. While only a small population sample was used, the conclusion seemed to form an opinion that it could be a factor in causing cancer.

But again a more intensive study with a larger global population would need to be done to get more definite results.

Tips on Using Hair Dye

  • Don't start dyeing your hair till you get older.
  • Don't dye your hair till you see grey hair.
  • Don't dye your hair every few weeks; instead dye it a few times a year.
  • Use organic, henna or herbal hair dyes with fewer chemicals.
  • Don't use any hair dye at all.

3 Types of Hair Dye and What They do

There are 3 types of commercial hair dye on the market today. Temporary, Semi-permanent, and Permanent.


Temporary hair dye will wash out after a set number of days and doesn't penetrate into the hair cuticle. After 28 days you will notice that every time you wash your hair they dye is being washed away.


Semi-permanent hair dyes does penetrate the outer layer of the hair cuticle. The condition of your hair as well as your natural colour will impact the final hair colour.

This type of dye doesn’t penetrate straight into the hair cuticle but it does contain a percentage of hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate. It won't affect the hair colour pigment as much as the permanent hair dye does. This type of hair dye will gradually fade away over time.


This type of hair dye does contain peroxide and will change your original hair colour. This is the most common dye used to cover grey hairs. This type of hair dye is the ones that can frequently cause an allergic reaction in individuals.

Rules you Should Follow when Dyeing your Hair

  • Do a patch test prior to application

  • Use the gloves provided in the box

  • Follow the instruction on the leaflet

  • Never leave the hair dye on longer than instructed

  • Never use hair dye that was previously opened

  • Ensure you rinse all the dye from your hair

  • If you feel unwell after applying the hair dye and experience a tingling in your scalp, wash your hair immediately and remove all traces of the hair dye

  • If you still feel unwell after a few hours, go straight to your doctor or the A&E in case you're suffering from an allergic reaction

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Sp Greaney


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    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      5 months ago from Ireland

      True. I find once you find a good hair dye, don't change from it.

    • Dianadee profile image

      Diana Carol Abrahamson 

      5 months ago from Somerset West

      Yes, it seems more trouble than its worth, in the long run. I use Garnier Nutrisse. A little kinder to the hair. Also not allergic to it at all.

    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      5 months ago from Ireland

      @Diana Carol Abrahamson, thank you. So many people have unknown side effects. Sometimes its better to just embrace the grey than cover it up.

    • Dianadee profile image

      Diana Carol Abrahamson 

      5 months ago from Somerset West

      Yes hair dyes can be so destructive, if instructions are not followed correctly. I have seen some people losing their hair, after too much bleaching and it becoming so thin. Thanks for your warning and tips.

    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      5 years ago from Ireland

      Hi Express10, Hopefully nature holds off a little longer and you don't go grey too fast.

      But you know what, I think that many woman today now look fabulous when they let their hair go grey. I think if you get a really great cut and style it right, you can look fantastic.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 

      5 years ago from East Coast

      This is very useful information. I'm allergic to many things and have always thought dye was not a good option for me. Many people in the US assume that just because they can easily purchase something that it is safe when too often this is not the case. In my family, people get gray hairs at a younger age than others.

      I have already gotten two gray hairs and I'll probably just pluck them out rather than dye my hair (it's very long & thick) or maybe investigate henna and possibly try that when grays really are noticeable. If not, I'll be like a relative whose waist length salt and pepper hair was her trademark.

    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      HI ChitrangadaSharan, That's a good point and I think a lot of us fail to realise that. There is just a few of us, who will be unlucky enough to have a bad reaction.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      6 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very useful information about using cosmetic hair dyes. Even the best and reputed brands, sometimes may not suit a person. So it is always advisable to do a patch test, as you have mentioned.

      Thanks for this useful hub!

    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Hi Colleen Swan, thanks for commenting. I totally agree with you. I think we have no idea what is in many of the products that we use to keep us looking fab.

    • Colleen Swan profile image

      Colleen Swan 

      6 years ago from County Durham

      Thank for the advice. We have to be so careful with the array of chemicals that are claimed to be safe. Nice Hub, voted up.


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