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Dyeing your Hair: Be aware of comestic hair dyes - what you need to know before you dye your hair

Updated on August 16, 2014
Dying your hair can change your appearance.
Dying your hair can change your appearance. | Source

Always Do A Patch Test Before Using Hair Dye

You might think that it's a waste of time doing a 48 hour patch test when you decide to use hair dye at home.

However, you should take note, there's a reason that message is put on the instruction leaflet.

Many people do develop reactions to using cosmetic dyes and sometimes these can be fatal.

If you do the test, and you do have a reaction, it might be a lot milder than if you have a whole bottle of hair dye on your head.

So always carry out the test, just to be safe.

Many of us like to change our hair colour to suit the seasons or just our moods. While others like to keep their natural hair colour a little longer, once they notice those few greys hairs creeping in.

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

We rely on those cosmetic hair dye that we get in the pharmacy at a reasonable price to do the job. It's a lot easier to take an hour out of your Saturday afternoon to dye your own hair in your own bathroom instead of having to book an appointment in town. While they don't contain as many harsh chemicals as the salon hair dyes, there are still some chemical that they contain that are dangerous to some people.

EU Action

While the EU have banned these chemical from appearing in hair dyes here, that doesn't mean that every country has followed the same course of action.

The cases here of people dying from severe allergic reactions have been told publicly in newspapers and this has probably played a part in the EU taking some form of action to save lives.

Problem With Hair Dye

The main problem with using any type of hair dye is that some people can be allergic to it the first time they use it. While others go for years with no problems. Then one day they have a severe reaction to it. If the reaction is mild and you get treatment immediately you might survive. If you don't then you could actually die.

The mildest symptoms you could get is a rash, hair loss or hives. But if you get an allergic reaction and your face starts swelling up, then you need get treatment straight away.

That's why it's vital to do the 48 hour reaction test before you use it. If you then have any reaction to it, the symptoms will be a lot milder.

There are many brands and variety of cosmetic hair dye out there and they all have chemicals.
There are many brands and variety of cosmetic hair dye out there and they all have chemicals. | Source

Reaction To Hair Dye


Itchy Scalp

Burning Sensation in Scalp


Anaphylactic shock

Long Term

Cancer (Alleged)

Hair Loss

Dry Hair

Brittle Hair

If you feel any tingling on your head after applying hair dye, immediately wash it off.
If you feel any tingling on your head after applying hair dye, immediately wash it off. | Source

What To Do If You Start Feeling Weird

If you're in the process of applying hair dye or have applied all the hair dye, and you suddenly start to feel weird or have a tingling sensation on your head, then immediately wash off the hair dye.

Don't wait 5 minutes to see if it stops. This tingling sensation sometimes happens if you switch from one brand of hair dye to another or switch from one type of colour to another.

Worst-case scenario

If you apply the hair dye and you leave it on, and you still feel a strange sensation on your head, then you could be in serious trouble. You might end up burning your hair or go into anaphylacti shock.

Chemical EU banned from Hair Dye

(click column header to sort results)
6-Methoxy-2,3-Pyridinediamine and its HCl salt
4,5-Diamino-1-Methylpyrazole and its HCl salt
4,5-Diamino-1-((4-Chlorophenyl)Methyl)-1H-Pyrazole Sulfate
4-Methoxytoluene-2,5-Diamine and its HCl salt
5-Amino-4-Fluoro-2-Methylphenol Sulfate
N,N-Dimethyl-2,6-Pyridinediamine and its HCl salt
N-(2-Methoxyethyl)-p-phenylenediamine and its HCl salt
2,4-Diamino-5-methylphenetol and its HCl salt
3,4-Diaminobenzoic acid
2-Aminomethyl-p-aminophenol and its HCl salt
Solvent Red 1 (CI 12150)
Source: EU

7% of people will have a reaction to hair dye.

Para-phenylenediamine Chemical

There has been no official research conducted into the chemical PPD confirming that it is the cause of the allergic reactions.

But a lot of scientist say that it is the only thing that could such a severe reaction.

Hair Dye & Cancer

When research was conducted on animals using this chemical (4MMPD sulfate) or its more formal name, 4-methoxy-m-phenylenediamine sulfate which is two coal-tar ingredients, they found that it caused cancer in the animals.

It was banned from being used in hair dyes and so have other ingredients as more research has continued into this area. However, there hasn't been any long term research carried out to confirm that long term use of hair dye does cause cancer.

Still the experts say that you should only start dying your hair later on in your life when you really need to. If you do dye your hair, try to not do it on a continuous basis. If you don't use hair dye, then in the long run it can significantly reduce your risk of contacting cancer.

There is also the option now of using natural hair dyes which are made from plants. Products like henna have become popular with people who don't want to take that risk in the long term.

Para-Phenylendiamine (PPD)

This is a chemical found in permanent hair dye.

People who use permanent hair dye then become sensitized to this chemical and have an allergic reaction to it.

This substance has also been blamed for causing dermatitis.

Types of Hair Dye

There is 3 types of hair dye. 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. That's why mostly after 28 days you will notice that every time you wash your hair, you will see dye running out into the water.


Semi-permanent hair dyes do penetrate the outer layer of the hair cuticle. The final colour of the hair, will be determined by the condition of the hair at the time and the original colour of the hair. While these types of hair dyes don't penetrate straight into the hair cuticle they do contain some hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate. But it's very mild and it won't affect the actually hair colour pigment as much as the permanent. This type of dye will gradually fade away.


This type of hair dye does contain peroxide and will change you original hair colour. Most often this is the type of dye you will use to cover grey hair. These are the ones that cause allergic reaction the most often.

Who do you think has the best hair colour?

See results

Rules When Dyeing Your Hair

  1. Do a patch test

  2. Use the gloves provided

  3. Follow the instruction on the box

  4. Never leave the hair dye on longer that it says

  5. Never use hair dye that was previously opened

  6. Rinse your hair really well with water to remove all the dye

  7. If you feel unwell after applying hair dye, immediately wash your hair and remove all traces of hair dye

  8. If you continue to feel unwell, go to your doctor or A&E in case you're suffering from an allergic reaction

© 2014 Sp Greaney


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    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 3 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 3 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 image

      Sp Greaney 3 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 3 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 image

      Sp Greaney 3 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 3 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.