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Avoid Allergic Reactions from Hair Dye By Using Other Alternatives


Adapted by Melody Gluth

Changing your hair color is simple and easy, thanks to the many dyes available in stores and salons. There is a wide assortment of colors and brands to choose from.

Choosing a new hair color wouldn’t seem to be the kind of decision that comes with much peril. But anyone intent on going from blond to brunette, or from grey haired to redhead could be in for a surprise.

In fact, chemicals used in hair dyes can trigger allergic reactions, and skin exposed to the chemical paraphenylenediamin (PPD) may become swollen, red, blistered, dry and cracked. Even if you have used a certain brand time and time again, you can still have an allergic reaction at one point. Especially if you are using dyes that you bought from a drug store.

“It’s a not so common reaction, but can happen,” says Paolo Tramonti, owner and CEO of Bios Line, an Italian company that manufactures the BioKap Nutricolor Delicato brand of at-home hair dyes.

Mostly the reaction to chemicals in hair dye is mild, but on rare occasions there can be a more serious situation. Two years ago, actress Pauley Perette of the TV series “NCIS” broke out in a rash and experienced severe swelling because of the dye she routinely used to turn her blond hair black.

Reactions can vary from person to person, Tramonti says, and that’s why hair dyes come with a caution statement about allergic reactions, and consumers are instructed to do a “patch test” on a small area of the skin before using them.

Tramonti say consumers can further reduce the chances of having an allergic reaction if they ask these questions about dyes:

Is it PPD free?

Even if you’ve used a hair dye with PPD in the past without any problems, that doesn’t mean you can consider yourself worry free. An allergic reaction to PPD can develop at any stage of life, Tramonti says. That’s why it’s best to avoid it and why Bios Line doesn’t use PPD.

Has it been nickel tested?

Nickel is another ingredient that may create problems and, according to the Mayo Clinic, can cause an itchy skin rash. “It’s impossible to avoid the presence of nickel completely because trace amounts are in water and in some natural ingredients,” Tramonti says. “That is why we test our products for nickel to ensure that only a small amount (less than 0.0001 percent) is present.”

Is it free of ammonia, paraben and resorcin?

These common dye ingredients also can lead to various skin irritations and other allergic reactions. For example, besides the skin problems ammonia can cause, exposure to ammonia fumes also can irritate the eyes, throat and lungs.

“Most people don’t experience any allergic reaction when they color their hair,” Tramonti says. “But there are people with particularly sensitive skin for whom it’s advisable to use products that are as natural and gentle as possible.”

There are other alternatives to use if you want to avoid having an allergic reaction or have experienced a reaction in the past:

Natural Dyes

There are a variety of natural ways to dye your hair. There many recipes for home remedies that can be easily found online; however, some may be more feasible and last longer than others. There are also brands available that use natural ingredients, such as BioKap Nutricolor Delicato mentioned above.


Henna hair dye is a natural way to change your hair color. You can easily purchase dyes online in a variety of natural colors. They come as blocks or as a powder, which you mix with water to create a mud-like paste. Henna can be a bit of a commitment though, because once you use Henna, you should not use any permanent hair dye over it. However, semi-permanent dyes can be a temporary fix, as long as you do not mind going darker.

Semi-Permanent Dyes

Semi-Permanent dyes can be a good alternative since they are usually vegetable based. They do not tend to contain the chemicals that permanent hair dyes have. Think of these more as a stain that goes over the hair color you have instead of chemically changing the color of the hair cuticle itself. Unfortunately, because they work more as a stain, they do fade fairly quickly. Sulfate free shampoo and washing your hair less often can help the color last longer. Also, because they do not tend to contain chemicals, it is hard to go a lighter color than what your hair already is. In order to lighten your hair, you have to use a bleach to chemically lighten your hair color.

Hypoallergenic Dyes

There are also some brands that make hair dyes that are hypoallergenic. These are known to cause a lesser reaction or no reaction at all. However, it is important to note that they still can cause a reaction; it just may not be as strong. It would still be a good idea to do a patch test first to be careful.

Hopefully some of these suggestions help as you search for a safer hair dye to use! Remember, it doesn’t hurt to be careful and do a patch test before applying the color all over your head.

About Paolo Tramonti:

Paolo Tramonti is owner and CEO of Bios Line, an Italian company that he founded 30 years ago. Today, the company’s products are distributed in 35 countries, and most recently its BioKap Nutricolor Delicato brand of at-home hair dyes has been introduced in the United States.

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