Covid and hair dye allergy

Occasional reports have been surfacing during the Covid pandemic of an increased incidence of allergic responses to hair dye products, and the issue arose again this week, widely reported in the mainstream media, including by the BBC.

I have written a lot about hair dye allergy before, namely in relation to the ingredient PPD and related chemicals which are typically present in permanent hair dye products, be they for home use, or used by your hairdresser. If you are allergic to PPD, PPD-free hair colour or dye is available, and although there can never be any guarantees with hair dyeing, you can find a suggested list of them here, together with some general guidance. 

Naturally these additional and new reports are concerning, and it’s perhaps not surprising that scientists don’t yet know much about them, given we still don’t fully understand Covid. It is easy to speculate that a previous, especially recent, Covid infection might challenge the immune system to such an extent that it becomes more easily susceptible or vulnerable to allergenic ingredients, but we don’t yet know. 

Furthermore, not all reports are linking the new incidences to PPD, per se, although it is understandable that it is the prime suspect. Bear in mind it is possible to become allergic to PPD even after years of tolerating products containing it, so without data, we could just be witnessing the inevitable loss of tolerance to the ingredient in a proportion of the population that would ordinarily be expected, even in pre-Covid times. 

There have also been some highly speculative concerns and myths aired about allergies in hairdressing and the various Covid vaccines, which the National Hair & Beauty Foundation (NHBF) have helpfully dispelled here — though suffice to say, a test or treatment will have no affect on a vaccine, and nor vice versa. The NHBF, incidentally, issue excellent advice to salons on Allergy Alert Testing, and the importance of strict testing protocols to protect both themselves against potential litigation and of course the wellbeing of the customer. As a customer, you can check that your hairdresser is adhering to guidance by checking out the resources on their site, for instance here.  

The Cosmetics Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) have also issued some guidance to consumers, both on having your hair professionally dyed, and using home dyeing kits, where the emphasis is on carrying out a 48-hour allergy test before each colouring you attempt. Find it here.

If you are uncertain about your allergies to hair dye components, but suspect you may have reacted to something in the past, it is worth speaking to your doctor about the possibility of patch testing to determine whether PPD (or an alternative ingredient) might be responsible. 

In a nutshell: play it safe, take advice from appropriate experts, speak to your doctor, and never skimp on any recommended allergy patch tests. Your skin, even your life, could depend on it. 

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