I recently read an article released by WebMD that found that the incidence of allergic reactions to a very common ingredient in many hair dyes, para-phenylenediamine also known as PPD, is on the rise. In fact, one very prominent dermagologist, Dr. John McFadden of St. John's Institute of Dermagology in London, has seen double the number of cases of the PPD allergy in the past six years.
Beginning in January 1998, a French patch-test study of PPD was conducted over an 18-month period on over 400 random human subjects, and it was found that 33% of the individuals studied experienced an allergic reaction, not unlike contact dermatitis...ouch.
People with reactions to PPD commonly experience a painful rash around their hairline or face, which if not treated, can lead to hospitalization or even death. Other side effects include facial swelling and, if you'll please excuse the pee-pee talk, turning your urine brown due to toxicity of your entire system. Sounds great, huh? Well, funny thing: although PPD is used in almost all permanent hair color, the FDA has banned its use on skin. Gee, I wonder why?
The moral of the story is: if you are going to have your hair colored or you are doing it yourself, DO A PATCH TEST and wait 72 hours to be sure you will not have a reaction. It doesn't matter if you're using the same product you always have...products change formulations plus you can experience a reaction to a product or substance even though you have used it 'safely' and without incidence in the past. Also, use a layer of petroleum around your hairline when coloring your hair--this is the ONLY time I will recommend using Vaseline on your face, but hey, when it comes to beauty and health, you gotta protect yourself.
If you do experience a reaction to hair color or dye, I am sure you will agree that grey hair or dark roots are better than a swollen face or dying. If abstinence is not an option, alternatives to dying your hair with traditional dyes that contain chemicals like PPD (FYI: known carcingens are found in most hair dyes) include Henna or Indigo, color "rejuventors" and other natural alternatives, like coffee, tea and lemon juice. These and other natural hair coloring agents can be found at BabyFit.com.
P.S. Good news for fake blonds: PPD is found in much lower concentrations in blond hair dyes and bleach.