Best safe hair dyes for allergy sufferers

Best safe hair dyes for allergy sufferers

It's time folks! I have to drop the bomb! Many of you have asked me about a safe hair dye for allergy sufferers. I also have a problem with hair dyes if they have high PPD levels and have been using low PPD hair dyes for years. The strange thing is, I never suspected I could develop such a reaction and after a routine visit to the hair salon, I started experiencing allergy symptoms out of the blue. Luckily there was someone (my hairdresser) to explain everything to me in detail. Unfortunately, not everyone has "someone" like me, and many people just stop coloring their hair, which is not a solution to the problem.

Apparently, this is a pretty common problem, and believe me, you're not alone! It's horrible to want to change your style or cover gray hair, but know you can't because you'll have an allergic reaction. Cheer up though! There are many solutions to this common problem, and I'm about to share them with you. In this article I will explain to you the following:

What are hypoallergenic hair dyes?

What is a safe hair dye - Infographic showing the most common ingredients that are considered as harmful or danger for allergies

You're probably asking yourself if there is a natural hair dye at all that don't cause hair dye allergy. Of course, such dyes exist and are freely sold on the market, you need to know where and what to look for. The most important thing is to determine what is causing this reaction. Then you can easily choose a hypoallergenic hair dye that will not endanger your health.

Hypoallergenic hair dyes remove some of the ingredients that can cause an allergy. Yes, that's right... there is no hair color that doesn't contain a single allergen. Instead, you need to find out what causes your allergies, so you can choose the right hair dye for you.

Allergies are most commonly caused by PPD or Para-phenylenediamine, but they can also be caused by ingredients such as ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, and more.

Important: There is no universal safe hair dye for allergy sufferers. Instead, there are modified hair dyes that remove some of their ingredients so that they can be used by people who are allergic to a given ingredient.

What is the meaning of PPD (Para-phenylenediamine)

What is PPD - Infographic showing the molecule structure of the PPD

Para-phenylenediamine (PPD) is an ingredient often used in permanent hair color. It gives the hair its natural look and holds the dye on it when shampooed without losing any of the vibrancy of the color. PPD (with a little help of ammonia) reacts with the oxygen and deposits pigment inside the hair shaft which drives a process that creates long-lasting results. PPD is the most common allergen in hair dyes.

This in no way means that it is the reason you are having an allergic reaction. Instead, if you have ever experienced an allergy to a hair dye, you should get yourself tested for all possible ingredients of that dye. This must necessarily happen in a controlled environment and under the supervision of a doctor. The procedure will not only help you determine what you are allergic to, but it will also give you peace of mind and know for sure what ingredients to avoid.

NOTE: It's more likely to find PPD in permanent hair dye than demi-permanent, semi-permanent dyes or hair toners.

Ingredients causing allergic reactions in hair dyes

Hair dye ingredients - Infographic showing the main ingredients of the hair dye (PPD, Ammonia, Hydrogen Peroxide, Alcohol and others)

The most common ingredients found in hair dyes that you may have an allergic reaction to are:

  • Para-phenylenediamine (PPD)
  • Ammonia
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Alcohol (btw, if you're allergic to alcohol you're screwed)
  • Propylene glycol

    Please note that all hair dyes have some kind of ingredients that you might be allergic to. Unless you dye your hair with pure henna, beet juice, carrot juice, coffee, sage, or something else, all hair dyes contain harmful chemicals and toxins of some kind.

    In addition to knowing the ingredients that cause allergy, it's good to be aware of how to tell if you're allergic, what the main allergy symptoms are and what to do if you develop an allergy.

    How do I know if I am allergic to PPD, Ammonia, or another ingredient?

    Allergy test - Infographic showing the most common ways of testing for ppd allergy

    Make sure you do a test before applying hair color with high PPD levels. The easiest method is with a Patch test. Dermatology clinics offer this service and can do patch testing for any ingredients that are included in hair colors. Once you know which ingredient is causing the allergy, you can choose a hair color that does not contain the specified ingredient. In other words, this means that there is no universal safe hair dye for allergy sufferers, instead, you have to find the one with the right ingredients for you.

    ADVICE: It's not reccomended but it's better than nothing. If you want to know if you will develop an allergy, but you don't have time or funds to visit a doctor, you can try to apply a small amount (a dot) of the product somewhere on your scalp, and wait for at least 48 hours. Please don't apply hair dye directly to you hair if you haven't tested it before.

    What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?

    Symptoms of allergy - Infographic showing the most common symptoms of allergy

    The symptoms of PPD allergy most often occur in the first 48 hours. On the other hand, there are also cases in which these symptoms can occur right away. The allergic reaction to hair color may affect not only your scalp but your entire body. Moreover, depending on your stage of allergy you might have mild to severe reactions. In conclusion, here's what you might experience if you're allergic to hair dye:

    Most common symptoms (in milder allergy):

    • Itchy scalp or sensitive scalp
    • Redness
    • Sensitive skin and skin rash
    • Swelling of the eyes, lips, or other parts of the face (and more)
    • Dizziness
    • Skin inflammation (burning sensation)

      Rarer symptoms (in a severe reaction)

      • Nausea
      • Abdominal pain
      • Vomiting
      • Fainting (unconsciousness)
      • Difficulty breathing (from swelling of the tongue)

        What should I do if I develop allergy symptoms?

        Keep calm and do not panic. Fear is helpful, but panic is NOT. If, by chance, any of the symptoms listed occur, then you should do the following:

        Thoroughly rinse your entire head with water and shampoo and rinse off any possible dye residue as best you can.

        Contact your doctor as soon as possible and ask him/her for further advice. If you can't reach your doctor, and your condition is severe, visit the closest clinic, and let them know what happened.

        PPD-free (Safe hair dye for allergy sufferers)

        For all people allergic to PPD there are PPD-free hair colors. Not only that but those hair color brands are likely to be also Ammonia free, Propylene glycol free and Peroxyde free. They are mostly based on essential oils and natural ingredients and the chance to cause allergic reactions is almost zero. However, as I said above, the most important thing is to know what you're allergic to.

        Presentation of CHI Ionic - PPD-free hair dye with it's features

        CHI Ionic is a PPD-free hair color with the following features:

        • Advanced American CHI® Color Technology
        • Color Lock Complex
        • PPD was replaced with TDS.
        • No artificial fragrance
        • 100% Ammonia Free

          Safe hair dye with low levels of PPD

          Low PPD hair color brands are also suitable for people with allergies. Moreover, they offer safe hair dye for allergy sufferers. I personally use those kinds of products, because my allergy is not so strong. Those hair colors are considered to contain low to non-toxic ingredients. The small amounts of allergens in the products do not cause any allergic reactions in most cases. They are suitable for sensitive skin and sensitive scalp as well. Of course, there are cases where if your allergy is too strong, allergic reactions may occur.

          Besides the low PPD content, some of these brands have other advantages such as:

          • Peroxide-free
          • Ammonia-free
          • propylene glycol free
          • Have no ammonia fragrance

            These dyes can be described as the safest and most gentle brands of popular hair dye manufacturers.

            Goldwell Elumen

            Presentation of Goldwell Elumen - Low PPD hair dye with it's features

            • Without peroxide, ammonia and ammonia-odor
            • 100% grey coverage
            • Alternative for clients with allergic reactions with oxidative color
            • Up to 37% more shine compared to intensive demi-permanent hair color
            • Up to 76% more color intensity compared to oxidative permanent hair color
            • Up to 20% longer durability compared to oxidative permanent color

              L'Oréal Professional INOA

              Presentation of L'oreal INOA - Low PPD hair dye which is also ammonia free, silicones free, parabens free and more

              • Reinforced coverage of up to 100% white hair
              • 6 weeks of intense hydration and nutrition
              • 50% more shine
              • Lightening: Up to 3 levels
              • Long-lasting, durable permanent color
              • Free of Ammonia
              • Silicone Free
              • Synthetic mineral oil Free
              • Paraben Free
              • Chemical odour Free
              • Fragrance Free

                Wella Koleston Perfect me+

                Presentation of Wella Koleston Perfect Me+ (Safe hair dye)

                • Pure, balanced colour results with natural depth and shine
                • ME+ reduces the risk of developing a new allergy to hair dye
                • Reduce the formation of free radicals for irresistible hair quality
                • Up to 100% gray hair coverage


                  Hair dyes can cause dangerous and unwanted reactions if used carelessly. If you haven't tested the hair color that you're about to apply, it's highly recommended to try a very small amount of hair dye on your scalp 48 hours before dyeing or do a clinical patch test. If you find out you have an allergy to hair dye, don't worry, there are different ways in which you can still dye your hair without endangering your health.

                  The most common allergy to hair dyes is caused by PPD (Para-phenylenediamine). If your reaction is mild, then you can safely use hair dye with low levels of PPD. If you find that your reaction is stronger, turn to safe hair dye for allergy sufferers (PPD-free).

                  Sure you can also try pure henna or any other natural hair color, but if you are cautious, you can go with PPD-free hair dyes or ones made of natural ingredients.


                  Some of the hair dyes listed in the article are for professional use only. Please don't try to use them at home, instead address to your hairstylist.

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