Allergic reaction to PPD in hair dye

Hair dye reactions are not uncommon, and have been described many times in medical journals.  The following is typical of a severe reaction to black hair dye. 

This is excerpted from original text and photographs by the mother and legal guardian of the minor involved.   She has released this material  for use by Henna for Hair for the purposes of educating the public about potential allergic reactions from PPD in hair dyes and black temporary tattoos. Names of the persons involved, product names, and drugs used for treatment have been removed.  Journalists, physicians and lawyers may obtain further information from Catherine Cartwright-Jones , site owner.

"I just went through a fright with my 16 year old son yesterday 48 hours after he and his sister dyed his hair with a hair dye kit,  (brand name withheld), from our local pharmacy (name witheld).

before hair dye
16 year old boy before application of black commercial hair dye

"I'll start by telling the story as briefly as I can.  Thursday Dec 30th, my 20 year old daughter dyed my 16 year old son's hair black at his request (and with my permission).   They did not do a skin patch test (as will soon become apparent).  He now tells me that at the time he experienced itching of his scalp.

"The next day Friday Dec 31, my son came to me with complaints that his head felt like someone was pulling out the hair by the roots.  I examined his head (I am an RN - but I specialize in Labor and Delivery!) and found no evidence of redness or swelling - just some dye stains around his hairline as they didn't do a particularly neat job of dying him it appeared.

reactions at site of hair dye2  reaction at site of hair dye 
Reactions at site of hair dye application

After everything occurred - my son told me that while I was at work and he was with his friends (he slept over a friends on New Years Eve) he felt like his head was "a little swollen" but he ignored it and did not take anything for it.

He awoke yesterday Jan 1 and immediately noticed that his head felt tight - looked in the mirror, panicked and came home to me.  We immediately went to our local Urgent Care Center for treatment.  They gave him (product names witheld)... all  by mouth and sent us home for a prescription for (product name witheld) - he's to take 60 mg 1x/day for the next two days, then 50 mg for the next two days, and so on in decreasing dosage for a total of 12 days.

beginning hair dye reaction  continuing hair dye reaction 

hair dye reaction  progress of hair dye reaction

progress of hair dye reaction 

progress of hair dye reaction  progress of hair dye reaction 

Progressive allergic reaction to hair dye the day after application over 12 hour period on January 1, the day after application of black hair dye containing PPD.

"He unfortunately continued to swell and we wound up in our local hospitals ED last night and at this time they dropped in an IV line and through that gave him more steroids (product name withheld) and as his airway wasn't compromised despite his giant head and neck, he was again sent home.

"This morning he doesn't seem to have expanded any further, and may in fact have decreased the tiniest of bits.  He's actually sleeping still - I woke him to take meds then let him be.

"In retrospect, 3-4 years ago during a Caribbean cruise, my three children all got "henna tattoos" while on Grand Cayman Island.  A week to ten days after getting his tattoo, my son came to me because his skin was all bubbly and red and raised in exactly the pattern of the tattoo.  I took him to his pediatrician who prescribed (product name withheld) cream."

For medical articles that detail similar allergic reactions to PPD hair dye: see

For more information on temporary tattoos that use PPD instead of henna, see:

If a person has one of these PPD temporary tattoos, it can sensitize a person for the rest of their life to synthetic hair dye and many other substances: