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I recently dyed my hair. Now my skin is swollen, turning red, and itching. I have no idea what I am allergic to. What could be causing the reaction?

Allergic reactions to hair dye can happen at any time after use. Certain hair dye treatments or coloring products can cause contact allergy skin symptoms. Symptoms can be delayed (e.g., up to 2 days after exposure) and range from a mild to severe reaction.

There are known dye ingredients that are responsible for these reactions. The most common one is paraphenylenediamine. This ingredient can also be found in tattoo ink. Symptoms of a hair dye allergy include:

  • Stinging or burning of the scalp, face, or neck
  • Blisters or welts
  • Itching of the scalp
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Red rashes

There are alternative hair dye treatment options (e.g., henna, indigo, and vegetable-based dyes). If you have a suspected allergic reaction, stop using the hair dye. Meet with an allergy specialist or dermatologist to review your reactions. Diagnostic allergy patch skin testing can be done.

Allergy, Symptoms
Answered by

John M. James, MD, is a board-certified allergist. He is also President of Food Allergy Consulting and Education Services, LLC. He has worked as a medical specialist in the field of allergy, asthma, and immunology for over 30 years. Dr. James received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Tennessee. He is board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.

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