The hidden dangers of PPD in hair dye

Although recent cases have mainly referred to the dangers of home dye kits, an allergic reaction can also be had to a salon treatment, since the same chemical which can trigger a reaction is used in both home kits and some salon treatments.

We examine the potential claims for damages, following very severe allergic reactions to hair dye, which have required hospital treatment.

The chemical PPD (paraphenylenediamine) is found in permanent hair dye. Cases where Metcalfes' personal injury team has represented clients suffering a reaction, has been to those using dyes mainly of a dark brown or black colour at a salon. This also seems to be the trend among reported cases of severe allergic reaction from a home kit.

Regrettably, medical evidence suggests that anyone can become sensitive to PPD at any time. Therefore by using a home kit without doing a “patch test” first, thinking that it has been used before and been fine, may not be enough to avoid a potentially dangerous reaction.

Hair salons should also first test for any skin reaction before agreeing to dye hair, particularly so, if the client is pregnant or other allergies have developed since the last time the hair was dyed. This could make someone more likely to react badly to this chemical, even if no problems have been experienced before.

Whilst the offending chemical, PPD, is not yet banned in the UK (although it is in some others), care needs to be taken when attending a hair salon if dyeing hair a dark colour and particularly if doing so for the first time. Hair salons offer to place a small amount of hair dye on the skin by way of a “patch test” and leave this for 48 hours, to see whether there is any evidence of redness, itching, etc, which might suggest an allergy.

Whilst PPD does not usually cause problems with the hair itself, it can cause skin problems if it reacts directly with the skin (contact dermatitis which causes rashes, lumps, etc). In more severe cases, clients have suffered very serious symptoms of extreme facial swelling, with their airways starting to close over, requiring them to be hospitalised. In less severe cases, symptoms such as a skin rash can be treated by attending your GP for advice and usually then, being prescribed antihistamines to treat the allergic reaction.

In addition, some clients have suffered a severe reaction when a dark colour and permanent wave (perm) have been done at the same time. This is usually something which most salons would avoid, given the cocktail of chemicals being put onto the hair and skin at the same time and at risk of a severe reaction occurring.

If you have already suffered a severe reaction to PPD, expert advice is usually to avoid this chemical again in future and look for other alternative hair dyes. Although many people then assume that a natural dye is “safe”, dark henna is often also best to avoid. “Black henna” (which can be used in temporary tattoos) is often mixed with non-natural products such as PPD, to get very dark colouring, potentially causing another allergic reaction.

Metcalfes 'personal injury team can help by offering specialist advice, by first assessing whether you have a claim and then by seeking medical assistance from either a trichologist (hair and scalp expert), or dermatologist (skin expert). Not only will they assist in assessing what damage has been caused as a result of the allergic reaction, but they can provide practical advice in relation to any future hair treatments, as well as any safer alternatives, so as to avoid the likelihood of any further problems.

Compensation for injuries in such cases will of course vary, depending on the severity of symptoms and how long they last, but cases involving a few weeks of skin problems would usually be in the region of £1,500, with more severe and ongoing symptoms up to £5,000 and permanent skin problems up to £7,000 - £10,000.

Useful links providing practical information and advice:

Please contact us on 0117 929 0451 to discuss your potential claim. 

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