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Can Hair Dye Cause Eczema

What Are The Different Types Of Eczema That Affect The Scalp

Hair dye reactions : Causes, Diagnosis, Symptoms and Treatment

The scalp is an area of the body that can be affected by different types of eczema. The characteristics of the scalp during the chronic and acute phases of eczema are:

  • Chronic phase: Dry, itchy and scaly.
  • Acute phase: Inflamed, weepy and painful.

The different types of eczema that affect the scalp include:

  • Seborrheic eczema: It is the most common type and can affect babies , children and adults. The skin appears red and scaly, and dandruff is present as well.
  • Atopic eczema: The scalp skin becomes red, dry and itchy and can get easily infected.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis: It develops due to the body reacting to a particular substance to which a person may be allergic.
  • Irritant contact dermatitis: It occurs when the skin surface is irritated by a substance that causes it to become red, dry and itchy.

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Tips For Preventing Flare

  • Learn what factors may contribute to your scalp symptoms, and limit your contact or avoid them entirely.
  • Wash your hair with warm not hot or cold water. Both hot and cold water can dry out your scalp and cause irritation.
  • Use gentle shampoos, conditioners, styling creams, gels, and even hair dye. If you can, choose fragrance-free versions.
  • If stress is a trigger, speak with a doctor about using stress-reduction techniques. This may mean breathing exercises, meditation, or journaling.
  • Avoid scratching if youre having a flare-up. This can make your symptoms worse.

Alternative Hair Colors To Use

There has been an attempt by manufacturers to substitute PPD with other ingredients like para-toluenediamine sulfates, which are considered to be safer than PPD.

However, if you think you are allergic to PPD, you can use henna to color your hair instead. Remember that PPD is used in high concentrations in darker hair colors especially.

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How To Prevent Reactions

You can become allergic to a product or substance at any time, even if youve used it before. Thats why its important to do a patch test prior to using hair dye, even if its a tried-and-true brand.

If you have an allergic reaction to hair dye, even mildly, stop using the product completely. You may have a more severe reaction with added use as your system becomes sensitized to the chemical.

If you use black temporary tattoos, you may be exposed to additional amounts of PPD. This can also sensitize your system, making you more vulnerable to an allergic reaction to hair dye.

People who are sensitive to PPD may also be allergic to other substances. These include anesthetics, such as benzocaine and procaine. Make sure to inform your doctor, dentist, and anyone who works on your hair about any allergies you have or suspect you have.

How To Avoid Hair Dye Reactions

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Avoiding reactions comes down to taking a few precautions and switching hair dye if you need to.

Always do a patch test. Before applying the dye, dab a small amount on a patch of skin in an inconspicuous area, then wait 48 hours. Reactions dont always happen immediately, so dont cut the time short. If the skin swells, turns red, burns or itches, you shouldnt use the dye. If you develop symptoms of anaphylaxis, call 911 or go to the ER immediately.

Protect your skin in advance. Cover areas that may come in contact with the dye, such as the hairline, ears and neck, with petroleum jelly to prevent the dye from spreading beyond your scalp. Wear gloves to protect your hands.

Try a PPD-free hair dye. If youre allergic to or sensitive to hair dye, ask your colorist to use PPD-free dye. While there is no special hair dye for eczema sufferers, PPD-free options may be less likely to cause a problem. If youre coloring your hair at home, look for brands that dont contain PPD, such as Madison Reedand Clairol Natural Instincts.

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Hair Dye Ingredients To Avoid For Eczema And Psoriasis

There are some key ingredients you may want to think about avoiding if you dye your hair and you have eczema and psoriasis:


Permanent hair dyes that look to darken your hair often contain paraphenylendiamine . This ingredient should always be avoided. Semi-permanent hair colourants or tints generally do not contain PPD.

PPD is so harmful that in many countries it is banned.


Ammonia is used to open the hair shaft on chemical hair dyes so that the colour can penetrate the hair.

It can lead to the hair being unable to hold colour naturally . It is extremely harmful to the environment and when ammonia is applied to the hair, not only can it be absorbed via the scalp it can dramatically irritate eczema and psoriasis.

Hydrogen Peroxide:

There have been some anecdotal reports of people using Hydrogen Peroxide at a very low volume to dry out active psoriasis and eczema patches. Unfortunately the evidence suggests this is almost certainly more harmful than helpful.

Hydrogen peroxide is used to lighten the hair, but at high levels, hydrogen peroxide produces destructive oxidative stress, which can actually cause psoriasis. It also irritates allergen prone skin.

Whats The Difference Between Seborrheic Dermatitis And Psoriasis

Psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis can mimic each other. Both are patches of red skin with flakes. Both can be found on your scalp and back.

Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin disease that affects 2% to 4% of the population. The scales of psoriasis are often thicker than that of seborrheic dermatitis. The edges of those scales are very well-defined. On the scalp, psoriasis scales are closer to a silver color than white or yellow.

There is a condition called sebopsoriasis where seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis overlap. In that case you have the symptoms of both: both white flakes and silver flakes, both on the scalp or back, both itchy.

If youre concerned about whether you have psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis, consult your healthcare provider. Treatment for one may not work as treatment for the other.

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Finding The Right Hair Stylist

One of the first things I would check in with when choosing a hairdresser is if they have worked with clients with sensitive skin before. This is something that you can contact them about ahead of time through email or over the phone just make sure that they are someone who can work with you and be very cognizant of avoiding harsh chemicals and processing as much as possible. To a degree, there will be some irritation no matter what because we need to strip some of the proteins in your hair to get it light enough to show the hair dye as truly as possible. So it’s not completely without some level of discomfort, but it can be greatly minimized if your hairdresser is willing to work with you.

Treatments For Hair Dye Allergies

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The treatments for allergies due to hair dye depend on how severe your reaction is:

  • If you have mild and immediate/instant reactions, wash the dye off immediately with warm water and mild shampoo.
  • If you are experiencing contact dermatitis flare-ups or symptoms, treat the affected area with a topical corticosteroid. Other OTC treatments are also available, which can be used on your skin.
  • A shampoo that contains topical corticosteroids like Cobex can be used as well.
  • Mild antiseptics like a 2% hydrogen peroxide solution can be applied to the affected area to soothe symptoms.
  • Oral antihistamines such as Benadryl can also be consumed to reduce symptoms like itching.


If you dont see an improvement in symptoms or experience severe ones, visit your doctor immediately. He may prescribe you corticosteroids or other medications that will help reduce these symptoms.

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What Is Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common, noncontagious, easy-to-manage skin condition. This type of dermatitis causes itchy red patches and greasy scales on your skin along with white or yellow crusty or powdery flakes on your scalp.

Seborrheic refers to the sebaceous glands while derm means skin. Its called dandruff when its on a teenagers or adults scalp, and cradle cap when its on a babys.

Seborrheic dermatitis can occur in other areas of your body. These are areas with the most sebaceous gland activity: your upper back and chest, face/forehead, the creases at the base of your nose, behind your ears, navel , eyebrows, under your breasts and in the creases/bends of your arms, legs and groin.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a lifelong condition that appears, disappears with treatment, and flares up from time to time.

The Top Medications For Treating Eczema On Your Scalp

There is no cure for scalp eczema or seborrheic dermatitis, but medications can help reduce and prevent symptoms.

For example, you can usually treat irritation and an itchy scalp with a medicated, over-the-counter dandruff shampoo.

The chemical ingredients in these shampoos can help ease the inflammation and get rid of flaky, scaly skin when used two or three times a week. Look for these items:

Topical creams, ointments, or sprays made from these ingredients can also be applied to help calm the irritation and stop the flaking.

If you have severe scalp eczema, your doctor may prescribe products containing stronger doses of the aforementioned medicines or medicines containing other ingredients, such as corticosteroids, ciclopirox, sulfacetamide sodium, Protopic , or Elidel .

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Avoid Bleaching The Roots

Something your hairdresser can do make the bleaching and dyeing process more comfortable is to not put the bleach or dye directly onto the scalp. I have often opted to not having my roots completely bleached out. And colors that are deeper like blue, purple, or green can work well with this, creating a deep ombre effect this if you have dark hair like me.

What Are The Symptoms Of Seborrheic Dermatitis

Eczema on Scalp
  • Itchy white flakes of skin on your scalp . When scratched, the flakes come loose, mix in with your hair, or fall onto your neck and shoulders.
  • Red scales on your skin.
  • Crusty yellow scales on infants heads . Cradle cap shouldnt itch, but scratching may cause additional inflammation in the area and break the skin, leading to bleeding or mild infections.
  • Blepharitis .
  • Pinkish plaques of scales on both sides of your face.
  • Flaky patches on your chest and at your hairline that are shaped like a flower petal or a ring.
  • Redness in the folds and creases of your genitals, armpits and beneath your breasts.
  • Inflamed hair follicles on your cheeks and the upper half of your trunk.

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Allergic Reactions To Hair Dyes

An allergic reaction to PPD means your scalp and face may feel itchy and start to swell. You may also experience symptoms such as itching, nettle rash, and generally feeling ill. However, these symptoms may not develop until hours, or even days, later. If you have a severe allergic reaction within minutes its known as anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock. These signs include itchy skin, red rash, wheezing, swelling of the mouth and stomach pain to name a few.

What Treatment Options Are Available

Treatments for scalp eczema will vary based on the type you have. You may be able to treat it at home with different hygiene practices and by changing hair products, or you may need to see a doctor to clear up and manage your symptoms.

Keep in mind that seborrheic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis can be lifelong conditions. Contact dermatitis should go away once you remove the element causing your symptoms.

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Check List Of Ingredients

Symptoms include redness of skin and itching on the hairline, face, eyelids, ears, neck and even back. The main culprit of this reaction is a chemical called p-Phenylenediamine, also known as PPDA. This is the best chemical to cover the greys, so it’s found commonly in hair dyes. Katta suggests that rather than checking for products that are “ammonia free” or “all-natural,” look to see if the dye has PPDA it’s usually found midway in the list of ingredients.

“It may start as a mild reaction, but it can get worse over time and spread to other parts of the body,” said Katta.

For a mild reaction, she suggests applying over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to the affected areas. If the hydrocortisone is not helping after one week, see a dermatologist.

If the dermatologist is unsure of the cause of the allergy, they may do patch testing, which is different than prick testing. Prick testing is done by allergists to check for reactions to pollen and other allergens that cause symptoms such as hay fever, sneezing and coughing. Patch testing is done by dermatologists and some allergists to check for skin rashes caused by various chemicals and products.

Medicated Shampoos Lotions And Creams

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Just like your skin requires regular moisturizing, your scalp needs it too. You can use medicated products such as shampoo, lotion, or cream to massage your scalp regularly.

Since it can be tricky to work the moisture through your hair so it reaches the scalp, it is essential to part your hair into sections before application. With this step, the medicine is absorbed effectively into the affected areas.

Medicated emollients lotions and spray-on oil can also be used to keep the scalp moisturized and hydrated.

If your scalp is too scaly, you can use a combination of salicylic acid and tar preparation . Apply the formula and leave it on overnight, or at least for four hours and shampoo your hair in the morning.

Dont forget to cover your hair with a shower cap or a cotton turban if you leave the medicine on overnight as the process may get messy.

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Common Triggers For Eczema And What To Do About Them

The editors at Health are a dedicated team of experienced health editors, writers, and other media professionals who strive to bring trustworthy and responsible health and medical content to their readers. As a team, we have decades of experience in health journalism and have worked at legacy publishers and some of the biggest news and media companies in the U.S.

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If you have eczema, you know that the itchy, scaly rash can pop up on any given dayand in the most inconvenient places. But even though there is no known cure for the skin condition, making small lifestyle changes can help you avoid symptoms.

Did you know that taking long, hot showers can irritate your skin? The hot water saps skin of natural oils. The same goes for harsh detergents and soaps. Try stocking up on dye-free and fragrance-free products, or try formulas specifically geared toward sensitive skin, so you’re less likely to encounter an irritant. For more tips, watch the video.

Watch the video: What Causes Eczema?

Don’t have time to watch? Read the full transcript:

Eczema is a skin condition with an itchy, scaly rash. The most common type of eczema is called atopic dermatitis. It usually appears on the arms or behind the knees, but it can appear anywhere on the body. Experts believe it’s hereditary, but it’s also linked to asthma and allergies. To help manage symptoms, avoid:

  • Long, hot showers and baths: Hot water saps the skin of natural oils.
  • Hair Dye Allergy And Sensitivity Symptoms

    Whether youre allergic to PPD or just sensitive to it, the symptoms are largely the same. They can include swelling, peeling, a red rash and stinging or burning. Both allergies and sensitivities can cause itching, though its more likely to be a major symptom if youre allergic to PPD.

    Blistering is more common in allergic reactions, while sensitivities are more likely to make skin dry and cracked.

    In rare cases, a hair dye allergy can trigger a potentially fatal allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which can cause swelling of the tongue and throat, difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting. Your risk of anaphylaxis is higher if youve had it before or if you have allergies or asthma and a family history of anaphylaxis.

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    Talk To Your Doctor About Prescription Treatment

    If you do not get rid of eczema despite trying to do all the things that are listed here, you should talk to your doctor about your problems so that you can get a suitable eczema scalp treatment. Doctors can recommend powerful treatment regimens. The doctor can recommend lotions, creams, shampoos or even oral medications. Some of these treatment options can be very expensive. They may also have adverse side effects in the long run. Get as much information as you can from your doctor so that you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. Your doctor will recommend medication based on your individual situation.

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    What To Do If You Have A Reaction

    Many substances can cause eczema

    If you develop a reaction to hair dye while its still on your hair, wash it out immediately with warm water and a mild shampoo. Do this even if your symptoms are subtle because they could get worse, said Yepes.

    If you notice a reaction afterward, Yepes recommends applying an over-the-counter topical corticosteroid cream to ease discomfort and inflammation. If you also feel itchy, taking an antihistamine medication such as Benadryl can help.

    Symptoms often go away on their own or with home treatment, but if they dont, or if you see signs of infection, such as pus, call your dermatologist.

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