Facial rash: Is hair coloring a possible cause?

Fact Checked

Many individuals suffer from a facial rash in a few days after coloring their hair. There are various causes for this and one is the hair dye used. Despite this, many do not consider the hair dye as the cause for the facial rash especially those who have colored their hair for years without experiencing any issues.

The reason why facial rash initially occurs after coloring the hair is the fact that the skin on the face is relatively thinner and highly reactive than the skin on the scalp. In reality, the skin on the scalp is thick that reactions to hair dye rarely cause rashes on the scalp. Additionally, an individual might have utilized a particular hair dye for many years without issues, until the immune system is sensitized to the chemical via an unnoticed scrape, cut or break in the skin. After this, the immune system reacts to the chemical present on the skin and hair.

Is facial rash due to hair dye allergy?

The signs and symptoms of hair dye allergy include contact dermatitis usually on the eyelids, face, neck and ears. Significant facial swelling can also develop with contact dermatitis to hair dye that can be mistaken as angioedema.

Facial rash
The signs and symptoms of hair dye allergy include contact dermatitis usually on the eyelids, face, neck and ears.

As for angioedema, it is not itchy or red and typically occurs only on one side of the face at a time and does no flake or peel when the rash heals. The symptoms of a reaction to hair dye typically occur within 2-3 days after the individual colors his/her hair. Nevertheless, the symptoms can last for days to weeks after the last time the individual dyed his/her hair.

Common causes of reacts to hair color

Para-phenylenediamine (PPD)

This is the chemical present in hair dye that is likely to trigger allergic reactions. Para-phenylenediamine (PPD) is present in several hair dyes and highly effective in penetrating the hair shaft and follicle as well as binding to the proteins in the skin. This makes PPD a strong contact antigen capable of triggering allergic reactions. Due to this, PPD has been banned in several countries. Many hair dyes that are labelled as “hypoallergenic” do not contain PPD as an ingredient.

Glyceryl thioglycolate

The chemical is present in permanent wave solutions that can be used along with hair dye. In most cases, a diagnosis might be missed out by the doctor. If an individual utilizes a solution to curl the hair along with a hair dye, it is vital to consider all chemicals that might be responsible for the facial rash.


This is another chemical present in certain hair dyes that is a usual cause of reactions to hair coloring. This chemical adds pigment in light and medium brown hair colors. This is considered as an overlooked cause of reactions to hair dye since many assume that a reaction is due to PPD. Always bear in mind that an individual allergic to cobalt can still react to a “hypoallergenic” hair dye since it still contains cobalt, but lacks PPD.

Cocamidopropyl betaine

This is a substance derived from coconut that is present in various soaps, shampoos and bath products. The chemical functions as a surfactant which produces bubbles. This is a characteristic of various soaps that provides a cleaning effect similar to soap.

Since cocamidopropyl betaine is present in various shampoos, it is often found in shampoos, it is an overlooked cause of facial rash. In addition, since shampoos and other hair care products also contain the chemical, they might be responsible for reactions after hair coloring.

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