With so many synthetic hair dye products on the market, it’s easy to get swamped by the less-than-healthy options. If you’re in the 38% of people who’ve experienced a reaction to them, this is especially frustrating – and we feel you! Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it comes in the form of hypoallergenic alternatives: safe hair dye for allergy sufferers, comprised of natural ingredients that let you achieve a polished, salon-level look from the comfort of your own bathroom.
The perfect alternative for allergy sufferers, hypoallergenic hair dye can give us the strength, colour and shine we long for without compromising our skin. It’s also often the more planet and animal-friendly choice, thanks to all those natural compounds.
What does hypoallergenic hair dye mean?
The term ‘hypoallergenic’ refers to substances that manufacturers claim are unlikely, or less likely, to cause an allergic reaction. You may see it on bedding and pillows, toys, detergents or beauty products, for example, but there is ostensibly no limit to what can be labelled as hypoallergenic.
If you suffer from allergies or another dermatological condition that causes a sensitive scalp or skin, you probably already scour the shelves for hair care products labelled as ‘hypoallergenic’. Hypoallergenic products are significantly less likely to irritate our skin as they purport to contain fewer allergy-producing substances. If you’ve ever suffered an allergic reaction before, this could be down to ingredients such as:
- Artificial pigments
- Paraphenylenediamine (PPD)
- Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
A word of caution on hypoallergenic labels
Not all hypoallergenic hair dyes are created equally. In the UK, there is currently no standardisation for what actually constitutes a hypoallergenic product, so allergens will vary from product to product. For this reason, you should always take the time to read the label to single out individual ingredients that you need to avoid, rather than banking on claims that your colourant is a safe hair dye for all allergy sufferers.
It’s also worth noting that both synthetic and organic components can trigger allergies or skin sensitivities, so you should always conduct a patch test before using any new products, however ‘natural’ they are.
How do I know if I am having an allergic reaction?
The scientific name for an allergic reaction to hair products is contact dermatitis – meaning an external substance has encountered your skin. Symptoms may appear within 48 hours, but in some cases can take up to a week to appear.
Most commonly, you may notice local irritation with red, burning or itchy skin affecting areas such as the scalp, neck, forehead and ears. There may also be scaly patches that come off in flakes.
In more serious cases, you may experience swelling, hives or blisters. If you notice any of these symptoms whilst applying your hair dye, immediately wash it off and contact a medical professional. If you believe you or someone you’re with is having a serious allergic reaction, call 999 for urgent attention.
Can I be diagnosed with a hair dye allergy?
In addition to completing a patch test at home, you could also see a specialist at an allergy clinic to get a better idea of which chemicals you are vulnerable to, if any. From here on out, you can avoid the products that contain these chemicals.
Other precautions to minimise the risk of sensitivity
When you’ve been given the all-clear by the allergy clinic and/or your patch test at home, you can continue to use the hair dye. But if you're still uncertain whether your chosen product is a safe hair dye for allergy sufferers, there are still precautions you can take to reduce the risk:
- Don’t leave it in over the recommended time
- Wear gloves during the application process
- Rinse thoroughly afterwards
- Be very careful to follow the instructions on the packaging.
Even if you find out that you don’t have any allergies, making the switch to a hypoallergenic alternative has untold benefits. First and foremost, it reduces your risk of developing an intolerance to PPD and other harsh chemicals, which can increase the more and more you use them. Alternatives such as plant-based henna dyes have a very low allergy potential in their purest form.
So, is there a safe hair dye for allergy sufferers?
Thankfully, you can find hypoallergenic hair care products from many retailers, including dyes and shampoos. These are free from typical ‘high street’ chemicals that make up so many cosmetic products and are designed with hypersensitive skin in mind.
If you’re short on time, look for products that mention specific chemicals on the label. Some will say ‘sulphate-free’ or ‘PPD-free’. Better still, look for ‘organic’ on the packaging – this is often environmentally friendly and likely will not have been tested on animals.
These simple formulas will be catered towards those with skin concerns and sensitive scalps, so they will feel gentler and more soothing on application. Henna-based shampoos, for example, strip away dirt and grease whilst bolstering your natural defences to dandruff and flakiness with its PH-balancing properties.
Because dry shampoo doesn’t need to rely on foaming agents such as sodium laureth sulphate, it has fewer chemicals. Instead, it depends on organic ingredients like corn starch to bind to the natural oils in your hair and keep it grease-free.
While foaming agents may cause reactions, so too can fragrances. These are often potent in styling products like hairspray, so opt for a fragrance-free alternative instead. Styling products are there to keep our locks in place – not to smell good!
Henna hair care
Looking for a chemical-free alternative that dyes, washes, and conditions hair? Indeed, such a miracle product exists. Henna has been used as an alternative hair dye treatment for thousands of years. Made from plant extracts, it even has healing properties to soothe the scalp and help you along your hair rejuvenation journey. Yep, it really is that powerful.
Find out more about the benefits of henna hair dye and henna shampoos for sensitive skin in our previous guide. Available in dyes, powders and creams alike, it’s free from allergens and can help to promote stronger hair and a stronger you.
Making the change to hypoallergenic hair care
Even if you don’t suffer from sensitive skin, switching to a safe hair dye for allergy sufferers can make all the difference. Many high street chemicals can wash our hair’s essential oils away, leaving it dry and lifeless. Make the switch today and watch your locks shine!