Salon Allergy Specialist

Salon Allergy Specialist

Monday, October 22, 2012

Am I allergic to...PPD or something else?

So, how would you know if you are allergic to hair color? If you are allergic to hair color, are you allergic to PPD? Is this the same question? I am often bombarded with questions that pertain to the above information. Sometimes, you can react to having your hair colored and not be allergic to PPD, or Para-PhenyleneDiamine. There are times when you can have a topical allergic reaction to a chemical, or a systemic allergic reaction, and this can cause a great deal of confusion for people. It's also possible get a chemical burn from a strong caustic, such as bleach, and mistake it as an allergic reaction, especially because chemical burns begin to itch when they start. Then there is irritation of an existing dermal problem, which can also be a problem to try to diagnose. This is all very difficult to weed through as a hairdresser, or a client, especially if the scalp looks clear when the coloring process begins.

I had a client who thought she was allergic to hair color, and I was inclined to believe so as well. I tested her with a color that had Touline Diamine Sulfate (TDS) dye, and she did not react. I colored her with the TDS for 2 years, until she began to react with that, and then I had her go my own doctor. A dermatologist who I know can diagnose PPD allergies. She was very lucky to have a regular old case of what he called "dermatitis", which I suspect was a very bad case of dandruff. She had to have a prescription lotion to clear it up, and in a month, her scalp was finally starting to look normal again. She didn't even need to have the T.R.U.E. test done, but in this instance, we trust this doctor. (Dr. Jeffrey LaDuca, Auburn, NY) I did the normal series of 3 patch tests I choose to do, which I will explain at the end of this. This client did not react to the TDS color, and is able to continue with a normal color.

I have had contacts from the US and other countries ask if they can be allergic to bleach. I personally didn't believe you could be allergic to bleach and not know it. If you have ever swam in a pool, or drink public water, there is bleach added, in the form of chlorine. You have had you laundry bleached, you have been to restaurants that have had bleach added to the rinse water, and to the cleaning solutions for cleaning the tables. If you were allergic, I THOUGHT you would have reacted at some point by now. With that being said, it does NOT mean that you can't be allergic to hair bleach! All manufacturers have different propitiatory mixes, and buffers, and some of them even add bluing that can have some amount of PPD. Not many, but some. In my experience, the majority of bleach problems seem to be chemical burns, not allergies. That does not mean that it can not happen, it just means that it is not NORMALLY the case. I am allergic to bleach. The persulfates give me an instant chemical reaction. I realized that it wasn't a chemical burn when I went into a hot tub. I just dipped my feet, but they felt like they were on fire. I had a reaction to the chemicals in the spa. Guess what they are high in? Persulfates! I had to go on steroids AGAIN to heal because I ended up with very painful cellulitis. (with crutches) If your hairdresser used a high lift tint, and not a bleach, totally different story...

When you have a topical allergic reaction, it is generally a red, rash like development. It can occur at any time, generally, I find that topical happens during the color. (Please bear in mind that I am a hairdresser, not a doctor!!) Systemic, I find can happen even from breathing the damn fumes. It can be as severe as anaphylactic shock, blocking your airway, leading to death, or as simple as a rash on your trunk 4 days after your color, that goes away. The problem with a systemic reaction is that the PPD can be gone, but the body will continue to attack itself, and it seems to be difficult to break the cycle in some extreme cases. (This is very sad for me to read, which has lead me to begin this blog. Being beautiful should not lead to suffering)

I am going to conclude with some controversy. I have been doing hair for 27 years at this point. If I am doing hair color on a client who has had her hair colored before, or has NOT colored her hair before, but has never had a bad reaction, I do not perform a patch test 24 hours ahead. The reason for this is because it will provide a false sense of security, and does not actually prove anything. For the first time client, if you have never been exposed, the patch test is your first exposure, when you are GUARANTEED to not actually react. Why would you do a patch test, which would make the coloring day the second exposure? We have not figured out the how, what, or when a client will react. It can be the second exposure, or the thousandth. So, performing a patch test  literally does nothing for the client who is not reacting. Now, for the client who is reacting...

I never do the patch testing recommended in the box. That whole 24 hour leave the chemicals on your body is crazy! If a client has reacted before, I do a 3 patch series. The first 2 patches, I do on the inner forearm, 3 to 4 days apart. I mix the color up with a q-tip, and apply a dot. I leave it on for 15 minutes, if it is bearable. then I wash the area with soap and water. If this is clear, then I will do a third patch test behind the ear, the same way. There should never be any redness, blistering, itchiness, scabbing, tenderness, or any difference from one arm to the next. Sometimes I will even apply a box around the area with vaseline, depending on the consistency of the color.

There are some of my theories on patch testing, and on bleach, and PPD allergies, which with $2.50 will get you a cup of coffee at Dunkin' Donuts! Remember, please consult your doctor before trying anything you read here! I am a hairdresser, not a doctor, but I can refer you to my doctor if you need one. He is amazing!