Salon Allergy Specialist

Salon Allergy Specialist

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The False Safety of Sunless Tanners, DHA, and the FDA

Tanning booths and sunless tanning is a part of the industry I have chosen for my career. I have worked for salons that offered both, and I have used both. I can say that I used them rarely, because I could not sit still long enough to lay in the tanning bed, or to keep the tanning cream or spray from becoming smeared. I have also unknowingly sold sunless tanner from Aveda with the false pretense that the chemical would be safer because it came from walnut shells. I know know that this is not safer. Here is some information direct from the FDA web sight on DHA, the active ingredient in sunless tanning products.

Thank you, FDA!

What are "sunless tanners"?
Neither the laws nor the regulations enforced by FDA define the term "sunless tanner." It typically refers to products that provide a tanned appearance without exposure to the sun or other sources of ultraviolet radiation. One commonly used ingredient in these products is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a color additive that darkens the skin by reacting with amino acids in the skin's surface.

DHA is listed in the regulations as a color additive for use in imparting color to the human body. However, its use in cosmetics--including sunless "tanning" products--is restricted to external application (21 CFR 73.2150). According to the CFR, "externally applied" cosmetics are those "applied only to external parts of the body and not to the lips or any body surface covered by mucous membrane" (21 CFR 70.3v). The industry has not provided safety data to FDA in order for the agency to consider approving it for use on these exposure routes, including "misting" from tanning booths.
In addition, no color additive may be used in cosmetics intended for use in the area of the eye unless the color additive is permitted specifically for such use (21 CFR 70.5a) DHA is not permitted for use in the area of the eye. The CFR defines "area of the eye" as follows:
"the area enclosed within the circumference of the supra-orbital ridge, including the eyebrow, the skin below the eyebrow, the eyelids and the eyelashes, and conjunctival sac of the eye, the eyeball, and the soft areolar tissue that lies within the perimeter of the infra-orbital ridge." (21 CFR 70.3s)
As with the lips and other areas covered by mucous membrane, the industry has not provided safety data to FDA in order for the agency to consider approving it for use in the area of the eye.

What does this mean for DHA spray "tanning" booths?
As noted above, the use of DHA in "tanning" booths as an all-over spray has not been approved by the FDA, since safety data to support this use has not been submitted to the Agency for review and evaluation, When using DHA-containing products as an all-over spray or mist in a commercial spray "tanning" booth, it may be difficult to avoid exposure in a manner for which DHA is not approved, including the area of the eyes, lips, or mucous membrane, or even internally.

Consequently, FDA advises asking the following questions when considering commercial facilities where DHA is applied by spraying or misting:

Are consumers protected from exposure in the entire area of the eyes, in addition to the eyes themselves?
Are consumers protected from exposure on the lips and all parts of the body covered by mucous membrane?
Are consumers protected from internal exposure caused by inhaling or ingesting the product?
If the answer to any of these questions is "no," the consumer is not protected from the unapproved use of this color additive. Consumers should request measures to protect their eyes and mucous membranes and prevent inhalation.

Has FDA received reports of adverse reactions associated with sunless tanners?

FDA has received reports from consumers stating that they have experienced adverse events associated with sunless tanning, including rashes and, primarily in the case of spray tanning booths, coughing, dizziness, and fainting. It is uncertain what, if any, ingredient or combination of ingredients in the sunless tanning products might have caused these adverse events, whether an individual's allergic reaction might have played a part, or whether factors unrelated to the sunless tanning products may have been involved, such as pre-existing medical conditions.
Under the authority of the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA), FDA requires ingredient declarations on cosmetics sold on a retail basis to consumers. In this way, consumers can know what ingredients are contained in the products they purchase and avoid ingredients to which they may be sensitive. However, the FPLA does not apply to products used exclusively by professionals, such as those used in spray tanning booths.

Who is responsible for the safety of spray tanning booths?
The FD&C Act does not authorize FDA to approve cosmetic products or ingredients, with the exception of color additives that are not coal-tar hair dyes. Firms and individuals who market cosmetics are responsible for assuring that the products they market are safe when used under labeled or customary conditions of use and properly labeled. FDA can take action against firms and individuals who violate the law. The practice of administering such products by professionals, such as in salons, is generally the responsibility of local and state health authorities.

Consumers and healthcare providers can report adverse reactions from cosmetic products, including sunless tanners, using the contact information in Bad Reaction to Cosmetics? Tell FDA.

You can read more of this article at the FDA web sight. I included the link at the beginning of the information. I am not sure why so much of my industry is unregulated. I am more surprised by each chemical I begin to look up. I will be posting more often if the results are as fruitful as they seem to be. 

-sadly, Gina 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I'm Allergic to PPD, What Can I Color My Hair With?!

This is the MOST popular question that I get from email consults worldwide. I do my best to answer them all. There is no easy answer that will be for everyone. I try to talk to each person individually. Regretfully, I can't give out personal advice. There are simply too many of you contacting me. I do offer paid consults. The first thing I try to get everyone to do is read this blog, and each of the entries. If they have read the T.T.A.P. Test , (Taro Triple Allergy Patch Test TTAP link) then read about a few of the colors that I have come across that are currently working, it is easier to explain. It might also be a good idea to click on this link: im-allergic-to-ppd-what-cant-i-use.html

NEW CLASS ACTION LAW SUIT! I have been asked to be part of a law suit against the color companies. We can not change any laws, or make color companies change hair color without YOU. If you click this link for information, it will give you the lawyer's number to call. He will ask you your name, your experience, and your contact information. You can email it to me, and then talk to him if it's easier. We can't make a difference without YOU.
Class Action Law Suit PPD

So, the first thing a PPD allergic person has to do, is read through this blog. The second, is to go to the FDA web sight, and fill out a form with the information about their allergy. The third would be optional, as I offer paid consults, if they really need help and have no where to turn. My recommendation may not be much different from the information here, but sometimes clients want to talk to a person, and not a blog. I'm okay with that, especially because I am not a doctor, I'm a hairdresser. Everyone should always follow their doctors advice first, hairdressers advice second!

I'm also going to quickly include a link to a blog that discusses part of my research about seborrhea, scalp psoriasis, or unhealthy scalp of any sort possibly being the beginning of most color allergies. Please take a minute to read this too.  Blog article on scalp condition related to PPD allergies

I am about to use a brand new product that is 100% natural. It replaces natural brown and black hair according to the manufacturer. I will report back as soon as I use it.  :] 
Well, I've used it, posted on it, and it's fantastic. It's PIGMENT free! It's hairprint! 

I have used this 6 times now, I love it! One note to this, your scalp MUST BE HEALTHY when you use this product! I have now had a few clients have some reactions. This is out of  SEVERAL THOUSANDS of happy users. A few we think may have reacted to something in the pre-treatment. I do not use the pre-treatment, I use baking soda on very wet hair as a scrub. I feel that it works better for my own scalp. Rinsing the color completly off is extremely important as well. When I'm doing the color on myself, I also follow it with a rinse of 25% apple cider vinegar and 75% water. Don't rinse it out!  There are also NEW DIRECTIONS, please check at the web site for the full account of them.


I am adding to the list of direct dyes,  CoSaMo, which for some people, may be a good replacement for Clairol Loving care. Patch test!!  Davines has a wonderful one. It's their semi-permanent line, called "Finest Pigments", here is the link:

Here is a link to the darkest one, level three:

This is what the natural active ingredients are for that level three.*this color has AZO DYES IN IT*

Giesta natural pigments
Ginger natural pigments
Indian walnut natural pigments
Lycopene natural pigments

Polyquaternium-67 - conditioning agent;
Ranania natural pigments
Saffron natural pigments

Davines also has a shampoo and conditioning system that has direct dyes in the product to help your color last longer. Here is the link:

                       NO EXCEPTIONS!!

Goldwell's Elumen, This is also a direct dye, but instead of being natural, it is an AZO dye. many people have good results with this. It is available in salons world wide, and sometimes can be purchased online. The black is nice, but the dark browns have a purplish look to them. The brights (blue, green, red etc.) are great, as are all of the normal colors until you get to level 5, or dark brown. I use the yellow to counter the purple.

Clairol's Jazzing is similar to Elumen, but it is an older product. (Also an AZO, but you may be more likely to react. these are listed in the order of how likely you would be to react) You can purchase it at Sally's beauty supply. Most of the colors are pretty true to what is in the bottle.


  • Off the scalp, on foils or a cap. (OFF the scalp, don't touch your skin, or scalp with this bleach)

  • You can bleach without toning. NOTE: NO TONING! (see below for exceptions)

  • You must be sure that the bleach has no PPD, especially if it has a bluing in it.

  •  If the bleach has a titanium dioxide, be sure you do not have metal allergies- ie.-nickel, but 
  • especially titanium. 
  • used in applications for early greying, to blend into the rest of the hair.
  • Used for a lot of greying, to lighten the darker hair.
  • a good colorist can find the window that the bleach will be the perfect color without a toner. 

 You can tone with the above colors if you can tolerate them, however, if you can NOT tolerate them, bleaching off the scalp WITH A CAP works for clients that are allergic to PPD.  If a colorist says that they can not do a bleach without a toner, it may be that they do not have the ability. NEVER force a colorist to do something they say they can't do, or it just might be shame on you. (with orange hair, white hair, or NO hair...yes,scary!!)


I only use henna and it's counter parts from one source. My reasoning is it's lab tested for the amount of lawsone, so my color has the same look every time. It never fails, and I have never had any problems with any of the product. I have heard many horror stories about other companies, so I do not recommend them. I don't get any compensation from this salon, in fact, she is a great friend. Buy her book, it will be like having me in the room! Just change the lemon juice or vinegar to hibiscus tea. two bags per 8oz. of boiling water. Christine Shahin, THANK YOU!!

You can buy my friend's book from her, at the bottom link, or from Amazon, the top link. Pick which one you want. If you are ordering pigments, you can save shipping and order  the book straight from her with your henna. I wanted to include the link to the blog article I posted that has more information on this for further reading. HENNA blog link

There are a few pre-mixed products on the market. They do not cover the grey well. Several have PPD in them. Here are a few that do not. -I do NOT use these. They do not test for the amount of lawsone in them, so you can get different colors each time. I also will not help with these.

This henna can actually harm you, the ingredients have a cross relation to PPD. DO NOT USE THE BELOW COLOR!


There are a very few lucky clients that can use a color that has TDS. I was able to use this for 6 years after I was finally too allergic to continue using PPD based hair color. I can color hair with TDS, but I can not use TDS on my own hair anymore. I developed small blisters around my face, so I eventually developed a tolerance to this color as well. I am sure I am missing a lot of products, so I am sorry to any companies that would want a link on my teeny tiny blog. (that's a joke...) Here are some of the lines that are TDS based:

* also - many colors also have Ethanolamine, which some people are cross allergic to. It can be used as a preservative in many things, including contact solution. You don't want to become sensitive to this chemical as well.

*MEA, Monoethanolamine, is an ammonia substitute. This is a different chemical. It is known to be more harmful than ammonia, especially to hairdressers who are exposed all day. It smells nice, but at what cost?

These photos are of a 95 year old client of mine. She normally colors her hair with the henna, but had spent some time in the hospital. It allowed for me to get some great before and after photos. I get great coverage, and no fading. She sits under the dryer for one hour. After 15 years of coloring her hair, the henna is the only one that has not faded. (The photos are from spring of 2013) the light refraction may not allow a full view of the lack of fading, but trust me, that color is exactly the same!

That's what information I have discovered about color available to  my clients that are PPD free, with allergies. Don't forget to read about the patch testing in an earlier blog.(link provided above) I have clients that can not use any of these colors, but henna, and won't use that because they hate red. I wish all of you well on your journey. As usual, wait until your scalp is 100% healthy to do any type of coloring.

I'm conducting an informal survey about scalp conditions with PPD reactions. If you have a few extra minutes, send me an email letting me know if you had dandruff, itching, or any type of sore or cut on your head when you had the color that you became allergic to PPD. - Remember, Paid consults are always available!!

Happy Fall!
Gina xx

I'm allergic to PPD. What Can't I color with?