What Is PPD In Hair Dye & Is It Dangerous? - AMR Hair & Beauty

What Is PPD In Hair Dye & Is It Dangerous?

Aug 24, 2021Sharnee Rawson

In the hairdressing industry, you will often hear people discuss PPD and its impact on hair. Many professionals have mixed views, and others take a stance without any scientific research. Often misinformation is spread through social media. A similar phenomenon has happened with citric acid in hair care too.

To save you some time, we will delve into PPD, and whether the ingredient is as dangerous as some people claim.



What Is Paraphenylenediamine (PPD)?

Paraphenylenediamine is typically used in permanent hair colour and is needed for most shades. Darker shades of hair contain higher concentrations of PPD than lighter shades.

Before any cosmetic product can be placed on the market, the formula must undergo a strict safety assessment by a qualified safety assessor. The assessment covers the safety of the finished product as well as each of the individual ingredients. How often the product is used will also be considered.

You will be happy to hear home users, salon clients and salon professionals are protected because PPD is only used in hair colour up to 2% in a formula. These safety assessments are regulated by European legislation called the Cosmetics Directive (76/768/EEC).


Is Anyone Allergic To PPD?

An allergy may arise in anybody exposed to PPD, including:
  • Hairdressers who apply hair dye to their clients several times each day.
  • Hairdressing clients, especially those using darker shades of dye.
  • Photographers that develop film.
  • People who have black temporary tattoos.

Over the years, there has been an increased reaction to hair colour as it has become more popular with women. There has even been an increase in numbers of males colouring their hair as well. The increased number of users mean safety is more important than ever.



What Are The Clinical Features Of Allergies To PPD?

PPD allergies usually present contact dermatitis on areas in direct contact with colour. They tend to occur from a few hours to a few days after contact.
  • A client's mild reaction to hair colour usually presents as an itchy dry rash on the upper eyelids or around the ears.
  • More severe reactions cause marked reddening, blistering, and swelling of the eyelids, scalp, face and neck.
  • High concentrations of PPD in black temporary tattoos may result in intense blistering reactions at the site of the tattoo within 1-2 days of tattooing.
  • Dermatitis may become widespread due to direct contact.
  • Hairdressers or photographers developing film may develop hand dermatitis. Dermatitis may spread to the arms, chest and elsewhere.
  • Dermatitis may be followed by post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation or scarring.
  • After the reaction subsides, a lifelong reaction to PPD is likely and no type of colour should be applied.

Systemic reactions to PPD have also been reported, such as asthma, anaphylaxis and acute renal failure.


How Is PPD Allergy Diagnosed?

There are two methods of patch testing.

1. In-Salon Patch Tests

In-salon patch tests are recommended for consumers before using hair colour. Instructions for testing should be included with every package of hair colour.
  • The test involves applying a 10-cent sized spot of colour and developer mixed to either behind the ear or the inner forearm.
  • Allow dry and leave uncovered for 48 hours.
  • If no irritation occurs, the test is negative. You can presume that the risk of developing a rash is less than if the test is positive.
  • A delayed reaction with redness, swelling, blistering or dryness at the site of the test indicates that dermatitis will develop if the mixture is used to colour the hair.

Be warned that testing on hair colour could induce a primary allergic reaction to PPD.

2. Covered Patch tests

Dermatologists and allergy specialists use covered patch tests to determine PPD sensitivity.



Does PPD Accumulate In The Body?

Hair colours are formulated to work on the hair. The colour does contact the scalp during application. A small amount of the product may be absorbed and eliminated from the body within 24 hours. This is acknowledged by the European Commission's expert panel (the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, SCCS).


Are Allergic Reactions To Hair Colour Common?

Hair colours are one of the most thoroughly studied consumer products on the market and their safety is supported by a wealth of scientific research.

It has been found that nearly 90% of the hair colour in the market contain PPD. Reactions to hair colour can occur for a small number of people, and it is estimated that around 5% of the population will have some sort of a reaction to hair colour. Food allergies affect 1 to 5% of the general population, which means this is quite average.


What Are The Different Types Of Hair Colourants?

There are four basic categories of hair colour:

  • Temporary hair colour modifies the colour of the hair temporarily and is readily removed by washing.
  • Semi-permanent hair colour lasts longer than temporary hair colour because they settle in the cuticle of the hair. The colour gradually fades with washing and normally stays in for up to 6-8 washes.
  • Demi-permanent hair colour consists of two components that must be mixed before use. They usually give the hair that tone on tone result.
  • Permanent hair colour consists of two components, which must be mixed before use. The effects of permanent colour are resistant to washing and provide excellent coverage of grey hair.



Is Natural Hair Colour Safer?

Natural hair colour is subject to the same cosmetics legislation, including safety assessments that are irrespective of where the ingredients are sourced. The body cannot differentiate between natural and man-made substances. If an ingredient is not safe to use in cosmetic products it will be banned, whether it is natural or man-made.

If you want to avoid PPD, you can use hair dye that does not include this ingredient, such as Pulp Riot or WildColor


We cannot emphasise enough the importance of doing a patch test before colouring. As you have read, the are risks for those who are allergic to PPD. Remember to always consult before colour services and find out if anything has changed since their last visit. Also, if you happen to get a new client with a history of hair colour reactions, it would be advisable to find an alternative hair colour.

For hairdressers, we highly recommend always using gloves when working with colour. Your hands are your tools, so you should look after them wisely. 

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