[Question] Can Hair Dye Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Hair dyes may contain ingredients that can react with your body and trigger allergic responses such as swollen lymph nodes. Most allergies are caused by an ingredient found in hair dyes called ParaPhenyleneDiamine (PPD).

PPD is a compound that’s found in most commercial hair dyes as peroxide. It usually comes inside a bottle, together with an oxidizer. When the PPD and the oxidizer are mixed to form a paste, partial oxidation and colorisation begin. This is when it is likely to trigger reactions such as swollen lymph nodes to people who are allergic to it.

Other allergic reactions may include:

  • Stinging or burning sensation on your face, scalp and neck area
  • Swollen eyelids, face, and scalp
  • Swollen and itchy lips, hands and feet
  • A red rash on any part of your body
  • Welts and blisters

How long do swollen lymph nodes caused by hair dye last?

Swollen lymph nodes stemming from exposure to hair dye can appear after a few hours to up to 7 days after an exposure. Some people may get better within a few days, while others may experience symptoms for a longer time. There are cases when the swollen lymph nodes subside on their own.

How to avoid hair dye allergy

Patch Test is the most effective way to know whether you are allergic to hair dye. All hair dyes have patch test instructions which you should follow before applying the dye, particularly if you are pregnant. Usually, patch test involves applying a small amount of the dye solution behind the ear. The application is then allowed to sit for up to 3 days to see if you develop any reactions to it. If no reaction is seen, the hair dye is deemed safe for use on your head.

How to prevent hair dye allergy

Allergy to hair dye can be avoided by staying away from dyes that contain PPD. These dyes usually come in a 2-bottle set. Semi-permanent hair dyes are generally a safer alternative, but some people with allergies to PPD may have an allergic reaction to these too. So, it’s better to always do patch tests to find out if you’ll react to a dye before using it.

If you have occupational exposure to PPD, it’s recommended that you wear protective clothing such as gloves. As a precaution, you should let your primary physician know that you are allergic to PPD since this information will be beneficial if you are receiving treatment using local anesthetics.

Common terms to look out for

The only way to know if a hair dye contains PPD is to read the ingredients in the inside label. Common terms you should look out for include:

  • PPD
  • PPDA
  • Phenylenediamine
  • Paraphenylenediamine
  • P-diaminobenzene
  • p-phenylenediamine
  • 4-phenylenediamine

Black and brown dyes contain the highest concentration of PPD. If you are sensitive to PPD, you should avoid them. Keep in mind that PPD is not the only ingredient that triggers allergic reactions. Some people may also develop allergies and other symptoms from ingredients such as peroxide, ammonia, and resorcinol.

Hair dye allergy treatment

The most effective treatment for hair dye allergy is prevention. So doing a patch test before using any hair dye is extremely important. If you have already developed a reaction to hair dye, you should immediately wash your hair with mild shampoo and/or use a colour remover to get rid of the dye. Rinse thoroughly to remove any residues of dye in your scalp. After rinsing, apply a 2 percent hydrogen peroxide solution to your hair. This will allow for complete oxidation of the PPD.

If you experience any tightness in the scalp after this, you can apply corticosteroid cream in the affected areas. Oral corticosteroids may also be of help. If you develop allergies in other parts of the body, treatment should include the application of emollients and also some corticosteroids. If any of these measures do not help alleviate the symptoms, contact your primary doctor as soon as possible.

Takeaway: Can hair dye cause swollen lymph nodes?

Allergic reactions including swollen lymph nodes can happen anytime. The culprit that’s often behind these allergies is an ingredient called PPD. If you are out shopping for hair dye, it’s important to always look at labels to know whether the product you are buying contains PPD or any other chemical that might trigger an allergy. As a safety precaution, it’s advisable to always do a patch test to know if you are allergic to any of the ingredients in hair dye. If that’s the case, consider using an alternative dye like henna.