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Safety Issues of Hair Color 
Products and 
p-Phenylenediamine

Women with hair loss or other hair and scalp disorders should not take hair color products lightly. Some stylists may advise their clients to try a different hair color or to use highlights in order to create the illusion of thicker and more lustrous hair. Much to the clients' surprise, hair dyes may actually further their hair loss or aggravate existing hair and scalp disorders. The reason is that most professional hair color products contain loads of harsh chemicals such as peroxide, ammonia and p-phenylenediamine that can wreak serious damage to our hair and scalp and cause hair loss.

Besides peroxide and ammonia, the chemical that causes the most concerns among people is p-phenylenediamine. To make the situation more confusing for the general public, there are plenty of synonyms for this chemical which makes it quite difficult for the consumer to discern if this harsh chemical is indeed present in a particular hair product or not.

Synonyms or components of p-Phenylenediamine:

Paraphenylenediamine  Para-aminoaniline (p-aminoaniline)
PPD PPDA
1,4-Benzenediamine Orsin™
1,4-Penylenediamine Ursol™ D 
Rodol™ D Paradiaminobenzene

What is p-Phenylenediamine:

p-Phenylenediamine is a dark dye used extensively in permanent hair dyes, certain dark colored cosmetics as well as temporary skin tatoos. Contact of this substance with your skin may result in dermatitis as well as other skin disorders.  

Position statement from SCCNFP - March 2001
(Scientific Committee for Cosmetics and Non-Foods Products)

"The SCCNFP is aware of a number of reports in the scientific literature of para-phenylenediamine (PPD), and probably similar substances, having caused severe allergic contact dermatitis when used as ingredients in so-called temporary tattoos (skin stains).

PPD and similar chemicals have been assessed by the SCCNFP for use as hair coloring agents. Appropriate recommendations on use concentrations, restrictions and warnings for such application are in the EC Cosmetics Directive.

When PPD and similar chemicals are used for skin staining (temporary tattoos), active sensitisation may occur within a few weeks and the reactions can be very severe. Pigmentary variegation may persist for a prolonged period following such reactions. The sensitization will be life long.

Following active sensitization there may be extensive cross reactivity to other commonly encountered chemical substances to which the consumer may be exposed. These include other hair coloring agents, textile dyes, drugs and rubber chemicals.

The SCCNFP is of the opinion that PPD and similar chemicals should not be used in skin stains (temporary tattoos)." 

Patch test

Do not under-estimate the importance of patch test before trying any hair color products, even if they are semi-permanent or temporary hair dyes. The best way is to test for allergic reaction is to apply the product to a quarter-sized spot behind the ear or neck several days prior to actually using the product on your scalp. It is also advisable to speak to your physician before using any products that may trigger an allergic reaction. 

Hair friendly products

The hair color industry is slowly moving away from products that contain p-Phenylenediamine. Some are starting to formulate botanicals based hair dye that are more friendly to the hair and scalp. There is also a trend toward temporary or semi-permanent hair dyes that are free of p-Phenylenediamine. 

If you have trouble locating p-Phenylenediamine free hair color products, please email hairsite@aol.com  For the time being, you can also check out these PPD free products that are currently available. Click here for details.

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