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HAIR DYE REACTIONS can be more serious than just having the wrong color on your head. Some hair dyes related problems could be serious allergic reactions that can result in hospitalization. Where possible, it is best to avoid PPD based hair color products as well as anything that is loaded with harsh chemicals.

Heading Off Hair-Care Disasters: Use Caution With Hair Dyes and Hair Color Products - the following is published by the US FDA

According to the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Cosmetics and Colors, hair dyes or hair color products are among its top consumer complaint areas. Complaints range from hair breakage to symptoms warranting an emergency room visit. Reporting such complaints is voluntary, and the reported problem is often due to incorrect use of a product rather than the product itself. FDA encourages consumers to understand the risks that come with using hair chemicals, and to take a proactive approach in ensuring their proper use. The agency doesn't have authority under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to require premarket approval for cosmetics, but it can take action when safety issues surface.

When the Product Is the Problem
When consumers notify FDA of problems with cosmetics, the agency evaluates evidence on a case-by-case basis and determines if follow-up is needed, says Allen Halper, an FDA consumer safety officer. FDA looks for patterns of complaints or unusual or severe reactions. The agency may conduct an investigation, and if the evidence supports regulatory action, FDA may request removal of a cosmetic from the market.

Consumers should be aware that applying more than one type of chemical treatment, such as coloring hair one week and then relaxing it the next, can increase the risk of hair damage. "The only color we recommend for relaxed hair is semi-permanent because it has no ammonia and less peroxide," compared with permanent color, Freier says.

Hair Dye Reactions
As with hair relaxers, some consumers have reported hair loss, burning, redness, and irritation from hair dyes. Allergic reactions to dyes include itching, swelling of the face, and even difficulty breathing.

Coal tar hair dye ingredients are known to cause allergic reactions in some people, FDA's Lambert says. Synthetic organic chemicals, including hair dyes and other color additives, were originally manufactured from coal tar, but today manufacturers primarily use materials derived from petroleum. The use of the term "coal tar" continues because historically that language has been incorporated into the law and regulations.

The law does not require that coal tar hair dyes be approved by FDA, as is required for other uses of color additives. In addition, the law does not allow FDA to take action against coal tar hair dyes that are shown to be harmful, if the product is labeled with the prescribed caution statement indicating that the product may cause irritation in certain individuals, that a patch test for skin sensitivity should be done, and that the product must not be used for dyeing the eyelashes or eyebrows. The patch test involves putting a dab of hair dye behind the ear or inside the elbow, leaving it there for two days, and looking for itching, burning, redness, or other reactions.

"The problem is that people can become sensitized--that is, develop an allergy--to these ingredients," Lambert says. "They may do the patch test once, and then use the product for 10 years" before having an allergic reaction. "But you're supposed to do the patch test every time," he says, even in salons.

And what about ending up with something other than the exact shade of strawberry blonde on the shelf? "Don't think the color on the box is the color you'll get," says Freier, the cosmetology instructor. "There are so many variables, like what chemicals are already in your hair and what your natural color is, that go into how your hair will turn out."

When using all hair chemicals, it's critical to keep them away from children to prevent ingestion and other accidents, and to follow product directions carefully. It sounds basic, but some people don't do it, says FDA's Halper. "If it says leave on hair for five minutes, seven minutes doesn't make it better," he says. "In fact, it could do damage."

This article is written by a staff writer for FDA Consumer.

FDA encourages voluntary reporting of adverse reactions to hair products to: FDA, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Office of Cosmetics and Colors, 200 C St. S.W., Washington, DC 20204, 202-205-4706. *

Look Out For Your Eyes
Whether applying hair chemicals at home or in a hair salon, consumers and beauticians should be careful to keep them away from the eyes. FDA has received reports of injuries from hair relaxers and hair dye accidentally getting into eyes. And while it may be tempting to match a new hair color to eyebrows and eyelashes, consumers should resist the urge. The use of permanent eyelash and eyebrow tinting and dyeing has been known to cause serious eye injuries and even blindness. There are no color additives approved by FDA for dyeing or tinting eyelashes and eyebrows.

The law does not require that coal tar hair dyes be approved by FDA, as is required for other uses of color additives. In addition, the law does not allow FDA to take action against coal tar hair dyes that are shown to be harmful, if the product is labeled with the following caution statement:

"Caution-This product contains ingredients which may cause skin irritation on certain individuals and a preliminary test according to accompanying directions should first be made. This product must not be used for dyeing the eyelashes or eyebrows; to do so may cause blindness."

Also read related articles on Hair Dyes and Hair Color PPD

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