I’m the kind of woman who loves beauty products just as much as the next, and enjoy (with quite a passion) seeking out and being able to treat myself occasionally with new cosmetics such as facial moisturisers, mascara and perfumes. However, I now fear that my relationship is starting to break down with the cosmetic industry after a recent allergic reaction I endured at the hands of hair dye – and yes, it was done professionally.
Maybe I am being naive, but I have always trusted the cosmetic companies, with the ideological set of thought that our health was of paramount importance to them. Unfortunately, this may not be the case as I recently found that an ingredient commonly used in many hair dyes, is actually a banned substance from make up products. We are constantly told about all the positive ingredients that are in these products, with never ending claims as to how they will make our lives better – but what about the bad, and how they can make our lives worse, through illnesses, ranging from moderate to severe, and, unfortunately in some cases, death.
As a teenager, I dyed my hair at home probably more often than I changed my pants. One month I tried black (it was not a good look, I was pale enough), another red and on the cycle continued. I even had those thick blonde stripes down the front of my hair long before Ginger Spice did! Looking back, I now realise how ridiculously dense and ignorant I was at the time, but as teenagers, we think we’re invincible, don’t we? As time went on and I had to a family, hair colorants went out the door, as nappies and sleepless nights came in. Cosmetics didn’t really get a look in for a good few years, but eventually, as normality resumed I treated myself and booked an appointment for a cut and colour. I came to no harm and all was fine, but decided I didn’t want to make it a regular occurrence, more so because of the cost.
And so we come to the present day, a gap of around nine years, and after spotting yet another grey hair one morning I decided to take the plunge and try colour again. I did a bit of research and read about some allergic reactions from home based hair dyes so booked an appointment with a professional hair technician. I explained I was nervous as I hadn’t done anything like that for years and had read about allergic reactions, yet I was not offered a skin test. In hindsight I should’ve insisted upon it, but assumed, as she didn’t suggest one, it was okay. Throughout the procedure she asked if I was okay and if my scalp felt fine, which it did. There was no itching or anything else to suggest an adverse reaction was about to take place.
However, within 24 hours one of my eyes had started to swell up with the other following suit. Panic. My mind was recalling the images I’d previously seen from the home dye kits. I rang Primary care (it was a Sunday) and the nurse commented that the hospital had seen a surge in people contacting them who had suffered bad reactions to hair dyes in 2012 alone. Throughout the telephone conversation she asked me several questions in regards to my current state of health and whether there was any tightening of the airways etc. It became apparent that I was having a moderate reaction which was not life threatening. However, I was told to take antihistamines to reduce the swelling and any inflammation, and if they did not work and/or my symptoms got worse I had to go to hospital. Luckily, the swelling did go down after twenty four hours, but some of the symptoms remained for several weeks after. Both my eyes were dry and itchy, my eyelids had several tiny blisters on them and the skin remained extremely tender both there and also under the eyes. The skin in that area was so delicate and paper like for weeks after – but it would seem that I have been one of the luckily ones.
Even just a quick type into Google brings a staggering amount of results. Both the news articles and images that instantly appear online would now suggest that these allergies are becoming more frequent and are fast becoming a problem in which the hair industry should be addressing without delay. Only last month Julie McCabe died after falling into a coma from using a well known household name dying solution on her hair, and the cause of her unnecessary death was the chemical known as PPD. At this moment in time I cannot confirm that it is this same chemical I am allergic to, but PPD seems to be the main culprit throughout the horror stories we keep hearing about time and time again.
So why are the cosmetic companies so reluctant to make vital changes that could save lives? Apparently, they simply cannot find a suitable, approved replacement, but I am not wholeheartedly convinced that they are actively seeking one, either. So, surely if we, the public, make a big enough fuss, wouldn’t you think that they would show a bit of compassion? Well, you may think so, but the public’s pleas seem to be falling on deaf ears, which is extremely disconcerting and alarming when so many of us trust these brand names that can, it would seem, do us more harm than good.
Over the next few months I am hoping (and planning) to make some sort of change on the ignorance and dangers within this field, or at least make a sizeable dent in the subject matter, to which people will stand up and take notice. I am aiming to get in touch with some of the leading companies within the beauty industry to question both our importance to them and their ethical values. Will we really be able to make change to something which so far has gone widely ignored for years? To be honest I’m unsure, but I really can’t sit by and read about someone’s sad demise, either.
For more information about reactions to hair dye please see the Allergy Uk website.