What Do I Use When I’m Allergic To Hair Dye?

Dying your hair can be a great way to spruce up your looks or hide those pesky gray hairs. However, many hair dyes contain chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions in some people.

Read on to find out more about the hair dye allergies and alternative products you can use.

What Causes Hair Dye Allergies?

Many hair-coloring products contain the ingredients paraphenylenediamine (PPD).

In conventional hair dye brands, PPD typically comes in its own bottle and is accompanies by an oxidizer. Allergic reactions usually occur when the PPD is mixed with an oxidizer.

Symptoms of Hair Dye Allergy

It is important to understand the difference between sensitivity and an allergic reaction.

Sensitivity to PPD or other ingredients in hair dye may present as symptoms of contact dermatitis for example dry, burning, red skin.Allergic reactions can be severe and usually present immediately or after a few hours.

Common symptoms of hair dye allergies include:

  • Burning and stinging feeling on the scalps, neck or face
  • Itchy scalp resulting in blisters
  • Swollen scalp, eyelids, lips, hands or feet
  • Fierce red rash on any part of the body

Beware that an allergic reaction to hair dye may, in rare occasions, result in severe breathing difficulties. If someone displays symptoms of anaphylactic shock, get emergency help immediately.

Hair Dye Ingredients To Watch Out For

In addition to PPD, hair dyes may also contain chemicals that can cause allergic reactions. This is true even for those brands that claim to sell ‘herbal’ or ‘natural’ hair coloring products.

It is important to carefully read the ingredient list on these products to avoid hair dyes that will affect you adversely.

Ingredients to watch out for in include:

  • PPD
  • PPDA
  • p-diaminobenzene
  • phenylenediamine
  • paraphenylenediamine
  • p-phenylenediamine
  • 4-phenylenediamine
  • 4-aminoaniline
  • 1,4-diaminobenzene
  • 1,4-benzenediamine

Products containing peroxide, resorcinol, and ammonia may also cause an allergic reaction.

If you are sensitive or allergic to PPD, avoid black and dark brown hair dyes as these contain a high amount of PPD and other potentially harmful chemicals.

What To Use When You Are Allergic to Hair Dye

If you do not want to give up dying your hair altogether, you can use safer hair coloring alternatives.
Generally, your options boil down to natural plant-based dyes, semi-permanent dyes, and hypoallergenic dyes.

Natural Plant-Based Hair Dyes

Botanical dyes and hair rinses are your best bet if you are allergic to conventional hair dyes.
These dyes contain natural ingredients including henna, indigo, coffee, beetroot, and cassia among other plant extracts.

While some of these dyes contain some essential oils that some users may be mildly allergic to, natural dyes are the least likely to trigger allergic reactions.

Natural dyes are best for hiding beginning gray hair. However, they may not provide drastic results such as changing your hair from blonde to dark or the other way around.

What’s really great about 100% natural dyes is that they do not damage the hair even though you would need to apply the dye regularly.

Light Mountain is one of the best natural plant-based hair dyes available. With over ten shades of henna to choose from and up to eight shades to cover the grays, you are spoilt for choice.

The only ingredient in Light Mountain is henna and pure botanicals. It does not contain any chemicals, heavy metal or pesticides.

Light Mountain Henna Hair Color & Conditioner - Red Hair Dye for Men/Women, Organic Henna Leaf Powder and Botanicals, Chemical-Free, Semi-Permanent Hair Color, 4 Oz (Pack of 3)
  • HENNA HAIR COLOR: Light Mountain Natural Hair Color & Conditioner strengthens and nourishes hair while it gently colors.
  • ORGANIC HENNA & BOTANICALS: Organic henna leaf powder, pure botanicals, and nothing else goes into our time-tested hair dyes.
  • CHEMICAL FREE: Our conditioning hair colors are ammonia-free, PPD-free, metallic-salt free, and peroxide-free.
  • VEGAN HAIR COLOR: Cruelty-free, our vegan-friendly, our henna hair color kits are never tested on animals.
  • PREMIER HENNA EXPERTS: At Light Mountain, we've been blending henna-based hair dyes for decades.

Light Mountain is made in the USA.

Semi-Permanent Hair Dyes

Semi-natural dyes or semi-permanent dyes use some natural ingredients alongside artificial colors.

If you are looking for something more long lasting and a little bit stronger than 100% natural dyes, semi-permanent dyes can be a great alternative.

You can use a semi-permanent dye to darken hair, highlight dark hair or cover grays.

Some of the best semi-natural dyes do not contain substances such as ammonia, peroxide or PPD. However, at the end of the day, these are essentially synthetic dyes and may trigger an allergic reaction in some users.

Surya Henna Cream is a leading brand in the semi-permanent hair dye market. These dyes contain a mixture of botanical ingredients from India and Brasil in the spirit of Ayurveda. Some of these ingredients include aloe vera, acai, jua and, guarana, and Brazilian Nut.

Surya Brasil Products Henna Cream, Dark Brown, 2.37 Fluid Ounce
  • Surya Brazil Henna Cream-1 Box
  • Certified Cruelty Free - Vegan - Leaping Bunny
  • NO Ammonia - PPD - or Peroxide
  • Winner of Best of Natural Beauty Awards
  • Hypoallergenic - Dermatologically Tested - Safe for color treated hair

Infused with soothing ingredients such as chamomile, Surya Henna Creams work to strengthen and condition your hair while providing vibrant color results.

The dyes do not contain artificial fragrances, parabens, PPD, ammonia, mineral oils, GMO , metallic salts, peroxide, synthetic colors or resorcinol.

Hypoallergenic Permanent Hair Dyes

Some hair dye brands offer permanent hair colors that are hypoallergenic. What this means is that many of the ingredients in the dye are natural.

It is important to note that even though they claim to be hypoallergenic, the products may contain a very small amount of PPD, which is what makes the dye permanent.

Some users may not experience any adverse reactions with hypoallergenic hair dyes. However, be sure to perform a patch test before applying the dye to your hair.

Original and Mineral is a favorite hypoallergenic permanent hair dye. This Australian brand may be a bit pricier than your average supermarket hair dye but it is much safer.

It does not contain PPD, resorcinol or ammonia making it safe for hair, scalp, and hands.

Pravana Color Enhancer Silver Unisex, 5 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)
  • Color enhancers contain oat protein to condition hair
  • Kakadu plum extract for antioxidants that promote elasticity
  • Color enhancers are formulated with pravana's exclusive reunite mending technology
  • Utilizes amino acids for internal strength to restore hair from the inside out
  • Plant-derived mending ingredients to help to reunite the cuticle layer.

Original and Mineral comes in an array of colors including blondes and fashion colors as well as vibrant colors to cover grays.

Bonus: Hairprint

If you are looking for an innovative way to cover your grays, check out Hairprint.

Hairprint is not a hair dye per se. Rather, it is a hair re-pigmentation solution that restores gray hair to its natural color.

1 x 20g. BSY NONI BLACK HAIR COLOR Organic Natural Hair Dye (Black) Covers Grey Hairs (No PPD para-phenylenediamine)
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1 x 20g. BSY NONI BLACK HAIR COLOR Organic Natural Hair Dye (Black) Covers Grey Hairs (No PPD para-phenylenediamine)
  • Natural Hair Dye (Black)
  • Natural Herbs.
  • Nourish your hair shiny.

This product provides longer lasting results by using peroxide to oxidize mineral and plant-based ingredients to restore the natural pigment in your hair shafts.

Hairprint does not contain gluten, sulphates, parabens, synthetic colors, ammonia, PTD or PPD. It is vegan too.


The truth, there is no way to guarantee that a hair dye is 100% safe. So, even with natural and herbal hair dyes, it is important to perform a patch test at least two days before coloring your hair.

Be sure to read the ingredient list and avoid products with ingredients that are likely to trigger an allergic reaction.

While natural hair dyes are your best bet if you are allergic to conventional dyes, do not expect wild results with hair color changes. These natural options tend to offer milder shades and coverage.