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Hair dye safety FAQs

Some research has linked hair dyes to certain cancers, but there is no clear evidence that hair dyes could cause any of these cancers. Allergic reactions to hair dye are also possible for some people. Read our FAQs on hair dye safety.

What precautions should I take when I dye my hair?

You should follow these safety tips when dyeing your hair:

  • Don't leave the dye on your head any longer than recommended.
  • Rinse your scalp thoroughly with water after use.
  • Wear gloves when applying hair dye.
  • Carefully follow the directions in the hair dye package.
  • Never mix different hair dye products.
  • Do a patch test for allergic reactions before applying the dye to your hair. Almost all hair dye products include instructions for doing a patch test. It's important to do this each time you dye your hair. Your hairdresser should also do the patch test before dyeing your hair. To test, put a dab of hair dye behind your ear and don't wash it off for two days. If you don't have any signs of allergic reaction, such as itching, burning, or redness at the test spot, you can be more confident that you won't have a reaction to the dye applied to your hair. If you do react to the patch test, do the same test with different brands or colours until you find one to which you're not allergic.
  • Never dye your eyebrows or eyelashes. An allergic reaction to dye could cause swelling or increase risk of infection in the eye area. This can harm the eye and even cause blindness. Spilling dye into the eye by accident could also cause permanent damage.

Are hair dyes safe?

The decision to change your hair colour may be a hard one. Some studies have linked hair dyes with a higher risk of certain cancers, while other studies have not found this link. Most hair dyes also don't have to go through safety testing that other cosmetic colour additives do before hitting the market. Women, and men, are often on their own trying to determine whether hair dyes are safe.

What allergic reactions can hair dye cause?

Allergy UK says allergic reactions to hair-dye products are not uncommon.

Symptoms can include local irritation in areas that came into contact with hair dye, called irritant contact dermatitis, and an allergic reaction called allergic contact dermatitis.

More systemic reactions are possible affecting other parts of the body, including itching, urticaria (nettle rash), feeling generally unwell, or in rare cases, anaphylaxis.

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