A coroner has called for more regulation of the cosmetic industry following the inquest into the death of Julie McCabe, who died following an allergic reaction to her home hair dye. McCabe went into a coma and later died after suffering a reaction to an ingredient in her hair colorant in 2011.
Number of allergies “grossly underestimated”
Coroner Geoff Fell said the cosmetic industry has grossly underestimated the extent to which customers are allergic to hair dye and that more should be done to research the issue by manufacturers.
He highlighted the massive disconnect between the numbers reported in academic studies (140,000 per one million users) and those used by the makers of Julie McCabe’s hair dye, L’Oreal (four per one million users): “Nobody has any idea how many customers are adversely affected by hair dye. The industry is aware of the risk of anaphylaxis but the industry, it seems to me, has no idea of the incidents of non-fatal anaphylaxis due to hair dye. L’Oreal do not actively seek feedback. I think L’Oreal need to revisit that approach.”
Importance of patch tests
Complications can occur with home dyeing when, as was the case with McCabe, people are allergic to an ingredient in the dye. Certain chemicals in hair dye can provoke the body’s immune system, causing itchy and sore skin. Julie McCabe was allergic to the ingredient paraphenylenediamine, a sensitivity that it is thought she developed as a result of a black henna tattoo.
Although initially allergic symptoms may be mild, they can develop cumulatively over time, so it’s important to stop using any products that cause a reaction immediately. When allergies become more severe, the symptoms also increase in severity and can include blisters, permanent hair loss and in extreme cases, death.
For this reason it is vital that anyone wanting to use home hair dye kits to colour their hair carry out a patch test first. A patch test should take place around a week prior to dyeing and involves a pea-size spot of dye being applied to an easily covered, freshly cleaned part of the skin, usually behind an ear.
If the skin does not develop any kind of unusual or uncomfortable reaction, then it is generally considered safe to proceed with using the same dye mixture to colour your hair. This process is often followed by professional hair colourists too, who may ask you to stop by in advance of booking you in for a colour appointment so that they can carry out a patch test. If they do not offer you this option, you are able to request one.
How does hair dye affect hair and skin?
Hair dye, when used safely, does not normally cause an adverse reaction to hair or skin, unless people have an allergic reaction, as outlined above. Despite this, many people still believe that hair dye is damaging.
In most cases where hair breakage occurs from dyeing, this is simply due to over-use of harsh products causing the hair to become brittle and snap. This type of harm is basically a form of temporary styling damage, rather than a hair loss condition, as it does not affect or cause any lasting damage to hair follicles. This is the same type of deterioration of the hair’s condition that can occur from over-styling using heated equipment, such as hair straighteners and tongs.
If you are particularly concerned about the risk of harmful side-effects from chemical hair dyes, there are a number of organic and natural alternatives that can be found in most health food stores and may be gentler on your hair.
Restoring hair health after home dyeing
There are a number of ways in which you can restore hair damaged by chemical home-colouring; Always use a good quality shampoo and conditioner suitable for coloured hair. This will not just help to prolong the life of your colour, but should also contain ingredients, such as biotin, designed to help to strengthen and nourish dyed hair.
Once a week add an intensive conditioning treatment or hair mask to your beauty routine, to further boost the condition of your hair, and help it regain its strength and shine – which can also make your colour look more radiant.
You can also help your hair from the inside by including hair-friendly vitamins and minerals in your diet, or taking a dietary supplement, such as Hair Vitalics, that has all the necessary nutrients needed for healthy hair.
If you did not achieve the colour you wanted, do not be tempted to dye again or use home colour-stripping kits on your hair straight away. The best thing to do is to visit a hairdresser for an expert opinion as to the state of your hair and how long you should wait before the next step in your colouring process. They may recommend a professional treatment in the meantime to help reduce the impact of the dye and add more moisture back into your hair.
For those who have been affected by hair loss due to allergic reactions the situation is more complex and it is worthwhile consulting a specialist who will be able to provide you with expert hair loss advice. They will also put together a personalised hair loss treatment plan for restoring your hair’s condition and promoting regrowth, that is tailored to your specific situation.
The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.