Can You Be Allergic to Henna Hair Dye?

Can You Be Allergic to Henna Hair Dye?

Allergy to pure henna is very rare because henna has a very low allergic potential. Allergy to henna is a type I allergic reaction that appears within minutes. Henna allergy symptoms include sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing and itching. However, most allergic reactions people experience with henna are actually due to chemical additives, namely PPD and derivatives. Make sure the henna you use is 100% pure.

You might have heard that many people experience allergic reaction when they dye their hair with henna, or when they have a henna tattoo done. But, as we explained earlier, the overwhelming majority of those reactions are due to black henna hair dye allergy, which has other chemical substances added to make the color more vibrant. In another article we had explained to you how to spot natural, pure henna. Let's now discover at oneHOWTO all about allergic reaction to henna hair dye: can henna cause allergy? what are henna allergy symptoms? how to perform a henna hair dye allergy test? can henna make you allergic to hair dye? and in general, can you be allergic to henna hair dye?

Can henna cause allergy?

Henna has a very low allergenicity, which means allergic reactions to henna are very rare, especially in people without occupational exposure to it. Allergic reaction to henna is classified as type I, which means you will get a reaction within minutes. To get an allergic reaction from henna the immune system must have been pre-sensitized to the antigen. But again, this is extremely rare and most allergic reactions to henna are actually reactions to what is called black henna, containing PPD.

So, can henna cause allergy? Yes, but it is extremely unlikely. Let's see what are the henna allergy symptoms.

Henna allergy symptoms

The symptoms of allergy to pure henna include:

  • tight chest
  • sneezing
  • contact dermatitis
  • itchy eyes
  • cough

Henna allergy symptoms appear within minutes from the exposure to henna and have been observed to increase in intensity when acidic substances such as vinegar are mixed into the henna.

It is always highly recommended to perform a henna hair dye allergy test before dying hair with henna, let's see how to do it.

Henna hair dye allergy test

To perform a henna hair dye allergy test do the following:

  1. make a small quantity of henna paste
  2. apply it on your forearm
  3. leave it on for an hour
  4. wash out
  5. repeat the next day
  6. If symptoms do not appear within an hour, you are not allergic to henna

Things to take into consideration are:

  • you have to be 100% sure the henna you have is pure. Pure henna must be the only ingredient listed in the pack. In fact, allergy to chemical additives to henna hair dye can appear as late as 15 days after application. Pure henna gives an allergic reaction within minutes.
  • your forearm will be stained in red, that's not an allergic reaction to henna hair dye, that's just henna hair dye color!
  • the reason why you need to perform 2 henna hair dye allergy tests is because henna allergy symptoms appear when the immune system has already been in contact with the antigen
  • a hair strand test is not enough to spot allergy to henna

Now that we have answered to the question: can you be allergic to henna hair dye, let's move on and talk about something that's much more likely to give an allergic reaction: henna containing PPD.

Black henna hair dye allergy

Black henna hair dye allergy is relatively common. Paraphenylenediamine (PPD), added to black henna and other hair dyes, is a powerful allergen. Black henna hair dye allergy symptoms can appear 5 to 15 days after application and can include dermatitis, swelling, reddening, scarring, vision difficulty, and more serious and rare complications.

Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) is added to henna and other hair dyes to make the color more intense and quicker to apply. The European Union and FDA limit the use of PPD but many of the henna pre-packaged products come from countries where regulations are lax. Those henna products do not list ingredients and are exported without much control.

Bear in mind that sometimes the name "black henna" is used for 2 dark natural hair dyes called Indigo and Katam, which are natural, plant-based dyes that have nothing to do with PPD. Again, reading the ingredients list and buying from a reliable brand are key.

So, can you be allergic to henna hair dye? Most likely, you can be allergic to what is called black henna, containing PPD.

Henna tattoo alergy symptoms

Similarly to hair dyes, allergic reactions to henna tattoos are often triggered by the presence of PPD. Reaction to pure henna tattoo appears immediately while reaction to black henna tattoo appears 5-15 days after application. Apart from itching, reddening, and dermatitis, reaction to henna tattoo can also lead to permanent scarring and other serious consequences.

So, what to do about henna tattoo allergy? Only get tattooed by a reliable saloon, not on the street, or when you are on holiday in a country you do not know. As a rule of thumb, remember that pure henna tattoos take time to stain the skin, and they are red in color, while black henna stains immediately and is very dark.

Can henna make you allergic to hair dye?

Pure henna cannot make you allergic to hair dye. However, PPD, a chemical substance often contained in henna mixes, is a powerful allergen. Once you become sensitized to PPD through henna hair dye or henna tattoo paste containing a high amount of it, you will probably become sensitive to all permanent oxidative hair dyes.

To better understand if henna can make you allergic to hair dye, you should know that virtually all permanent chemical hair dyes contain Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) or a variant of it. However, since PPD and derivatives' content is regulated in the EU and the US, hair dyes sold in those countries contain small amounts of it, limiting the insurgence of allergic reactions. It is estimated that you might need to dye your hair 60 times, on average, before an allergic reaction appears.

However, if you have been exposed to a high amount of PPD though non-pure henna tattoo or henna hair dye, even if only once, you have a high chance of becoming permanently sensitive to commercial hair dyes. If you had an allergic reaction to black henna before, you should definitely consult your dermatologist before coloring your hair.

Bear in mind that reaction can appear with substances which have a similar structure to PPD as well: parabens, para-aminobenzoic acid, para compounds, paraphenylenediamine, 4-phenylenediamine, phenylenediamine to name a few. Please read the ingredients carefully!

So, can henna make you allergic to hair dye? Not pure henna. PPD can.

Does a henna tattoo make you allergic to hair dye? Not a pure henna tattoo, but a henna tattoo with PPD can make you allergic to hair dyes.

Safe hair dye for allergy sufferes

So, now you might be wondering: if I am allergic to hair dye what can I use? You can dye your hair with henna, Indigo, and Katam if you are 100% sure that they are pure and natural. Some people with PPD allergy also tolerate para-toluenediamine sulfate, Toluene-2,5-diamine (TD) and Toluene-2,5-diamine sulphate (TDS), so you can look for hair dyes that only contain those chemicals.

However, why risk, when there are so many beautiful natural hair dyes out there, henna being one of them. And you if you are worried you can be allergic to henna hair dye, just make sure it is pure henna.


If you want to read similar articles to Can You Be Allergic to Henna Hair Dye?, we recommend you visit our Beauty & Personal Care category.