By Josh Saunders
A mum has been left terrified to shower after a horrific hair dye reaction has left her swollen, scabbed and scarred – which docs incorrectly confused for HERPES.
At her worst, Jessica Roy, 26, from Ontario, Canada, believes she looked ‘disgusting’ and like a ‘crack head’ after puss filled blisters erupted on her hairline, head and neck.
Her first reaction happened last year, when blisters and a rash appeared following the use of a ‘cheap black hair dye’.
Five months later, after dying her hair with another product she said it felt like her ‘head was on fire’ in addition to struggling for breath and feeling both her lymph nodes and neck inflame.
Her reaction has been so severe that simply washing her hair will cause another flare-up that can swell her eyes shut and leave her needing urgent medical treatment.
She says doctors initially believed her symptoms were caused by herpes – in reality, she was having an allergic reaction to a chemical in hair dye.
Now the stay-at-home mum and student is trying to raise awareness of hair dye reactions which can be fatal and the importance of doing patch tests, which can prevent them.
Jessica said: “When people would see the reaction if they would say it looked like I was a ‘crack head’ they would feel sorry for me and constantly asking me what happened.
“The reaction made me feel disgusting and ruined myself esteem even more. I lost myself and wouldn’t wish this on anyone.
“I am still suffering with the rash and blisters, they are not as bad as before but every time I wash my hair it flares up.
“This has been going on for months and really has affected my life.
“I have scars all over my neck, eyes and anywhere it touched while washing my hair.
“I have become severely depressed from the amount of discomfort I am still in and embarrassed of how I look now.
“I honestly barely wash my hair now because I’m terrified to do so, I also have trouble seeing out of my left eye.
“Hair dye reactions are no joke and needs a lot more awareness, not one doctor even knew what it was.
“I was told to go to a doctor who prescribed a second type of antibiotics and even told me it was most likely not the hair dye but herpes.
“I was unhappy with what they said, it didn’t seem right that someone could get herpes all over their entire, scalp, neck and face.
“I went to another doctor, who confirmed it indeed wasn’t herpes but a severe reaction to hair dye.
“It was a mystery to me and shows how clueless everyone is of allergic reactions to hair dye.
“If I went to hospital with an allergy to peanuts I would have been treated in the best possible way but until the realisation I was looked at like I was crazy and there was nothing wrong with me.”
Jessica initially dismissed a less severe reaction to hair dye in June last year, believing it to be caused by a cheap product.
But in October, shortly after applying a salon brand dye she felt her scalp enflame and later she suffered blistering all over her scalp.
Jessica said: “Within five minutes of having the dye on my hair my head was on fire, I immediately washed it off a couple of times.
“About one to two hours went by and my scalp was still burning and then itchy.
“I was breaking out in a rash and blisters all over my head, neck and my face too, along with my lymph nodes on both sides of my neck inflamed and difficulty breathing.
“I took anti-allergy medication and inhalers, which helped ease it a little.
“A few days went by and the blisters began to break, bleed and fill-up with yellow scabs, everything was getting so much worse, so I went to the hospital.
“They gave me an antibiotic and told me to use Head and Shoulders once it healed to deal with the dry skin and itching.”
Since then, simply washing her hair has caused the same shocking symptoms to resurface over the last three months – massively interfering with her life.
Jessica said: “I had my niece’s baptism, so I washed my hair with shampoo and while it burned it was nothing like before, so I thought I was ok.
“I wore my hair down and within an hour, my head started to sweat, itch and burn super bad.
“I was back to square one and this time my eyes swelled shut, my face so swollen and my lymph nodes were super-inflamed again.
“I was given hydrocortisone cream, Tylenol and allergy medication.”
Despite Jessica recently seeing her reactions lessen, she fears washing her hair in case it sets off another painful reaction.
She says the trauma has impacted her emotionally, as well as physically leaving her covered in scars.
Jessica added: “I am a single mom to a five-year-old boy that needs my attention 24/7, which is more difficult when you are in such pain and discomfort and can’t see out of the one eye.
“I have lost tonnes of hair around my face along with the hair getting super-thin.
“I suffer from depression and anxiety and the reaction actually made it worst to the point the doctor had to put me on medication and increase the dose.
“A reaction this bad causing a lot of pain and suffering physically emotionally and mentally.”
Gina Taro, Salon Allergy specialist, who has been studying for 18 years, believes as more women dye their hair the likelihood of reactions will increase.
In America, she claims up to 75% of women use hair dye and from them 6.5% will suffer a reaction to one of the chemicals used in hair dye.
Gina said: “It’s a wide range of chemicals, from Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) to toluene-2,5-diaminesulfate (TDS) and others.
“Reactions can present as anything from a red area to a very angry rash with blistering to open wounds that ooze.
“To throat swelling, eyes crusting shut and the risk of a compromised airway that can lead to death.
“I can tell you that a patch test will not tell if you if are allergic to colour on your first exposure, you must be exposed twice to actually have a reaction.”
Gina believes the reactions are caused by ‘cheap chemicals’ used in many hair dyes that are skin irritants and cause the severe symptoms.
Recurrent exposure worsens the reactions and in Jessica’s case, she believes the chemicals from her first experience with the chemical led to continuing and intensifying problems.
Gina said: “It’s called a cumulative allergy, where the chemicals are in your system and your resistance is nil.
“The allergic reaction will get worse every time until going into anaphylactic shock and death.
“Every time the hair is wet the chemicals are active, when it’s dry they are not.
“It’s just the way chemical bonding for the hair works, when the hair is wet the chemical drips in microscopic amounts onto the skin and a reaction occurs as a result.
“They are cheap chemicals, so are very inexpensive to make and they work, so there’s no reason to change.”
Gina offers specialist consultations on hair dye allergies and free information online.
She said: “I take people through a process of special shampooing to help remove the excess PPD and other chemicals from the hair.
“Dye absorption is similar with fabric as it is to hair, so I take people through a way to remove the chemicals with a pre-fade.”
For more visit: www.ginamarietaro.blogspot.com.