Life Video

By Josh Saunders

A Gran has suffered a horror hair dye reaction that left her skin ‘burning’ and her head covered in agonising blisters.

Donna Hudson, 52, from Central Square in New York, USA, was colouring her greying hair when she experienced the painful symptoms, two months ago.


Her reaction started three days after applying the ‘Revlon Luxurious Colorsilk butter cream – 50A Light Ash Brown kit’ and her forehead starting ‘burning’ like ‘wicked sunburn’.

Later she developed a large welt on her forehead like an ‘open wound’ and several blisters along her hairline, as well as a swollen head and lymph nodes.

Donna, who did not perform a patch test, had to seek urgent hospital care where it was realised she had an allergy to one of the chemicals in hair dye – paraphenylenediamine (PPD).

Now healed, she has vowed to never dye her hair again fearing a worse or similar reaction and is warning others about the risks.

Additionally, the self-employed gran is hoping Revlon will reimburse her medical bills amounting to nearly $2,000 (1600GBP) and the two weeks she was unable to work.

Donna, who owns a cleaning business, said: “My daughter was dying my hair and I didn’t initially feel any sensation until three days later my head felt like it was on fire, I didn’t know what was going on.


“I noticed a welt on top of my head, it was an open red wound that was very irritated.

“I went to a salon and was told I was having an allergic reaction, they said they had never seen anything like it before.

“A pharmacy gave me medication to put on it, but it didn’t do anything, the next day my eye was nearly swollen shut and the lymph nodes under my chin had swelled up too.

“The welt on my forehead, which went from open wound to a painful scab, was the size of a large coin.

“Then there were lots of tiny little sores on top of my head and in my hairline too.

“It felt like really bad sunburn and it only seemed to get worse as the days progressed.

“My husband thought it looked like I had been hit with something.

“The welts, swelling and scab have gone away now, but there’s still a large indentation on my forehead.

“It’s discoloured, it looks like there’s a chunk missing from my head and there is also several scars that haven’t healed, it looks like I have holes in my head and is really weird looking,

“I had no idea something like this could happen, I’d never used permanent hair colour before and will never use hair dye again, it was really shocking and scary.”


After the initial symptoms of her reaction began, Donna called the Revlon helpline.

They advised she should see a doctor and that she should have performed a patch test prior to applying the hair dye.

The method behind patch tests is to check whether a person is allergic to hair dye by apply a small amount of the product on a sensitive areas of the skin.

Donna said: “When I called them the only advice they could give me was to see a doctor.

“They told me that if I would have done the skin test I would have found out, but many people online who have suffered reactions sometimes don’t suffer any symptoms until 10 days later.

“My reactions didn’t show up until three days after, so I’m not convinced a skin test would have worked.”

Over the next two weeks she suffered a range of symptoms from welts appearing on her forehead and hairline, to the swelling of her one eye and lymph nodes.

Donna said: “The worrying thing was that the dye went nowhere near my eyes, it was on my hair and didn’t touch my skin the whole time but the reaction spread to around my eyes.

“The welts hurt quite a lot and at first left me pretty scared, it was a very worrying time.”

The severe reaction left Donna unable to work for two weeks and even struggling to eat.

Donna said: “The swelling was making it hard for me to eat, I kept getting worried when I chewed that it was going to split open.

“Doctors were very concerned with the large welt because it was so swollen and could easily split and get infected. ”


Now the gran says she has been left with permanent scarring that has already attracted stares and comments.

Donna said: “Others can suffer really horrific reactions, I’ve seen many people who have their eyes swollen shut and are stuck in hospital, thank god it didn’t happen to me.

“I’m never going to dye my hair again, I’m even scared to use eyeliner because there’s PPD in that too.

“I’ve warned everyone I know about PPD and patch tests, I don’t want anyone to have to go through this.”

Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) is a chemical that is commonly found in hair dyes and ink used for henna tattoos.

Gina Taro, a PPD allergy specialist, said: “Reactions can be as small as redness around the edges of your face to itching of the eyes, all the way to chemical burns, blisters and your whole scalp feeling like it’s melting off.

“Some people can suffer anaphylactic shock, where you have a small window before your throat closes and you die of suffocation, people have died because of PPD.”

In 2011, Tabatha McCourt, 17, from Airdrie, Lanarkshire, died after a severe reaction to PPD.

Up to 75% of women in the USA colour their hair, which Gina says means the risk of an exteme reaction has dramatically risen.

From that percentage, 6.5% of women will suffer an allergic reaction to PPD, the more they are exposed to the chemical the worse their symptoms are.

Gina added: “The reactions will become more severe the more times you’re exposed to it, it’s like giving your child peanut butter when they are allergic to peanuts.

“If you’re having a reaction I would recommend going to a dermatologist, if they don’t know what they are doing take print outs from online to give them as much info as possible.”

Gina offers specialist consultations on hair dye allergies and free information. For more visit: