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Stay Away From PPD-Based Products!

In a country like India, we’re especially fans of honing deeper locks all year round. For some, it’s the warm hue of Henna, while for others, it is the deeper and rather delectable shades of dark chocolate and cinnamon sugar. 

In the spirit of well-being, we always encourage our readers to take a better look at the ingredients list of the products they’re browsing, in order to make a sound choice of purchase. Take a hard look at the ingredients list before befriending ‘ammonia-free’ and ‘natural’ labelled products. 

It may be possible that your hair possesses a stronger immunity against the chemicals in conventional hair dyes, but the real question still prevails, is it safe for your skin?

If you can have darker hair colours, then treat this article as a red alert against a certain offender known as para-phenylenediamine, also called PPD. 


Section Summary: Ammonia-free products are not altogether devoid of allergens. Read the product insert or label for other offenders like paraben, PPD, and resorcinol etc.


What is PPD?

Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) is a chemical colourant that is widely used (and misused) in the hair dye industry. It is also found in black henna, temporary tattoos and has relatively higher concentrations in darker dyes. 

It is found in both store-bought as well as the dyes used in salons.  PPD is used in permanent hair dyes because it helps give a natural look and prevents the dyes from getting washed off quickly.

Here are some other uses of PPD:

  • Textile dyes and fur dyes
  • Dark coloured cosmetics
  • Dark coloured temporary henna tattoos
  • Photographic developer and lithography plates
  • Photocopying and printing inks
  • Black rubber
  • Oils, greases and gasoline.


Section Summary: PPD is a common ingredient in hair dyes that is used to prevent the hair color from washing off too quickly. It is found in higher concentrations in dark hair colors.


Why is PPD harmful for the hair?

Well, PPD is the most common cause of severe allergic reactions caused after the application of hair dyes and temporary tattoos.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction caused by PPD may include:

  • itching 
  • hives 
  • blistering 
  • permanent scarring 
  • depigmentation 

Swelling of face, eyes and throat can lead to irreversible repercussions. 

Even when these PPD-based products are applied correctly and for the appropriate time window, there is no guarantee that the customer will not develop a sensitization or a reaction. 

More often than not, the dye drips onto the scalp, face, neck or ears in the course of its processing time. Once the skin is sensitized, the affected skin will become inflamed and red causing contact dermatitis.

Hair health blog Ancient Sunrise reports, actor Pauley Perrette to have suffered a similar progression of events. She had her blonde hair dyed black for twenty years. Eventually, an allergic reaction presented progressively until it became life-threatening.  

There’s more...

What makes it worse is that its symptoms often occur only after 3 to 30 days of application. Most of the allergies occurring from hair dyes are classified as type 4 hypersensitivity. Which means it takes over four hours or more for the symptoms to occur after the skin has been sensitised upon exposure. 

One of the difficulties in identifying a reaction to PPD is that the symptoms typically will not show up until after the product is used multiple times.

The first exposure may just be laying the groundwork while the second time around, reactions may start to appear.

A well-known study claimed 100% of its subjects exposed to 10% concentrations of PPD developed a reaction within five patch tests. 

This leads to the symptoms being wrongly diagnosed by dermatologists and reactions getting worse with repeated use.


Section Summary: Several studies have associated PPD with sensitization of the body. Symptoms may not show until after the product is used multiple times. 


What about Henna?

In India, manufacturers are not required to provide full disclosure of their ingredients lists. Despite regulated by-laws concerned with the concentration of PPD, ‘natural’ hair dyes are loosely regulated and can contain PPD regardless of labelling. 


How to avoid that you must.

  1. Avoid PPD based products, especially hair-dyes. Take a closer look at the ingredients list for the following alternative names of PPD:
    1. PPDA 
    2. 1,4-Benzenediamine 
    3. Phenylenediamine base. 
  2. Like we have always mentioned, an effective patch test can help determine its immediate effects on your skin.
  3. If you’re colouring your hair at home itself, make sure you wear gloves while working with colour that has PPD.
  4. People who use hair dye should not keep the dye in the hair for longer than the recommended time.
  5. Apply petroleum jelly or dimethicone barrier cream to the skin adjacent to the hairline to reduce the chance of sensitisation.
  6. Use PPD free products like the Atbro Safexx Hair Colour 

Due to an uproar amongst hair-dye users, manufacturers are making dedicated efforts to find alternatives for colouring compounds that effectively colour your hair without causing any recurring damage. 

Hair dyes using para-toluenediamine sulfate (PTDS) instead of PPD are tolerated by about 50% of people who are allergic to PPD based on a report by Actions against Allergies.



All in all your first step towards well-being is awareness. Knowing what ingredient works how on your skin is of utmost importance while dealing with chemical-based products. While you can’t fully avoid certain ingredients in our daily cosmetics, using them in moderations that suit your skin can render you good to go!