Watch Out For PPD: Vlogger Has Bad Allergic Reaction To Henna Dye, Can’t See For Two Days

March 15, 2016  |  


I’ve been dyeing my hair for quite some time now. From the Clairol Jazzing rinses I started using in high school, to the permanent Bigen dyes my stylist puts in my hair now, I love to switch things up. And in the midst of choosing new hair colors now and then, I’ve heard people talk about henna color, how it’s natural, and why it’s best for your hair. But not every henna hair dye is as good for you as you would think. Just ask YouTube health and fitness vlogger, Chemese.

After having a bad allergic reaction to a commercial hair dye in the past thanks to the ingredient PPD (phenylenediamine), Chemese wanted to stay away from such commercial, and chemical dyes, and just assumed that she couldn’t color her hair. But after visiting with a dermatologist, she was encouraged to look up henna dyes, which are supposed to be natural and plant-based. A vegetarian with an affinity for natural and plant-based products, Chemese decided to look into having her hair dyed with henna after all. She found a salon in Austin, Texas that touted its black henna as “all-natural, chemical-free and harmless,” so after seeing one too many gray hairs, she took the plunge, made an appointment, asked all the questions she could think of, and then decided to dye her hair.

Despite a strand test on one of her Sisterlocks, which brought about no allergic reaction, when the full color was applied, Chemese’s scalp immediately began to itch and burn when she went home to rinse the rest of the color out. “My scalp was on fire,” Chemese said in a YouTube video about the incident. That “all-natural, chemical-free and harmless” henna? Not so natural and healthy after all.

She had an allergic reaction, and by the morning after her hair appointment, her face started to swell. A few more days passed and Chemese could no longer see out of her right eye.

“The whole top part of my face was completely swollen,” Chemese said. “I knew I needed to get to the doctor immediately.”

She was given a shot to help with the swelling, pain, and itching. But it all continued. Her left eye shut after going to the doctor and she was basically left to fend for herself, swollen and uncomfortable. That was until a friend named Amanda stepped up and helped to take care of her, even taking her back to the emergency room after both of her eyes shut completely for two days. Despite doctors worrying about her breathing being affected by the PPD, things finally started to change for the better for Chemese after receiving treatment.

When she decided to tell her story, she made it clear that the henna used on her head had PPD in it. Phenylenediamine is a chemical used in many dark hair dyes. It’s supposed to make the colors look more natural and vivid, but some are allergic to it. Reactions can be as mild as some uncomfortable dermatitis on the ears and eyelids, and as severe as Chemese’s reaction, where swelling and reddening becomes extensive. And, as proven by Chemese’s situation, the more you color your hair with dyes that have PPD in them, the more dramatic your reactions will become. So while you might initially have a little swelling, the second or third time around dyeing your hair (or applying henna to your skin), you could end up with a lot swelling. Or worse, like permanent damage or a fatal anaphylactic attack.

Some alternatives work for people allergic to PPD, including dyes with para-toluenediamine sulfate, Toluene-2,5-diamine (TD) and Toluene-2,5-diamine sulphate (TDS). But they probably won’t have the desired effect that dyes with PPD bring about. While it might be best to just forgo dyeing your hair if that doesn’t please you, you can always try a rinse instead.

After going through such a stressful and unhealthy situation, Chemese said that she tried to reach out to the stylist who told her that the henna was plant-based and natural, and sent her pictures to show her that it definitely wasn’t. She doesn’t plan to sue or anything like that, because, in a way, Chemese blames herself for even messing with the stuff. Still, she wanted the stylist to be aware of the damage she was doing to people by either lying to them, or being uneducated about the salon’s products. Unfortunately, she hasn’t received a response.

In the end, she’s moving on, finally starting to look and feel like her old self again, and realizing that everything, isn’t for everybody.

“This whole situation…it just made me realize that I need to pay more attention about what I put in my body and what I put on my body.”

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  • Rumorhasit

    Sue them! Hire a lawyer now.

  • irene harvey

    2 things about henna:
    it should never be used on hair that has been dyed with anything else. never.
    you have to use real natural henna. avigal is the best.
    so if you want to switch to henna, you have to let the other color grow out first.

    • Shay_007

      I did not know that about henna! After seeing this story I was thinking of never using henna again but I guess I just need to do more research!

      • What?

        ..or be happy with the color hair you have, gray and all.

      • irene harvey

        i’ve been using it for over 40 years & the really cool part is that as my hair has gotten more gray, i’ve got a natural ombre thing happening. lots of compliments from stylists, lol.
        also, when it was longer, i would add various essential oils to the henna mix. so color & conditioning in one. henna mixes us up well with whatever kind of conditioning stuff one uses.
        my friends have encountered allergies to commercial hair dye & they also spend a lot of $. it costs me $15 a year. my husband thinks i’m a genius.
        good luck & remember to read the instructions. you don’t wash it out. you rinse it out. the color keeps on absorbing. Avigal henna can be ordered online.

        • Shay_007

          Yes I am starting to gray a bit and was thinking of going with a darker hue for my hair. I have dark red hair naturally but am just thinking of changing it up a bit for a different look. I have used henna before to sort of give a little shine to my hair and color. I will check Avigal out though!

    • Michelle Symmons

      Sorry, Irene. You are incorrect. Pure natural 100% henna is a plant called Lawsonia Inermis. It can be used over commercial dye, and you can commercially dye over pure henna. I’ve done it many times. Many people sell a product called ‘henna hair dye” which contains mineral salts and PPD which is deadly. Pure 100% henna is completely safe. Its a plant! read the article properly. x

  • CC

    My mother had a reaction to the PPD and her face got swollen just like hers. I mean my mom was unrecognizable. I always recommended henna because I heard it was all natural. This is scary and I will make sure to let my mom know that some have PPD in it.

  • neceyluv

    I’m so glad she didn’t endure further damage and/or discomfort and pain. Yes, she could have (and should have) done a skin test, and perhaps looked more into the henna that was used. But I’d definitely be going after the stylist and salon for offering a product as “natural” when it wasn’t.

  • kierah

    I would sue the stylist. I would have get evidence that they are claiming this stuff is natural. The stylist should have contacted her client when she tried to caution them. That would indicate that they were taking it seriously. At this point, the salon can continue to make the claim and the next sensitive person can be killed.

    • Charla

      But people are also allergic to items that are natural (nuts, honey, wheat, etc). It would be a hard case to win, in my opinion.

  • TW314

    So I guess she didn’t follow the instructions that say to test it on your skin before using on your scalp? You can have an allergic reaction to anything (speaking as someone who is allergic to practically everything). You should always test on your hand, forearm or thigh before using any new product on your skin or scalp.

    • Lisa


  • Lisa

    It says in the article that she did a “strand test” (whatever that means) on one of her locs prior to coloring her whole head, but there was no mention of a “patch test” being done. A patch test is when you put the product directly on a small area of your SKIN to see if there is an allergic reaction. It would seem that she didn’t do a skin patch test which should always be done, especially for someone who’s had previous allergic reactions.

    • MNEditor2

      She called it a “strand test” in her video, but she said they basically put the color on one loc and waited about 30 minutes. When she didn’t have a reaction of any sort to it, they assumed they could proceed with coloring the whole head. But yes, putting a small amount on the skin (and then coming back a day or so later after seeing full, full results) probably would have been the best bet.

  • BNYC

    I used to be able to wear extensions (human and synthetic) but had to stop as I kept having allergic reactions to whatever preservative chemicals they put in it (despite acg rinses and shampooing). There nonstop was itching, burning, rash, etc. I even had to see a dermatologist who gave me a prescription and who ultimately stated that to get rid of the discomfort, get rid of the problem. After removing the extensions, my problem went away. I believe that when the scalp is not used to harsh chemicals, that’s when the reactions occur.

  • You’d be surprised the harmful chemicals found in hair products. This woman could’ve died if her throat or nostrils swelled and blocked her breathing!

  • secret87

    Didn’t read a thing and thought she was part Asian. Now I see and read…..and all I can say is wow.
    My sister by mistake got chemical in her eyes and her eyes went from almond to a more asian shape of eyes.

  • Erica Ervin

    No “natural” henna is black. Henna will turn your gray hairs an orange-red, then you dye over it with indigo.

    • neceyluv

      Exactly! My grays toned down as the days went on, though.

  • morenYAHdelsur

    That poor ladyyy! Oh my gosh!

  • Charla

    Omg! That was a terrible reaction. SN: what is the benefit of 100 days of only fruit juice and smoothies? She is missing out on tons of other nutrients (all of which cannot be gained through vitamins). Many people think Steve Jobs cancer was a result of his fruit only diet for so many years.

  • Med1

    I am so sorry that you had that experience. It’s very scary to think, that at any time, we can BECOME allergic to anything too. I’m happy to know that you have since recovered and wish you the best. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • yelpforhelp

    I just got off of two days of steroids and five other medications after having dyed my hair blue black. I had a horrible rash on my neck, on the palm of my hands, wrists and a weepy scalp.