Here's What We Know About Hair Dye Allergies And Covid

Hairdressers are reporting an increase in adverse reactions since lockdown eased.

If you’re someone who likes to experiment with their hair, you’ll know about the risk of dye allergies. Doing a patch test before you go for new colour might feel like unnecessary hassle, but it’s even more vital in light of the allergic reactions some hairdressers have been spotting in those who’ve recovered from Covid.

Anecdotal evidence has highlighted that some people who have caught and recovered from coronavirus, and gone on to have their hair dyed, have suffered from reactions to a variety of products.

Customers are now asked to do their patch test at least two days before a colouring appointment, under new guidance from the National Hair and Beauty Federation (NHBF), the trade body for UK hairdressers, beauticians and barbers.

The test involves a tiny amount of dye being applied on the customers’ skin to check they don’t have an adverse reaction. The NHBF guidance were introduced as a result of increased reports of allergic reactions from salons.

One woman, Gemma, who had Covid in January, told BBC News that she used to see patch tests as “a bit of a faff” – especially given she had been using the same product for a decade.

But she feels differently after suffering a significant reaction when she had her first patch test after lockdown. “The reaction is so severe. My whole scalp, my face – I just can’t even imagine what would have happened to me,” she said.

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It’s not clear if Covid is directly linked to the increase in reactions, says Ondine Cowley, a wedding hair specialist and senior director at Nicky Clarke.

“From experience, I believe any immune problem such as a virus like Covid, leaves you with a lowered immune system, and can potentially affect the sensitivity caused by having colour on your hair,” she tells HuffPost UK.

“You could have colour on your hair for 10 years and an illness can then cause you to become sensitive to colour, make your scalp feel itchy or even raw.”

Richard Lambert, chief executive of the NHBF stresses: “There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that having Covid alone increases an allergic reaction to hair colour or any other hair and beauty treatments. An allergic reaction can occur at any time due to a number of factors, of which a compromised immune system is one.”

While the Covid link hasn’t been proved, customers should take care and always do a patch test before getting any colours of treatment.

As consultant toxicologist Dr David Basketter told the Telegraph: “Permanent hair dyes are a real allergy risk and awareness of this is rising, such that upon return to salons there is a greater chance that they will insist on an allergy test prior to dyeing.

“Without the need to invoke Covid’s impact on the immune system, one might expect to see a greater number of hair dye reactions, which does not mean that there isn’t a Covid effect as well.”