This article will examine the established risks pregnant mothers expose both themselves and their unborn child to through the continued use of commercial hair dyes whilst pregnant. The article will also list a range of organic and PPD free brands that are readily available alternatives,
What is PPD?
Paraphenylenediamine—more commonly known as PPD—is a chemical substance that is commonly found in permanent hair color and other dyes. PPD in hair color is most often used in dark shades; hair color companies use PPD pervasively because it provides long-lasting hair color that has a natural look.
PPD hair dye is used in both salon and at-home color because it is an effective ingredient in coloring dark hair. PPD is also commonly used in temporary tattoos, dark colored cosmetics, and even in textile dyes and printing inks.
Is PPD harmful?
Yes. Despite its efficacy in coloring hair, PPD has a well established reputation for negative side effects. Most commonly, PPD can cause reactions ranging from mild skin irritation to more severe allergic contact dermatitis. Sensitive individuals may experience dermatitis—skin inflammation and irritation commonly referred to as eczema. Eczema may first be noticed on the upper eyelids or rims of the ears after application of the hair color.
These symptoms often calm down after the dye is fully oxidized, but any type of rash and swelling is uncomfortable, even for a short time. In more serious cases, there may be marked reddening and swelling on the scalp and the face. An allergy to PPD can result in widespread contact dermatitis, as well as hives and, in rare severe cases, anaphylaxis.
In addition to users experiencing skin irritations from having their hair colored with permanent color containing PPD, people who frequently work with PPD—such as hair colorists—often develop dermatitis on their hands. This can occasionally spread to the arms and even the chest. Anyone who is planning on coloring their hair should complete a patch test following recommended directions in the packaging to determine their sensitivity with the product to avoid potential allergic reactions, and hair dressers should always use gloves when working with hair color containing PPD.
An increase in exposure correlates to an increased likelihood of reaction, even in people who may not have experienced dermatitis before.
In a study referenced here by ScienceDirect, the following was discovered about the topical application of PPD and how it has now been shown to affect internal organs.
The results proved that sub chronic dermal exposure to PPD can induce hyperglycemia, disturbed hepatic, renal and cardiac functions. The histopathological findings showed that PPD cause mild, moderate, and severe chronic inflammation in the heart and liver. In the kidney and pancreas it causes moderate and severe chronic inflammation. In a conclusion, this study established the multivisceral toxic effects of sub chronic dermal exposure to paraphenylene-diamine.
If you’ve used these products in the past with no negative reactions, this is no guarantee that you will not develop a sudden reaction in the future. Being pregnant makes you body more reactive to anything it perceives as a threat. Whilst the contact dermatitis might sound like a risk worth taking to keep gray hair at bay, the images below will give you an indication of just how severe and in some instances, life threatening, PDD reactions can be and this is only what takes place on the skin. Damage to organs may not be immediately evident.
Are there alternatives to PPD?
Yes, there is another commercially created variant of PPD called PTDS (para-toulenediamene sulfates) that was developed because of the increasing number of allergic reactions to PPD. Its important to note though that PTDS also occasionally elicits an allergic response and is only marginally safer than products containing PPD.
Your safest and healthiest options during pregnancy and after are the PPD and PTDS free hair colors. There are numerous of these that are freely available and carry organic certification from the Soil Association (UK) or the BDIH (German) or an applicable certification company. This ensures the quality of the ingredients.
Never purchase ‘homemade’ options online as you’ve no idea what these products really contain.
Below are links to some of these certified brands and a Google search for retailers in your country will provide online purchase options. Note the brands listed below are certified as Organic and despite articles insisting certification of hair dye is impossible, these are poorly researched and flawed with no understanding of the chemical compositions of the certified brands.
The following product is not certified but is free of PPD or PTSD
Note, most sites will show a full list of ingredients for their product and you can scan these for the following ingredients you should avoid, even more so if you are pregnant.
- PPD (paraphenylenediamine)
- PTSD (para-toulenediamene sulfates)
Most of the organic products rely on Henna for the dying process and although there is no guarantee that you will not react to one of the natural ingredients, the risks are hugely reduced. Always do a skin sensitivity test on your inner arm with a bit of the dye before using any product.
Apply some of the mixed product to the inside of a plaster and leave it in place on your inner arm for 30 minutes. Remove and inspect the skin for any signs of irritation. If the skin appears red and irritated, try an alternative product.