This article serves as the introduction to a series on Para-phenylenediamine (PPD): its health risks, history, and politics. In the coming weeks, articles will be published which explore each section in greater detail.
Para-phenylenediamine, or a chemically related -diamine is an ingredient used in virtually all oxidative hair dyes, both store-bought and used in salons. The oxidative dye process is formulated to quickly penetrate and stain the hair strand any color, including lightening hair by removing the pigment from the core of the hair and dyeing over it.
Para-phenylenediamine can present a multitude of health risks if it is inhaled or if it comes in contact with skin. Despite a well-documented history of allergic reaction, sensitization, , and other serious health risks, it continues to be allowed in hair dyes at a maximum of 6% concentration in the United States.
The rate of PPD sensitization is increasing, but many doctors, hairstylists, and consumers remain unaware or apathetic. A lack of knowledge about PPD leads to continuation of serious reactions for people who use products containing PPD and related ingredients. It also allows companies which manufacture and sell products containing PPD to do so with relatively no regulation nor legal repercussion.
Educating consumers about the dangers of PPD and safer alternatives is becoming an increasingly important mission at Ancient Sunrise®.
The molecular structure of Para-Phenylinediamine.
1. PPD is highly sensitizing, and studies link it to lupus, non-Hopkins lymphoma and asthma.
The hazards of para-phenylenediamine have been known since its introduction for use as an industrial fur dye, and in personal hair dyes. Academic articles from as warn against it. Symptoms of allergic reactions to para-phenylenediamine may include itching, swelling, hives, blistering, depigmentation, and permanent scarring; the reaction is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction, often occurring 3 to 30 days after application, so they are frequently misdiagnosed.
There have been an increasing number of fatal anaphylaxis reactions to PPD hair dye in recent years, particularly when people have previously had a PPD ‘black henna’ temporary tattoo. The allergic reactions often require emergency treatment to keep airways open, and further treatment in an ICU or burn ward.
This woman experienced a severe reaction to a hair dye claiming to be henna, but which contained PPD. Article here.
In countries where products with high PPD levels are easily accessible, ingesting hair dye is a known method of suicide and murder; women can generally purchase hair dye without arousing suspicion. can lead to respiratory distress, rhabdomyolysis (muscle death), and renal failure.
PPD exposure has been linked to increased chances of certain cancers as well as asthma and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Despite all this, PPD is legal for use on hair within the United States at up to a 6% concentration. Cosmetics companies PPD as a safe ingredient despite decades of research, case studies, and hospitalizations.
2. There is no requirement to disclose the concentration percentage of PPD in products manufactured in the US.
Regulation of PPD varies greatly by country. The United States limits PPD to up to a 6% concentration in hair dye. The FDA differentiates between products used for hair coloring, and products applied directly on the skin because hair dyes are supposed to be used off the scalp and washed away after a period of time. In reality, those who apply hair dye at home will apply the product to the scalp, and will not always follow processing time instructions.
Even when these products are applied correctly, there is no guarantee that the customer will not develop a sensitization or a reaction. The dye may drip onto the scalp, face, neck or ears during processing time. For some, this brief contact with a low concentration may be all that it takes.
Other countries have a higher limit or no limit at all on concentration levels. These products are easy enough to purchase over the internet. They can also be found at international grocery stores. When hair dye is sold in powder form, concentration is directly dependent on the amount of water mixed with the powder. found that packages of black hair dye manufactured in India and China (often sold as black henna) contained 12.5% to over 30% PPD, far in excess of legally allowed levels. Other samples have been found to have as high as 60% PPD.
3. “Black Henna” body art is not henna. It is illegal, but laws are not well enforced.
“Black henna” appeared in the United States and flourished seemingly overnight in the 90’s, spurred by Madonna’s “Frozen” music video released in 1998. in the video, her hands are decorated with black henna patterns.
This person experienced a reaction and now has permanent scarring from a “black henna” tattoo gotten while on vacation.
Within the United States and most countries, . While imported shipments of “black henna” body art products are regularly seized by customs, it is easy enough to purchase hair dyes containing PPD, which are not subject to seizure, and to use them on the skin.
“Henna stone” is not natural. It is a solid piece of industrial grade PPD, at up to 90% concentration.
The use of high concentrations of PPD for henna-like body art gained popularity first ins. The product was less expensive and required an easier preparation than natural henna. It provided instant, black results which mimic the look of a permanent tattoo, and are more visible on darker skin tones. This practice then moved into Western countries, especially in high tourism areas.