• Wella Professionals

Theresa Advises: Test For Allergies and Understand How They Are Caused


In the modern salon, beauty and healthy go hand-in-hand. And as clients are becoming more health and ingredient conscious they also expect their stylists to be experts on these topics. One of the health concerns that has become a huge topic of conversation is allergies. Clients want to know which products are safe and which ingredients will cause an allergic reaction.

Therefore as stylists we need to ensure that we know what causes allergies, the compounds in hair colour that may cause allergic reactions, and how to test for allergies in the salon.

The cause of allergies

An allergy is the body’s reaction against a normally harmless foreign substance which the immune system has identified as harmful. The reasons for these reactions are not fully understood. There are two types of allergies: systemic allergy and allergic contact dermatitis.

Systemic allergy

The most common type of allergy and occurs immediately or soon after exposure to an allergen. The symptoms can occur throughout the body but most commonly occur in the eyes and lungs.

Examples of systemic allergy are

• Hay fever triggered by pollen

• Allergic asthma triggered by animal hair.

• Reaction to food, medicines or insect bites

Allergic contact dermatitis

The allergy is caused by contact between the skin and an allergen normally causing a delayed

local reaction at or near the area where contact occurred. These reactions may be caused by contact with everyday objects or ingredients.

Examples include

Metals, such as nickel in jewellery

Ingredients in cosmetics, toiletries and household products

Allergies caused by hair colour

Contact allergy to hair colour most commonly presents with acute dermatitis involving the frontal and behind-the-ear areas the face and the actual ears. If the allergy is severe the skin is swollen and red with a severe itching or burning sensation. In some cases the eyelids are swollen and the neck shows signs of an allergic reaction.

Clients may potentially have reactions to the two dye ingredients in hair colourants which have been keeping experts busy due to their allergy potential namely pPD (p- phenylenediamine) and pTD (p-toluene diamine).

Testing for allergies

To ensure that clients don’t have an allergic reaction we should do an allergy test in-salon and using the same shades we plan to use in the colouring process. There should be a 48-hour waiting period as this is how long the body can take to develop an immune system response. If there is any form of reaction no matter how slight please refer your client to their doctor.

The body’s way of fighting allergic reactions

T-Cells in our immune system check everything entering our body for potential danger (bacteria

viruses etc). If something fits like a puzzle T-Cells recognise a potential threat and activate the body’s natural protection – the immune system. We call this the induction of an immune response.

Sometimes T-Cells get it wrong and can activate an immune response even though the substance is harmless. Common food allergies - for example against nuts and apples - are caused like this. Allergies to hair colour happen in a similar way.

The good news is that only between 0.5 and 1.5% of the population will ever develop an allergic reaction to colour.

Contact Modern Hair and Beauty on 0860 104 109

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