A woman suffered a severe allergic reaction to her hair dye, which left her looking “alien” as her face swelled and she was left temporarily blind.
Steph O’Dell had an upcoming trip to Amsterdam planned and wanted to look her best, but instead the 24-year-old was left in excruciating pain and with a head that was three times its usual size.
“It was terrifying. I was lucky it wasn’t worse. I’ll never dye my hair again,” Steph said.
The sales coordinator says she was 15 when she first discovered that she was allergic to paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a common ingredient used in hair dye.
She explained, “I’ve been dying my hair for almost a decade and I’ve always patch tested my products beforehand. When I was 15, I did a patch test for a box dye and was left with a rash. I realized I was allergic to PPD, so I never dyed it and just bleached my hair to create highlights.
Steph added, “Then three years later when I was 18, I was forced to dye my hair after my highlights went wrong and my face swelled up. I’m also not allowed henna tattoos or to tint my eyebrows.”
In June 2015, her sister was planning to have an 18th birthday ceremony, so Steph decided to visit a hair salon to have extensions fitted, as well as have her hair colored to match.
She said, “I decided to take my sister Amber, now 22, for a fun girls’ weekend away, so I wanted to look my best for our trip. I told the hairdresser at the salon that I was allergic to PPD and showed her pictures of my previous reaction. She assured me that the dye wouldn’t touch my scalp and that it was organic.”
Steph continued,”She claimed that she was also allergic to hair dye and showed me the product that she used. She applied a patch test to my wrist and then wiped the excess off, which I thought was strange. But I didn’t react to the test, so I felt happy to go ahead.”
Two weeks later, Steph went back where the hairdresser applied the dye to her head. After the dye job, Steph left, contented enough with how things went. But then she began to experience some irritation on her neck. That’s when she noticed some of the dye had been left on her neck. She washed it off and applied a soothing cream to the area.
The following day, she and her sister flew off to Amsterdam, but later in the day she experienced swelling in her face.
Steph said,”My glasses felt tight at the side of my head, and my neck felt like it was on fire. I hoped that the swelling would go down so I left it. The next day, my head was massive and one of my eyes had swollen shut.”
She continued saying, “It was so painful, my whole face and head felt itchy and tight. I was gutted that it was happening while we were abroad for my sister’s birthday, I didn’t want anything to ruin Amber’s big day.”
The swelling got so bad, that she ended up going to the hospital in order to get antihistamines and drops for her eyes before she returned to her hotel. But things took a turn for the worst the next morning when she awoke with her face so swollen she couldn’t even open her eyes.
“I was blind and terrified,” Steph said.
“Amber was horrified and contacted our dad, Simon, who paid for us to get an earlier flight home that day. I had to hold on to Amber everywhere we went as I couldn’t see a thing – it was really scary. When we got back to the UK, Dad picked me up from the airport and took me straight to Milton Keynes Hospital,” Steph added,
She continued saying, “There I was given adrenaline shots. Nurses were worried about my breathing, as my neck was swelling. I thought I was going to die and had a panic attack. My mum, Gayle, met us at the hospital and she didn’t even recognize me as my face was so swollen. She only noticed us because she spotted my dad.”
Steph spent a total of five days in the hospital getting treated with steroids.
“Looking back at the pictures, I looked like an alien,” Steph added. “I couldn’t believe that this had happened, especially as I was told the dye was organic and free from PPD.
“Five days later, my face returned to normal. I was shocked that, even though my patch test was fine, I still reacted to the dye when it was used on my hair. I’ll never be touching hair dye again. Instead, I’ll be embracing my natural hair color. Thankfully I took my sister back to Amsterdam for her 21st birthday last year so she finally got the trip she deserved,” she said.
Steph had a final bit of advice for the reader following her ordeal.
“Manufacturers can change the ingredients in products at any time so always make sure you do a patch test. Even if you use organic products, you never know if you’ll react,” she said.