Safe Ways to Dye Your Hair When You Have Psoriasis

Freshly dyed hair can put a smile on your face and give your self-esteem a little boost. Don’t let scalp psoriasis keep you from these simple pleasures. There are plenty of ways to safely color your hair.

If you go to a salon, you may feel embarrassed about your condition. Remember that experienced hair colorists have seen it all, including scalp psoriasis. Be sure to give your stylist a heads-up about it, as well as any products or ingredients you’re sensitive to.

If you plan to color your hair at home, a few simple steps can help you protect your scalp from irritation.

Safer Hair Color

If typical hair dye irritates your scalp, there are a few options that may be gentler on your skin.

Highlights. Unlike all-over color, highlights don’t reach your scalp.

Henna. Pure, 100% henna is a natural alternative to chemical-laden hair dyes. It can tint your hair red or reddish-brown. You should avoid so-called black henna (real henna is a shade of orange). It may contain irritating ingredients.

Other plant-based dyes. Some “natural” boxed dyes contain pigments from a variety of plants, such as buckthorn, hibiscus, and rhubarb.

Hair Dye Reactions

Anyone can have a skin reaction to hair dye, even when the product is natural. But one common ingredient, paraphenylenediamine (PPD), seems to be the culprit in most hair dye reactions. These can be mild or quite serious.

Mild irritation. Within about 48 hours, your scalp, neck, forehead, ears, or eyelids may get irritated or inflamed. Other signs of mild irritation include:

  • Redness
  • Blisters
  • Dry or cracked skin
  • Burning or stinging sensation

Allergic reaction. If you’re allergic to PPD, you may notice:

  • Itching or swelling of the face or scalp
  • Itching or a rash elsewhere on your body
  • Generally feeling ill

If you have a severe allergy, you could have a serious reaction within minutes called anaphylaxis. A few warning signs include swelling of the eyes, lips, and feet; swelling of the mouth, tongue, or throat; and feeling lightheaded or faint. If you notice these, call 911 right away. If you have an epinephrine autoinjector­­, use it, then call 911.

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Hair Dye and Psoriasis Flares

Don’t dye your hair during a psoriasis flare. If you have a “can’t miss” hair color appointment on your calendar (say, right before a wedding), do everything you can to prevent a flare from happening.

Keep up with your psoriasis treatment. For scalp psoriasis, treatment may include one or more of the following:

  • Medicine applied to the scalp
  • Medicated shampoos
  • Scale softeners
  • Injections
  • Light treatments
  • Medication

Control your stress. These science-backed strategies can help restore calm when stress creeps in:

Protect your scalp. Be careful not to scratch your scalp with a brush. Avoid wearing tight hairstyles that pull on your scalp.

Tips for Your Colorist

The first part of your hair dye appointment should be a consultation. That’s the time talk about your psoriasis if you haven’t already. Make sure your stylist knows that psoriasis isn’t a fungal infection and it’s not contagious.

You may also want to share these psoriasis-friendly styling and coloring tips.

  • Use a dye barrier (like petroleum jelly) on your hairline and ears to protect the skin.
  • Keep hot air and hot irons, as well as firm brushes, away from your scalp.
  • To safely remove hair color from skin, apply oil (baby oil or coconut oil, for example) and gently massage the area.

Do-It-Yourself Hair Color

If you’re going to dye your hair at home, start with a patch test: Dab some dye on your skin and wait to see if you have a reaction. If your skin shows any sign of irritation or you start to feel ill, toss the product and try a different one.

Even if you pass the patch test, you should still follow these important steps to lower your odds of skin irritation.

  • Don’t leave the dye on longer than the recommended time.
  • Wear protective gloves, even if you don’t have psoriasis on your hands.
  • Rinse all the dye out of your hair.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on May 07, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

National Psoriasis Foundation: “Don’t fear your flakes,” “Safe styling for scalp psoriasis.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Hair Dye Safety: What You Need to Know About Salon and Box Color.”

NHS: “Dangers of black henna,” “Hair dye reactions.” 

Logona: “Hair Color Guide.”

Mayo Clinic: “Anaphylaxis,” “Stress Management.”

UpToDate: “Patient education: Use of an epinephrine autoinjector (Beyond the Basics).”

American Academy of Dermatology: “Hair styling tips that can reduce flares of scalp psoriasis,” “Scalp psoriasis: Tips for managing,” “Scalp Psoriasis: Diagnosis and Treatment.”

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