Hair Dye Ingredient Causes Woman’s Face To Swell Like A ‘LightBulb’

If you’ve ever dyed your hair at home, you’ve probably had plenty of nightmares about worst-case-scenarios, such as a two-toned dye job, a burning scalp, or maybe even hair loss. Now, you can add the possibility of your face swelling up like a “lightbulb” to that list.

Estelle, 19, who didn’t give her last name, recently told the French publication Le Parisien about a severe reaction to hair dye that caused her face to swell up to nearly double its normal size. She said she almost died from the incident

Apparently, Estelle, a student, performed a patch test using the dye and left it on for 30 minutes before moving on with her dye job — despite the box’s warning to wait 48 hours after testing.

You can watch a photo progression of Estelle’s reaction here, in French:

Almost immediately, Estelle noticed something was off. She felt irritation on her scalp followed by swelling, according to Le Parisien. She took antihistamines and an anti-itch cream and went to bed, but when she woke up, her head was incredibly swollen — apparently measuring 24.8 inches, instead of her usual 22 inches.

lightbulb face
Maxppp via ZUMA Press

Estelle before and after the reaction.

Estelle didn’t realize at the time that the dye contained the chemical paraphenylenediamine, or PPD, which is common in some hair dyes but can cause serious allergic reactions.

“I could not breathe. I had a lightbulb head,” she said. Estelle, whose tongue began to swell as well, was rushed to the hospital, where doctors determined that she’d had an allergic reaction to PPD.

Estelle told Newsweek that doctors gave her an adrenaline shot and kept her overnight for observation. She worried she might die from the ordeal.

“Before arriving at the hospital, you just don’t know how long it will take for you to suffocate if you have the time to get to the hospital or not,” she said. Estelle said she’s OK now, though. “I pretty much laugh at myself because of the incredible shape of my head,” she said.

Estelle told Newsweek that she hopes other people can learn from her experience.

“My biggest message is to tell people to be more vigilant with products like this, because the consequences could be fatal,” she said. And she’s not wrong. According to a 2012 case report in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, severe PPD allergies can lead to other serious complications, such as renal failure and respiratory failure. And less severe reactions can include redness, itching and even blistering in the affected area, per a 2017 review in the Journal of Asthma and Allergy.

While hair dyes containing PPD are safe to use, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it’s super important to do the patch test before applying the dye to your whole head.

Estelle also wants hair dye companies to be a bit more transparent about PPD — and the need for patch testing.

“I want the companies who sell these products to make their warning more clear and more visible,” she said