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What Is Para-Phenylenediamine (PPD)?

Para-Phenylenediamine (PPD) is a chemical used in dark-colored cosmetics.
PPD is used in hair dyes because it produces a natural, long-lasting color.
Black henna has a high concentration of PPD, which often results in an allergic reaction on tattooed skin.
Kevlar® fabric, which contains PPD.
A Kevlar® bullet-proof vest made with PPD.
A lithograph developed with a PPD-containing chemical.
Gasoline contains PPD.
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  • Written By: O. Wallace
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2014
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Para-Phenylenediamine (PPD), also known as paraphenylenediamine, p-phenylenediamine or 1, 4 diaminobenzene, is an aromatic amine with many industrial and cosmetic applications. The chemical is a common ingredient in permanent hair dye products, as well as dyes for fabrics, fur and dark makeup. It is also used in printing and photocopying inks, photo and lithograph developing chemicals, rubber products, Kevlar®, and oil, gasoline, and grease products.

PPD is a preferred chemical due to its low toxicity levels and its ability to withstand high temperatures and retain its stability. It is good for hair dyes because it produces a natural color that doesn’t fade as readily with washing and drying. The chemical itself is colorless — it gains its color once it’s exposed to oxygen.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites PPD as a contact allergen, and it should not be directly applied to the skin. When used in hair dyes, it may cause mild contact dermatitis on the forehead, eyelids, or ears — wherever it comes in contact with the skin. Reactions usually only occur while the dye is oxidizing, versus once it has already oxidized, as is the case with dyed fabrics and furs. People who regularly work with this chemicals can develop allergies to it, and they must take certain precautions to avoid coming in contact with it. Although it's most often absorbed through the skin, it can cause allergic reactions when it is inhaled, absorbed by the eyes, or ingested.

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One of the most dangerous applications of this chemical is when it is added to henna, a natural dye. When used for temporary tattoos, henna laced with PPD is known as “black henna.” Although this is not an approved use for it in the United States, some tattoo artists will illegally add the chemical to henna for darker temporary tattoos that dry faster than pure ones. Because the dye is applied while the PPD is in its oxidation process, its potential as an allergen is increased. Black henna tattoos often result in a skin reaction similar to a chemical burn, which in turn results in a scar where the skin was tattooed.

When added to henna, the concentration of PPD is often much higher than what is approved for use in hair dyes, resulting in a minor to major allergic reaction. Once a person who has been exposed to the chemical has an allergic reaction, he or she may suffer a lifelong sensitivity to it.

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anon341884
Post 30

Thank you all for sharing your stories. Thanks to your bravery, you may have saved many people from doing the same thing.

anon339672
Post 29

I had a mild allergic reaction to a ten minute permanent dark coloured hair dye. I went back to my original L'oreal with no problem with no problem for a few applications, then had a massive reaction: swelling of eyes and nose, scabby scalp sores, etc. This was two months ago. My head has been a total mess ever since and I've just now been diagnosed with a fungal infection and dermatitis of the scalp. I am waiting to see an allergist.

I also have been coming out in random bumps, hives, etc. for the last three months. I had a henna tattoo in India two years ago and it was itchy but nothing else. I have switched to paraben free shower gel face wash shampoo and moisturiser. I have been given a special shampoo to clear up the mess on my scalp. Personally, I think PPD should be banned in any hair /body product.

anon336942
Post 28

If you have had a reaction to a henna tattoo before does that mean you shouldn't get a permanent one? Will the same thing happen?

anon333854
Post 27

I would watch it also around pumping your own gas, or being around where they heat with kerosene. When my daughter was 14, she became very sick after staying with a friend. The symptoms started six days after she came home.

She was swollen everywhere and her throat almost closed shut and her body hurt all the time. This went on for over a year. Her friend's parents heated with kerosene.

Then two weeks after her stay there, my mother gave me a bigger bed for her that came out of her cottage (she used kerosene to heat the little place) so all that time we didn't know she was sleeping on the enemy.

We took her to all kinds of doctors and they tested her for lupus also. Finally, a patch test from the allergist on her back came up positive. So it's not just hair dye or tattoos. She now carries an epi pen. She would swell so bad in her face and hands and feet you couldn't tell who she was. She is doing so much better years later with no breakouts, but she stays away from kerosene and does not pump her own gas. I hope our story is helpful.

anon330731
Post 26

I've been reading so much about PPD. I had my hair dyed at a salon three weeks ago, and two-thirds of my hair has fallen out from the root and it's still falling. I'm convinced it's a reaction to PPD. This stuff is toxic. Apparently, people get sensitized to it. A woman in England just passed after being in a coma for a year, from hair dye. Many women with reactions switch to henna thinking that's safe, but that's not necessarily so.

anon323827
Post 25

Dupont, the manufacturer of phenylenediamine in hair dye, prohibits skin contact in their MSD-sheet. They require gloves and a perforated cap allowing off-the scalp application, but hair dye companies only include gloves.

This is because their marketing object and has

Congress exempt it from FDA control!

The National Cancer estimates dye causes 20% of cancer!

anon313448
Post 24

I recently had a reaction after dying my hair that progressively got worse. I dyed my hair and went out, and then later that night I got a crazy explosion of rash/tiny fluid-filled pimples across my forehead (very inflamed). It seemed to be moving from the forehead and sliding down my face, so I got a facial exfoliating mask as I thought maybe a good cleansing would help it out (bad idea).

Anyhow, it just seemed to be getting worse and worse and eventually ended up all over my chest and down my arms and a few big blotches on my legs that were itchy. I took antihistamines but it didn't get better so I thought it was a bacterial infection or something. It was so bad one morning I called into work. I was crying because it was so terrible. I went to the walk in clinic near my house and the doctor had no idea and told me I needed to see a dermatologist. He gave me one prescription for acne and one for rosacea.

I came home and tried those things, with still no improvement, just getting worse. I started to do web research (which I know doctors hate), but I had to figure it out. Many women had reported a severe allergic reaction to a chemical in hair dye called Phenylenediamine or (PPD), and the reaction to increase with time and only went away with Prednisone.

I went back to another doctor and told him about it, but he said he wanted to start with a cream and send me to a dermatologist. I sent the picture of my face to my sister who is a pharmacist and she got the doctor to fill the Prednisone pills for me, and after taking one it was significantly better in just eight hours. I wish more doctors knew about this! This went on for 10 days!

anon304863
Post 22

When I was 4, I had a black henna tattoo of a butterfly on the top of my arm. I had it done in Turkey. Less than 24 hours, later it had gone bubbly and started to be irritated. When I returned to England, I went to see my GP and he said it was due to the sun cream getting on it and the heat. Then, nine years later, I returned to Turkey and wanted to get a bow around my ankle. My mum advised me to get a skin test done, so I did. I left it for 48 hours and had no reaction, so that night I went and got it done. I had no pain when they were applying it. However, the next day it became red and itchy. It quickly became infected and pus-filled and I was rushed to hospital. I couldn't bear weight or walk on my foot. There it was diagnosed as a reaction to PPD. I still have the scar around my ankle now, four years later.

Last October, I was working in a salon in Mayfair, and I decided to dye my hair brown (originally blonde). I applied the salon dye to my hair and the colour came out as instructed. About four hours later, I started to feel very unwell, the back of my neck had stiffened and my whole scalp was itchy, I left it thinking it would pass and I went to sleep.

I woke up the next morning and my head had swollen out on both sides (I looked like Stewie from “Family Guy”)! I took tablets thinking it would go down, and I went to sleep that night but woke up at 5 a.m. and could barely lift my head off the pillow. My boyfriend was terrified. He rushed me to the hospital, where they took one look at me, put me in intensive care and started pumping steroids into me through an IV.

I was hospitalized for two weeks with the symptoms and have been given two epi pens to carry with me at all times (which I do). I returned home and a week later I was back to normal, just with brown hair. On Monday, I wanted to dye my hair dark again, so I did my research and found a hair dye product called Nature Vital. It said it contained no PPD, ammonia or any dangerous chemicals. I applied it to my hair carefully, not putting it on my scalp as I was still scared. I got a tiny bit on my neck, but it washed off. However, I woke up the next morning and the whole of my neck was inflamed and had little spots on it. It was/ is so itchy. I had been using aloe vera on it to soothe it. It's lucky I didn't put it on my scalp as I could have died. I was only 2 hours away from death last time.

The moral of this story is once you have had a reaction, please, please, please do not put any type of black dye on your body again. It's a nasty chemical and it and others like it should be banned everywhere.

anon292015
Post 21

It can come on anytime after dying your hair for years. It is very toxic and it makes you allergic to everything.

anon290730
Post 20

I recently had what I now believe to be a PPD laced black henna tattoo while on a beach in Mexico. I had no allergic reaction to the black colored henna, but I am hoping to dye my hair. I'm terrified something will happen even though I didn't have a reaction to the tattoo, of which I had no idea of the danger.

anon282417
Post 19

When I was 9, I got my first henna tattoo and had no reaction.

Then, when I was 10 I got another one, and had a bit of reaction, but I thought the cause was just because I forgot to do the proper cleaning methods after getting it.

Then when I was 11, I got another one and the next day it broke out in a rash and was inflamed leaving a scar of the henna for two years. Once again, I thought this was from not doing the proper cleaning.

Then when I was 13, my friend and I decided to temporarily dye our hair brown (naturally, I'm blonde). After two days, I felt sick and had a major headache so I just went to bed early. The next morning I still wasn't feeling well so I didn't go to school, when I woke up my head felt heavy. My head swelled to twice its size and my eyes were pretty much swollen shut. My dad rushed me to the hospital, where they tried to scrub all the remaining dye from my scalp. It took three days for all the signs of irritation and swelling to go down. All because of PPD.

anon272715
Post 18

@anon261510: I recommend that you eat and drink clean foods and liquids to help your body heal from the inside out. Limit sugar, no pop, nothing sugar-free (aspartame is poison, in my opinion). I would also seek medical help if you are still having a strong reaction.

Our family has both a conventional MD who appreciates preventative health practices and an O.D. who helps us with diet, supplements, etc. You can do an online search for holistic doctors. Hope this is helpful. I said a prayer for you too.

anon261510
Post 17

I have a PPD black henna tattoo right now. Can somebody please tell me on how to remove it? It was only after one day that the first symptom of bubbles came up. I was so scared at that time. My friends told me that I must pop out the water from that bubble so it won't develop into a keloid. I did so. But now that I have learned the truth, I was more dumbfounded. I don't know what to do now. I am really scared now.

Someone, please help me. Please reply to me. Thank you and God bless. Please pray for me.

anon224697
Post 16

OK people, something you need to realize is that PPD is a toxin. It has been banned in a lot of European countries. It can cause, with continued use, cancer and neurological damage. It also attacks your immune system. Sorry, but a few gray hairs is not worth my life!

anon163116
Post 15

does anyone know how ppd is created? or if it is a natural substance?

anon158289
Post 14

When I was 6, we travelled on holiday to Turkey, and there, on the beach, I received a henna tattoo of a butterfly on my hip. We believed it to be the normal brown henna you could receive at festivals and events back here, but minutes after it being applied to my skin, the skin swelled, itched and rose in the shape of the butterfly, scarring me for several years afterwards.

At the age of 13, I had my hair dyed black by a professional hairdresser with a dye many people I know used safely. I suffered a serious allergic reaction to the dye, and within the hour, was rushed into hospital suffering from an anaphylactic shock, incapable of breathing, my whole face swollen to twice the size. I very nearly died from this, and was kept on 12 tablets every three hours for a large period of time.

Now, after several years, it's great to finally know what it is that's been causing this, and to stop having to tread water around hair dyes and know I can actually have a permanent, proper tattoo. I think awareness of PPD should be made more heard of, because there are several people like me who would of loved to of known about this sooner. Now I just wish I could go back to the man in Turkey who knowingly covered a little girl in an illegal substance, and shut him down.

anon121980
Post 13

I wish someone will put the word out there about PPD. I have had a bad reaction to hair dye and my head is on fire with red sores. my face is swollen and I have been out of work for three days. If anyone is experiencing a reaction go to your doctor and get prednisone. it will help.

anon94564
Post 12

I previously dyed my hair with "black henna" (about two months ago) and would like to redye it with a chemical dye. I had no skin reactions but I am nervous to try anything as all package inserts say "Do not use if your hair is dyed with henna". What are my choices (apart from shaving my head?)

anon71775
Post 11

I have had a reaction to hair dye four months ago and my entire scalp is infected.

I have been seeing a derma since jan and have now had two biopsies, blood work and also the latest allergy tests, just to prove that I am still having the reaction to the PPD chemical.

But, no one seems to be able to tell me what to do to get rid of it. Any suggestions?

anon66380
Post 10

What is the allowed percentage of PPD in case of Black henna. In one black henna packet i saw "paraphenylenediamine 2.5 percent after dilution" is it is safe to use? Please reply. Manoj, Dubai

anon63315
Post 9

Is black henna used in Bigen hair colour? There is p-ppd in the hair colour, i find. How safe is this hair colour for regular users who use it because it has no ammonia and peroxide?

Your reply appreciated very much. --L

anon60517
Post 8

I also posted in the other article on your website titled "What is Black Henna?". In that article it stated that people who've been sensitised to PPD can even have an allergic reaction to black clothing.

However your article here states that fully oxidised PPD is not a sensitiser. I would have thought that the PPD in black clothing would be fully oxidised? Please help.

anon58250
Post 7

i'm allergic to ppd. I've had a reaction to a henna tattoo which started it off, and after that i had a bad reaction to hair dye (one which i have used before and been fine with). also about the tattoos: i've had six since and been fine. i don't think they use it in tattoo ink, but i would ask before.

anon56952
Post 4

My Aunt is allergic to PPD and has started to naturally dye her clothing.

anon16875
Post 3

is PPD used in permanent tattoos as my son had a reaction to a henna tattoo and now wants a real one?

anon15257
Post 2

This article was very helpful to me, but I would like to say that the artists who are applying henna and black henna to their customers are not "Tattoo Artists". Tattooing is an entirely different process, and there is never any use of PPD in traditional tattoos. There were several sentences at the end of this article that referred to "Black Henna tattoos" and "the area where the skin was tattooed". They were not tattooed. They had Mendhi art applied to them with a tainted paste. I was just worried that this horrible and damaging chemical will be associated with the tattoo industry, and we do not need more fear and prejudice aimed our way. Thank you for your time. -A Concerned Tattoo Artist.

Moderator's reply: Thanks for your comments! We appreciate you making that distinction! Just like with any industry, there are professional tattoo artists who practice their art responsibly and conscientiously. Unfortunately, there are others who aren't worried about breaking the rules. The writer referred to these as temporary tattoos, as they are often called by customers. While they may apply Mendhi art in some cases, some artists will use the same dye to apply more "traditional" tattoo artwork (albeit temporary), sometimes adding the PPD to their dye for effect. This article does make that distinction that "some" tattoo artists do this, not all.

anon9177
Post 1

What are the side effects of intake of para-phenylenediamine?

Moderator's reply: check out our article, What is Black Henna?, for more info on PPD.

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