Tabatha McCourt’s loved ones are still reeling from the 17-year-old’s sudden death on Oct. 8. The teen didn’t die in a car accident or from alcohol poisoning as many young people are prone to—but from a severe reaction to dyeing her hair. Twenty minutes after applying the hair dye, Tabatha fell violently ill.
The 17-year-old is an extreme and tragic example, of course. Most people dye their hair without a hitch, but a number of reports indicate that allergic reactions to hair dye are on the rise. The main culprit is a chemical called para-phenylenediamine (PPD), which is found in more than two-thirds of hair dyes, Science Daily reports. Allergic reactions to PPD became so commonplace in the 20th century that European countries such as Germany, France and Sweden barred the substance in hair dyes.
As more people—including an estimated 85 percent of women—dye their hair regularly, reports of allergic reactions to hair dye are on the rise. A person who suffers an adverse reaction to hair dye may not die suddenly but may very well end up hospitalized. I should know. Following a trip to get my hair colored on Sept. 30, I ended up in the emergency room after my face swelled to twice its normal size. It took more than a week and a course of steroids and antihistamines for me to recover. I’d colored my hair before with no trouble, as had Tabatha McCourt.
That’s the scary thing about allergic reactions to PPD—they can occur at any time, no matter one’s history with the chemical. Hair color manufacturers can protect consumers by ceasing to use PPD in their products. No hair color is worth dying for!