Occupational asthma, rhinitis, and contact urticaria caused by oxidative hair dyes in hairdressers

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2014 Jan;112(1):46-52. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2013.10.002. Epub 2013 Oct 30.


Background: Oxidative hair dyes commonly contain paraphenylene diamine (PPD) and its derivatives, a well-known cause of delayed hypersensitivity among both consumers and hairdressers. They are also considered possible causes of occupational respiratory diseases. Despite the widespread use of hair dyes, there are only a few reports of asthma, rhinitis, and contact urticaria caused by PPD and related compounds.

Objective: To characterize patients with occupational asthma, rhinitis, or contact urticaria associated with oxidative hair dyes and to evaluate the diagnostic methods.

Methods: We reviewed the patient files of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health for the period January 1, 2001, through May 31, 2011, to identify patients diagnosed as having asthma, rhinitis, or contact urticaria associated with oxidative hair dyes. The diagnoses of asthma and rhinitis were based on specific inhalation challenges with hair dye products. Skin prick tests were performed with hair dye ingredients as hapten conjugates of human serum albumin and with hair dye products and ingredients as is. Open skin tests confirmed the diagnosis of contact urticaria.

Results: We describe 11 hairdressers with occupational asthma (5 cases), rhinitis (5 cases), and contact urticaria (3 cases) due to hair dyes. Of the 52 specific inhalation challenges performed, 9 (17%) had positive results. One patient who experienced an anaphylactic reaction when having her own hair dyed had positive skin prick test results to PPD and toluene-2,5-diamine sulfate.

Conclusion: Hairdressers are at risk for occupational asthma, rhinitis, and contact urticaria due to oxidative hair dyes. Skin prick testing may be insensitive for detecting immediate hypersensitivity to PPD and related compounds.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anaphylaxis / chemically induced
  • Asthma, Occupational / chemically induced*
  • Female
  • Hair Dyes / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Patch Tests
  • Phenylenediamines / adverse effects*
  • Phenylenediamines / immunology
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Rhinitis / chemically induced*
  • Urticaria / chemically induced*
  • Young Adult


  • Hair Dyes
  • Phenylenediamines
  • 2,5-diaminotoluene
  • 4-phenylenediamine