Allergic contact dermatitis to para-phenylenediamine

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Exposure to hair dye is the most frequent route of sensitisation to para-phenylenediamine (PPD), a common contact allergen. International studies have examined the profile of PPD, but Australian-sourced information is lacking. Patients are often dissatisfied with advice to stop dyeing their hair. This study examines patients' characteristics, patch test results and outcomes of PPD allergy from a single Australian centre, through a retrospective analysis of patch test data from 2006 to 2013 at the Liverpool Hospital Dermatology Department. It reviews the science of hair dye allergy, examines alternative hair dyes and investigates strategies for hair dyeing. Of 584 patients, 11 were allergic to PPD. Our PPD allergy prevalence rate of 2% is at the lower end of international reported rates. About half these patients also react to para-toluenediamine (PTD). Affected patients experience a significant lifestyle disturbance. In all, 78% tried alternative hair dyes after the patch test diagnosis and more than half continued to dye their hair. Alternative non-PPD hair dyes are available but the marketplace can be confusing. Although some patients are able to tolerate alternative hair dyes, caution is needed as the risk of developing an allergy to other hair dye ingredients, especially PTD, is high.

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