Death from Hair Dye—A Mother’s Tragic Story

Yesterday, a Las Vegas man filed a lawsuit in the Nevada State Eighth Judicial District Court against Seoul Beauty Salon claiming that the salon killed his wife with hair dye.

seoul beauty salon

Aurora Figueroa Lumen, a mother of two, died in September 2012 after she allegedly told the beauty salon not to use hair dye with ammonia because she was allergic to it.  Her husband and children claim that “in spite of being on notice of the allergy to ammonia, [the salon] applied a chemical containing ammonia to Aurora Figueroa’s hair and scalp, causing her to sustain severe and permanent injuries and death.”  Ms. Figueroa visited the salon in August 2012 and after she received “extensive medical treatment” she died on September 23, 2012.  The lawsuit claims the staff ignored Ms. Figueroa’s warning “willfully, negligently, intentionally, recklessly and with a conscious disregard” for her safety.  The family is seeking damages for wrongful death, loss of consortium and Ms. Figueroa’s pain and suffering.

This is not the first time that hair dye has been linked to death.  In 2011, a teenager in the United Kingdom collapsed just after using a home hair dye kit.  Her death was attributed to a severe anaphylactic reaction to the hair dye.  That same year a 38-year old English woman fell into a coma after using home hair dye.

Deadly Hair Dye?The chemical at issue in the United Kingdom cases appears to be the p-Phenylendediaminie (PPD), an organic compound used in over 99% of all permanent hair dyes.  PPD is a known irritant and 1.5% of the population has an allergy to the chemical.  PPD has been banned in makeup.  However, there is no other chemical that adequately covers grey hair. Consequently, it has remained a main ingredient in hair dye.  The leading hair dye companies appear to be in no rush to find replacements.  Smaller companies don’t have the necessary resources to research and develop alternative products.  Some semi-permanent dyes, including henna, are PPD free. However, all permanent coloring, including those that cover grey, contain PPD.  Even “natural, “organic” and “eco” hair dyes can contain PPD or its byproduct PTD.  PTD contains the same base components as PPD, so those who are allergic to PPD are also sensitive to PTD.   Ammonia-free dyes contain lower levels of PPD but they still have enough of the chemical to potentially cause an allergic reaction.

The trade group that represents hair dye companies states that everyone should do a skin test to determine if they are allergic to hair dye 24-48 hours prior to using dye.  However, the trade group admits that the skin allergy test is neither conclusive nor infallible.  Indeed, Sali Hughes wrote an article in the Guardian on November 28, 2011 stating she had a normal skin test for hair dye but was later rushed to the hospital in anaphylactic shock when the dye was applied to her hair.

In response to these incidents the EU has required hair dye companies to reduce PPD levels to 2% when the dye is applied to the hair.  This may help reduce some severe reactions. However, if you have a sensitivity to PPD or ammonia, it is extremely important to ensure you are using a non-permanent dye without either chemical.  The perfect hair color isn’t worth dying for.

Bighorn Staff

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One Comment

  • Laney Viscount says:

    As an individual who suffers from this allergy I’d like to point out that although henna is naturally PPD-free nearly all commercially made henna products will actually contain PPD. In fact a vast majority of them will contain even higher levels of PPD than DIY hair dye kits. After years of refraining from dying my hair due to the severity of my allergy a friend (who is a stylist) suggested henna because of it’s association with natural products, but my reaction to the henna was even more severe than any reaction I had ever had to regular dye.

    Just because it is semi-permanent or made up primarily of natural ingredients doesn’t mean that it will be allergen free.