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Woman's Face Swells Three Times Usual Size After Allergic Reaction To Hair Dye

Claire Reid

| Last updated 

Woman's Face Swells Three Times Usual Size After Allergic Reaction To Hair Dye

A woman says she was left looking like an 'alien' after a severe reaction to hair dye left her with a swollen face and temporary blindness.

Steph O'Dell, 24, wanted to look her best for an upcoming trip to Amsterdam but instead was left in excruciating pain and with a head three times its usual size.

"It was terrifying," Steph said. "I was lucky it wasn't worse. I'll never dye my hair again."

The sales coordinator says she was 15 when she discovered she had an allergy to paraphenylenediamine (PPD), an ingredient commonly used in hair dye.

Steph O'Dell, 24, is warning others about the dangers of hair dye. Credit: Hot Spot Media
Steph O'Dell, 24, is warning others about the dangers of hair dye. Credit: Hot Spot Media

She said: "I've been dying my hair for almost a decade and I've always patch tested my products beforehand.

"When I was 15, I did a patch test for a box dye and was left with a rash.

"I realised I was allergic to PPD, so I never dyed it and just bleached my hair to create highlights.


"Then three years later when I was 18, I was forced to dye my hair after my highlights went wrong and my face swelled up.

"I'm also not allowed henna tattoos or to tint my eyebrows."

So in June 2015, ahead of her sister's 18th birthday trip to Amsterdam, Steph visited a hair salon to have extensions fitted and her hair coloured to make sure it all matched.

She said: "I decided to take my sister Amber, now 22, for a fun girls' weekend away, so I wanted to look my best for our trip.


"I told the hairdresser at the salon that I was allergic to PPD and showed her pictures of my previous reaction.

"She assured me that the dye wouldn't touch my scalp and that it was organic.

"She claimed that she was also allergic to hair dye and showed me the product that she used.

"She applied a patch test to my wrist and then wiped the excess off, which I thought was strange.


"But I didn't react to the test, so I felt happy to go ahead."

Two weeks later she went back and the hairdresser applied hair dye to her head.

Steph left happy enough, but then began to experience some irritation to her neck. She noticed that some dye had been left on her neck, so she washed it off and put on some soothing cream.

The next day the sisters flew out to Amsterdam, but later that day Steph's face started to swell.


Steph said: "My glasses felt tight at the side of my head, and my neck felt like it was on fire.

"I hoped that the swelling would go down so I left it.

She couldn't even see due to the swelling. Credit: Hot Spot Media
She couldn't even see due to the swelling. Credit: Hot Spot Media

"The next day, my head was massive and one of my eyes had swollen shut.

"It was so painful, my whole face and head felt itchy and tight. I was gutted that it was happening while we were abroad for my sister's birthday, I didn't want anything to ruin Amber's big day."

It got so bad, Steph ended up in hospital where she was given antihistamines and drops for her eyes before returning to her hotel.

However, it went from bad to worse and the next morning her face was so swollen she couldn't even open her eyes.

"I was blind and terrified," Steph said.

"Amber was horrified and contacted our dad, Simon, who paid for us to get an earlier flight home that day.

"I had to hold on to Amber everywhere we went as I couldn't see a thing - it was really scary.

"When we got back to the UK, Dad picked me up from the airport and took me straight to Milton Keynes Hospital.

"There I was given adrenaline shots. Nurses were worried about my breathing, as my neck was swelling.

"I thought I was going to die and had a panic attack.

"My mum, Gayle, met us at the hospital and she didn't even recognise me as my face was so swollen.

"She only noticed us because she spotted my dad."

In total, Steph spent five days in hospital where she was treated with steroids.

"Looking back at the pictures, I looked like an alien," Steph added. "I couldn't believe that this had happened, especially as I was told the dye was organic and free from PPD.

"Five days later, my face returned to normal.

"I was shocked that, even though my patch test was fine, I still reacted to the dye when it was used on my hair. I'll never be touching hair dye again. Instead I'll be embracing my natural hair colour.

"Thankfully I took my sister back to Amsterdam for her 21st birthday last year so she finally got the trip she deserved."

Steph leaves us with one final piece of advice: "Manufacturers can change the ingredients in products at any time so always make sure you do a patch test. Even if you use organic products, you never know if you'll react."

Featured Image Credit: Hot Spot Media

Topics: uk news

Claire Reid
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