Why You Should Use PPD-Free Hair Colors

PPD (p-Phenylenediamine) is the worst element you can use in hair color if you are worried about allergic reactions and contact dermatitis. That’s why hair color with no ammonia and no PPD is the stylish choice for gentler color processes.

Based on studies conducted in multiple EU countries on the use of PPD in hair color: PPD is 2 to 5 times worse than the alternative toluene 2,5 diamine sulfate. Many manufactures decided to no longer use p-Phenylenediamine (PPDs) in their hair color formulations. The reason is based on the toxicity and allergy reaction rates of both hairdressers and consumers to PPD dyes in independent studies. Facts are facts, and no corporate marketing or internet-based defamation campaign by competitors can change the fact that PPD has the highest reaction percentage among both hairdressers and consumers, the highest allergy rate, and has the highest toxicity level.

Let’s learn a little about how companies use dyes in hair color and the research done by the US and the EU on hair color pigments, their safety and use.

Permanent Hair Color

Hair color manufacturers produce permanent hair dye products that will cause the hair cuticle to open when combined with hydrogen peroxide and allow for the depositing of artificial dyes into the hair shaft. These dyes react with the peroxide and oxidize (grow in size) to lodge themselves in the hair. Once the hair color has been processed, the hair is washed, and the cuticle closed down, trapping those new artificial dyes in the hair. This covers the gray and can provide a new color or tone to the client’s hair. 

Most manufacturers will combine oxidative dyes and direct dye (stains) in their color formulations. These dye combinations have their benefits in easier gray coverage but have disadvantages when it comes to building up, color darkening, off-tone fading, and other negatives.

In recent years a lot of focus has been placed on two ingredients and their effects on hairstylists and their clients: the alkaline agent ammonia and the colorant or dye PPD. 

What else to use instead of PPD?

You can use only oxidative dye pigments for the following reasons:

  1. Oxidative dyes will not build up like stain dyes, so they will never go darker than the desired level and tone.
  2. The use of all oxidative dyes makes hair color look reflective like natural hair color. It is not matte or translucent but instead looks and feels natural.
  3. Using the proper combination of all oxidative dyes, you have unlimited choices in hair color results that always look healthy, shiny, soft, and beautiful.

Choosing the right oxidative dyes

I have chosen what I feel is the best combination of oxidative dyes available today that will still perform and provide the needed results for you. I do not recommend PPD in any color formulation due to both hairdressers and consumers’ toxicity and allergy reaction rates.

PPD is the dye ingredient with the highest allergy rate and toxicity in permanent hair color today. That said, if you have had allergic reactions to hair color in the past, I still recommend that you do a patch test regardless of what new hair color you would like to try. You may think you are allergic to PPD, but you also may be allergic to something else.

To help you get through the different opinions on PPD and other ingredients, I have put together a few independent facts and links for you to look at.

Facts about PPD, toulene 2,5 diamine, and toluene2,5 diamine sulfate

Based on the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS)

  • p-Phenalundiamine (PPD) Highest reaction percentage, allergy cases, and toxicity
  • Toluene 2,5 diamine (PTD) lower than PPD, higher than 25TDS
  • Toluene 2,5 diamine sulfate (25TDS) present the lowest reaction percentage, allergy cases, and toxicity of the above 3 ingredients used in hair color

Based on available data and the reported use of these ingredients only as components in hair dye products, the CIR Expert Panel concluded that Toluene-2,5-Diamine and Toluene-2,5-Diamine Sulfate were safe for use as hair dye ingredients.

In the European Union Cosmetics Directive, Toluene-2,5-Diamine and Toluene-2,5-Diamine Sulfate are restricted for use in oxidizing types of hair dyes at a maximum concentration of 10% as a free base in the finished product (see Annex III).

Based on studies conducted in multiple EU countries on the use of PPD in hair color.

PPD is 5X worse

In a study, 66 dermatitis patients (hairdressers) were patch tested with the North American patch test standard tray and a hairdresser series. 7.5% were positive to toluene-2,5-diamine sulfate, 46% were positive to p-phenylenediamine, 5% to p-aminodiphenylamine, 3% to o-nitro-pphenylenediamine. 

PPD is 3X worse

In another study, 106 dermatitis patients (hairdressers) in Greece (102 females and 4 males) were patch tested with the patch test standard series and the hairdressers’ series. 10.3% were positive to toluene-2,5-diamine sulfate, 30.2% were positive to p-phenylenediamine, 8.4% to onitro-p-phenylenediamine, 4.7% to resorcinol, 4.3% to p-aminodiphenylamine, 2.8% to paminophenol. 

PPD is 2X worse

In a multi-center study by the European Environmental and Contact Dermatitis Research Group (EECDRG), a total of 809 dermatitis patients (hairdressers) were patch tested with hairdresser allergens in 9 centers. 7.6% were positive to toluene-2,5-diamine sulfate, 14.8% to p-phenylenediamine, 4.1% to o-nitro-p-phenylenediamine, 0.6% to resorcinol and 3.6% to p-aminodiphenylamine hydrochloride. In the same study, a total of 104 dermatitis patients identified as hairdressers’ clients were patch tested with hairdresser allergens in 4 centers. 8.7% were positive to toluene-2,5-diamine sulfate, 19.2% to p-phenylenediamine, 7.7% to o-nitro-p-phenylenediamine, 1.9% to resorcinol and 3.9% to p-aminodiphenylamine hydrochloride 

PPD is 2.5X worse

In a multi-centre study by the German Contact Dermatitis Group (DKG), 178 dermatitis patients (hairdressers) were patch tested with hairdressers’ allergens in 11 centres. 18.0% were test positive to toluene-2,5-diamine, 8.4% to toluene-2,5-diamine sulfate, 18.0% to p-phenylenediamine base, 0.6% to resorcinol, 1.1% to 3-aminophenol, 2.2% to paminodiphenylamine hydrochloride, 3.4% to 4-aminophenol and 6.2% to o-nitro-pphenylenediamine. 

In all publications (except ref Holm), patch testing results with p-phenylenediamine are given and in several publications also results from tests with additional hair dye substances. In the majority of publications, the rate of contact allergy to p-phenylenediamine was the highest.

Final words

As you can see, there are many opinions and reports on the use of hair color dyes. I personally choose to use the ingredients with the least toxicity that can still do permanent hair color. I’m also very conservative in their use, and our usage percentages fall far below the international quantity recommendations.