'I Had a Lightbulb Head': Woman's Face Balloons after Reaction to Hair Dye

A university student in France says she thought she might die after she had a severe allergic reaction to a hair dye that caused her head to swell.

Estelle, 19, who asked Newsweek not to disclose her last name, bought a hair color dye in a supermarket two weeks ago, so she could transform herself from a blonde into a brunette.

She got concerned a few hours after she applied the dye to her scalp, when it started to itch. Not thinking too much about it, she went to the pharmacist to get some cream to deal with the irritation—but the worst was yet to come.

Two days later, she looked in the mirror and was shocked by what she saw. Her head had swollen beyond recognition.

“I had a lightbulb head,” she told Le Parisien.

She was rushed to hospital where doctors found she had an allergic reaction to paraphenylenediamine (PPD,) a compound found in 90 percent of hair dyes and known to carry allergic risks.

The circumference of her head had swollen from 22 inches to 24 inches.

Doctors gave Estelle an adrenaline shot and kept her there during the night for observation, and she told Newsweek she thought she might die.

“Before arriving at the hospital, you just don’t know how long it will take for you to suffocate, if you have the time to get to the hospital or not," she said. 

She has posted images of her ordeal on Facebook as a warning to others who may skip the fine print on hair dye products.

“Now I’m OK. I pretty much laugh at myself because of the incredible shape of my head.

Screenshot (96) Estelle had a severe allergic reaction when she tried to color her hair. She shared images of her plight on social media to warn others of the dangers of allergens in hair dyes. Le Parisien

"But my biggest message is to tell people to be more vigilant with products like this, because the consequences could be fatal. And I want the companies who sell these products to make their warning more clear and more visible.”

The concentration of the chemical PPD in hair dyes has been regulated since 2013. Guidelines on the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) says they are usually safe to use, providing safety instructions are followed. 

French French student Estelle has recovered fully from her allergic reaction to hair dye that saw her head swell. She has warned others to pay attention to the fine print on hair dye bottles. Supplied Catherine Oliveres-Ghouti, from France's National Union of Dermatologists told Le Parisien that two to three percent of the population can be allergic to the substance and she would often come across cases of  "eczema, eyes like a rabbit and a swollen head."

"I saw disfigured patients. But cases as extreme as Estelle’s are rare,” she told the paper.

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