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Last updated: October 26, 2017

Allergic Reactions to Salon Chemicals? What Would You Do

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Burning, itchy skin, rashes, swelling, red eyes, even respiratory episodes…allergies in the salon are actually a pretty common problem for hairdressers (some studies show that as many as 1 in 5 stylists could suffer from allergies to salon chemicals). And recently, one member of the BTC community reached out with this question: 


“I’ve been a stylist for more than three years now, and balayage is my favorite thing to do, but every time I do it this is what happens to my eyes. It’s an incredible burning, stinging pain that makes tears pour out of my eyes and makes it hard to see, and it’s very painful…I have to close my eyes and walk away from my client. I do have very sensitive eyes, and I wear contacts. I’ve tried wearing my glasses, and I’ve tried many different types of lightener all with the same results. Has this ever happened to anyone else? P.S. this picture does it no justice…it looks like I was punched in the face and have been crying for hours!” 


The BTC Community heard her cries for help, and offered up these suggestions. 


“I knew a girl this happened to, and she put on goggles while she worked with the product. You may look silly, but it really helped her!” —@hannahkatee_x


“I got like this with a lot of things, and I found out it was actually due to dry eyes. A visit to the optometrist might give you a better idea.” —@originalwench


“I’ve had the same issue for years. I finally talked to my eye doctor about it, and he told me to switch over to daily contacts instead of the monthly ones. My eyes are so much better! If you wear the monthly ones, switch over to the weekly ones and see if that helps.” —@marial_stylist


“I changed to a more natural color and made sure to use an ammonia-free lightener. I also got The Ping [an automatic color mixer], so when I mix my color, any and all chemical changes happen in the mixture and I’m not ingesting them in any way.” —@hairdressedbykristyn 


“Look into Organic Colour Systems. It’s ammonia- and paraben-free, and it’s never given me any problems.”  —@maddiedefino



“I use Oway Hbleach. It has no peroxide or ammonia. I used to struggle with breathing before I started using this bleach, and I’d get the eye watering, but I don’t suffer anymore.” —@charaliciousx 


Farouk Systems lighteners are all ammonia-free and do not smell or cause burning eyes. Try Chi Blondest Blonde or Chi Infra High Lift.” —@nessiemonsterhair 


“I have a fan by my station, which helps. You could also try an air purifier. We all have sensitivities to chemicals and need good air circulation. I hope you are using a clay lightener that dries out and stops processing.”


“Try Kevin.Murphy—it’s ammonia-free.” —@kyfordscissorhands 


“Onion chopping glasses! Pure genius!” —@sarahbow2211


“Have you tried Trionics enzyme-based developers (derived from sea kelp) and their KO Balayage Clay Lightener? I am a 30-year stylist, and this is the only one that doesn’t affect my hands and irritate my eyes.”


“Try using Kemon color. Its dedicated developer is yogurt-based and contains no ammonia. The color line is also PPD-free, which I’m allergic to. Had I not found this color line, I would’ve had to quit the profession 10 years ago. I also use Eufora Aloe-Lite bleach pods with the dedicated developer, which doesn’t affect my allergies.” —@thewaythatiseeit


“Never quit your passion! Try all the different ammonia-free lighteners mentioned, get some onion cutting goggles and make sure you ALWAYS wear gloves! If you still have issues, please see an eye doctor!”


“Ignoring signs of an allergy by wearing goggles or using a fan seems dangerous to me. In my opinion, you should always find out why you are having this reaction before continuing, as allergies usually get worse with exposure…See your doctor, and get a referral to an allergist. It’s scary to think it might impact the future of your career, but better to find out now, as you only have one body.” —Shannon Ferguson


“This is exactly what happened to me when I would use chemicals in the salon. I went to the doctor, who sent me to an ophthalmologist. They told me I have chronic dry eye from a combination of contacts and chemicals. I still battle it to this day, but I was given a steroid and an anti-inflammatory drop for when I get flareups.”
Lindsay Smiecinski