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Does Hair Dye Cause Hair Loss?

Kristin Hall

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 2/06/2021

Ah, the price of beauty. We slather ourselves in face creams, serums, cosmetics, and potions both to look and feel better. But sometimes the products we choose don’t agree with us. 

And one negative experience can make you extra cautious, if not paranoid, about everything you use in the future. 

When it comes to hair dye, the prospect of damaging let alone losing your hair can be truly frightening. And — not to scare you even more, but — it could happen. Hair color can lead to hair loss. However, it’s not likely. 

Understanding the risks of your hair regimen can help you prevent them. So let’s get started.

Can Coloring Your Hair Lead to Hair Loss? 

The short answer to this question is yes, dyeing your hair can lead to hair loss. However, clearly not everyone who dyes their hair loses it, so what gives? There are a few ways that hair coloring can lead to hair loss. Understanding them can help you make an informed decision about your choices when it comes to hair color. 

Hair Weakening and Breakage

Hair coloring products are loaded with chemicals that can be damaging to your hair and scalp, particularly ammonia and hydrogen peroxide. 

These ingredients weaken the hair shaft by damaging the protein within, leading to shedding and/or breakage of hairs in the telogen stage, or existing hairs. 

In this way, your hair is weakened and breaks off, leading to thinner hair that may even represent alopecia (or balding at the scalp). 

It’s important to note, however, that the hair dye doesn’t stop new hair from growing, in this instance. 

So these effects are temporary, and can be reversed by nurturing a healthy head of non-colored hair.

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Reaction to the Hair Dye, Leading to Hair Loss 

Another way that dyeing your hair can lead to hair loss is if you have an adverse reaction to the ingredients within. 

This is why hair coloring instructions tell you to do a skin test first, to ensure you aren’t allergic or otherwise sensitive to the ingredients. 

Paraphenylenediamine, or PPD, is a common culprit in adverse hair coloring reactions, as it is absorbed by the skin. 

According to one study of over 200 participants, 110 suffered adverse reactions and 33.6 percent of those experienced hair loss.

Other signs of an adverse reaction to PPD or the other ingredients in hair color include: itching, redness, headache, and conjunctivitis, or eye inflammation. This collection of symptoms can often be attributed to contact dermatitis.

In an extreme case, a woman was referred for treatment after experiencing swelling in the face and complete hair loss, after beginning a hair dye regimen. 

She was coloring her hair for 5 years before making the connection that her reaction was directly related to a severe allergy of PPD.

Types of Hair Loss in Women 

Just as not all hair coloring sessions result in hair loss, not all hair loss is attributed to hair coloring. There are several different types of hair loss, and knowing a bit about them may help women connect the dots should they find their hair thinning or falling out.

Alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is believed to be an autoimmune condition resulting in hair loss on the scalp and sometimes other body parts. It usually begins as a small, round bald patch, which grows.

Androgenic alopecia/female pattern hair loss. Female pattern hair loss or androgenetic alopecia is the most common cause of hair loss in women, and typically begins in mid-life. It’s genetic, so you may be more likely to experience FPHL if your mother did.

Telogen effluvium. This type of hair loss is caused by trauma or stress, where 70 percent of hairs will be shed within a few months of experiencing this major shock to the system. This shock could be physical, like a chronic illness or infection, or it could be psychological.

Hair loss may also be caused by fungal infections, some medications, and undiagnosed medical conditions.

Preventing Hair Loss 

If you choose to color your hair, you can minimize your risks by testing for adverse reactions beforehand, and choosing products less likely to damage your hair. 

Always do a skin test before trying a new hair color. Few people take this step, but it can reveal if you’re sensitive to any of the products within the hair dye, and prevent a reaction on your scalp and hair.

Steer clear of products that lighten (rather than darken) the hair color. 

According to Dermatology Times, hair colors with higher amounts of peroxide are more damaging to hair, so lightening products are more likely to break hair off in a process called weathering and leading to alopecia.

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The Final Word on Hair Dye and Hair Loss 

Yes, coloring your hair can lead to hair loss, but this would be considered unusual. Many women color their hair with no adverse reactions at all. 

Following the package directions carefully and stopping product use if you experience any side effects during a skin test can help minimize your risks. 

If you find yourself experiencing hair thinning or loss, talk with a dermatologist to rule out other possible causes.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

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