The saying goes that a picture is worth 1,000 words. But these images of an anonymous teenager’s head swelling as the result of an allergic reaction to hair dye are rendering me (practically) speechless. Since the collection of photos were posted to Reddit two days ago, they’ve gone viral — which likely means that hundreds of thousands of viewers are asking a single question: How could this happen?
The original post, titled “Hair Dye Reaction,” doesn’t provide much information. The photos, which were taken throughout the course of a week and a half, show the teenager’s face slowly deforming to a point that renders him unrecognizable. According to the Reddit poster (who is a friend of the boy’s brother), the boy had dyed his hair just before the first picture was taken.
According to WebMD, allergic reactions to hair dye have been on the rise during the past few years, likely because more people are using artificial colors.
“The culprit is a common chemical ingredient in permanent hair dyes, called para-phenylenediamine, or PPD,” Salynn Boyles wrote. ”PPD is found in more than two-thirds of commercial dyes, the researchers say, including many of the top-selling brands.”
Reactions described as “severe” are characterized by painful rashes around the hairline or face. Facial swelling is also common. (Google “hair dye allergic reaction” if you’re curious to see more pictures… But be careful if you have a weak stomach.) In some cases, treatment may require hospitalization. To prevent severe allergic reactions, hair dye instructions encourage the user to test the dye on a small patch of skin before applying it to his hair. According to the FDA, boxes also must caution users that the ingredients may cause irritation.
Fortunately, according to a friend of the boy pictures above, he is now getting back to normal.
“He’s doing good now, the swelling is pretty much almost gone,” wrote Reddit user Cougor. “Told me it looked worse than it felt but it without a doubt, sucked.”
Just consider this a warning to always do a preliminary hair dye test!