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Hair dye swells woman’s face twice its normal size, almost killing her

A 29-year-woman, from England, suffered a horrifying reaction to hair dye back in 2010 that caused her face to swell twice its normal size, almost killing her.

Almost decade on, she still suffers from the side effects that left her allergic to the sun and giving up her dream career as a horse rider. Robyn Cherry, then 20, saved up £120 and got her hair dyed professionally at a local hair salon back in October 2010.

The young woman from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, suffered a severe reaction to paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a common ingredient in hair dye. “Going to the hairdressers that day was the worst mistake of my life. I’ve been in and out of A&E since then and it has been absolute hell,” Cherry was quoted.




Despite undergoing a patch test, the office administrator was left unable to see and her face doubled in size. Within minutes of leaving the salon, Cherry’s scalp started burning and the following morning she woke up to discover her face had ballooned twice its size.

“My head literally looked like a tomato, I was so scared. And the pain was agonising. My head was burning so much I felt like it was going to pop off. Mum was worried and revealed that my face was swelling up, even as we were driving to hospital,” Cherry said.

By the time they reached hospital, her eyes had swollen shut and she was unable to breathe, and was immediately rushed to the resuscitation unit. “I heard doctors saying my hair was coming out in clumps and my scalp was covered in blisters that kept bursting. They said it was the worst reaction they’d ever seen and, if I’d left it another hour, I would have died,” she said.



Cherry revealed that she usually bleached her hair blonde twice a month at home but because there is no PPD in bleach, it did not cause her any reaction. The salon gave Cherry a patch test the day before her appointment which didn’t reveal any reaction.

The release of PPD had caused Cherry’s body to go into a state of shock which meant she was having severe allergic reactions to everyday items. “I became allergic to most foods, spices, nuts, alcohol and clothing. I couldn’t eat at restaurants, wear nice clothes or go out for drinks with my friends any more. My life became a living hell,” she said.

In May 2011, she was diagnosed with polymorphic light eruption and solar urticaria as a result of the reaction, a rare condition meaning she was sensitive to sunlight. “I was forced to stay indoors whenever it was sunny outside and had to give up my horse riding company,” she added.


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