Are Hair Dyes for Children Safe?

While there are multiple types of hair dyes for children, not all are safe and healthy to use on them. Keep reading to learn more.
Are Hair Dyes for Children Safe?
Maria del Carmen Hernandez

Written and verified by the dermatologist Maria del Carmen Hernandez.

Last update: 18 November, 2022

Some children dream of coloring their hair; but do you know if hair dyes for children are safe? There are many varieties when it comes to color, duration, and type of application.

Childhood is a time when imagination, play, and creativity are of great importance. Children try to play with their own image through make-up, costumes, and makeovers.

The characteristics of children’s hair

Children’s hair is much thinner than adults. In fact, over time, as they develop, some of the characteristics of their skin and hair change.

Before puberty, hair isn’t only thinner and more fragile, but can be more easily damaged even with the mildest hair color formulas.

Therefore, there’s a greater risk of experiencing allergic reactions or different manifestations such as contact dermatitis or hair damage. Consequently, it’s best to avoid using permanent hair dyes on the hair of children under 16 years of age.

Types of hair dyes

It is always important to perform a patch test before using a hair dye completely. This will help to rule out any allergies prior to full coloring.

The lighter the shade of children’s hair, the more porous the hair is, and the easier it will pick up the color of the chosen dye.

Permanent hair dyes

Permanent hair dyes contain substances that can be harmful and toxic to children. For example, hydrogen peroxide, parabens, ammonia, and paraphenylenediamine often cause adverse reactions on the scalp and damage to the hair.

All the chemicals in this type of product can alter the texture of children’s hair, so it’s best to wait until adolescence to use hair dyes.

This type of coloring is too harmful and changes the natural color of the hair in its entirety, the melanin. In order for the color to be fixed, the hair must first undergo a bleaching process, which is also a very aggressive procedure.

Semi-permanent hair dyes

Washable, vegetable, or semi-permanent hair dyes are safer because the color only remains and covers the hair shaft, without penetrating it.

Likewise, caution should be taken and the components of the color should be controlled in order to avoid toxic hydrogen peroxide, known as bleach, and ammonia.

Semi-permanent hair dyes don’t require prior bleaching of the hair, but their effects are less effective than permanent hair dyes because the color is gradually lost with successive washes.

Temporary hair dyes

Temporary hair dyes are the most recommended for children, as they’re safe and easy to remove. In addition, there are different presentations such as lacquers, gels, or sprays; and they provide a fantasy color that lasts a short time and is removed with washing.

There are multiple shades, from bright and flashy colors to warmer pastel tones.

Also, multicolored chalks that produce highlights or artificial hair that kids can clip onto their own hair are excellent options for children without the need to use chemical products.

Reactions to hair dyes in children

A characteristic allergic reaction could be fissures or cracks in the skin, hair loss, itching of the scalp, hives, burning, swelling, or even difficulty breathing.

On those occasions when permanent coloring is used, it’s best to only dye the ends and avoid the scalp to avoid damaging it.

Even before the procedure’s performed for the first time, it’s Best to test a small area behind the ears to rule out adverse reactions.

Irritant contact dermatitis

In irritant contact dermatitis, the skin becomes red, irritated, and dry as a result of close contact with specific substances in the product. The inflamed skin may even blister, thicken, crack, or even sting and burn.

The vast majority of permanent and semi-permanent hair dyes contain paraphenylenediamine (PPD) among their components, which is highly irritating and is one of the most well-known allergens.

Products containing PPD are strictly regulated and have established maximum concentrations that they can contain.

Hair dyes for children and their use

The most important thing is that hair dyes for children should be as safe, gentle, and temporary as possible. In fact, hair dyes are developed for adult hair, so they can be harmful to children’s immature and fragile hair, which is more susceptible to damage.

However, if you persist with the idea of using them on children, it’s always advisable to perform an allergy test on the back region of the ear to rule out any kind of reaction.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Sosted H, Johansen JD, Andersen KE, Menné T. Severe allergic hair dye reactions in 8 children. Contact Dermatitis. 2006 Feb;54(2):87-91. doi: 10.1111/j.0105-1873.2006.00746.x. PMID: 16487280.
  • Saitta, Peter y col. “¿Existe una verdadera preocupación con respecto al uso de tintes para el cabello y el desarrollo de malignidades ?: una revisión de la evidencia epidemiológica que relaciona el uso personal de tintes para el cabello con el riesgo de malignidad”. Revista de dermatología clínica y estética vol. 6,1 (2013): 39-46.
  • Gupta, Mrinal y col. “Dermatitis por tintes de cabello y sensibilidad por contacto con p-fenilendiamina: un informe preliminar”. Revista en línea de dermatología india vol. 6,4 (2015): 241-6. doi: 10.4103 / 2229-5178.160253

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.