Chemical burns to the scalp and skin can occur when dying or highlighting hair. Hair dye strips the hair of natural pigment, and replaces the color with a synthetic colorant. Minor irritation and redness is common, but severe burns deep into the skin have not been commonly reported. However, chemical burns can cause hair to break and stop growing in burned areas. Scar tissue can form. The extent of the burn depends on the amount of dye used, the amount of time the skin was exposed to the hair dye and other factors. Treating the burn can be done at home; however, some burns require professional medical help.
Rinse the hair dye immediately from the head if overwhelming stinging or pain occurs. A minor tingling sensation may be common when dying hair, but the skin should never feel uncomfortable. Use a copious amount of water to rinse the dye out of the hair. Avoid getting dye into the eyes.
Inspect the burn area and determine how severe the burn is. Slight redness and irritation can be treated at home. Open wounds, blistering and direct tissue damage are signs that emergency treatment is necessary—visiting a doctor is recommended. Call 911 if feeling faint or weak, or if you are vomiting or showing other physical symptoms of distress.
Avoid treating hair with strong medicated shampoos such as dandruff treatments. Only wash hair when necessary, allowing the scalp to heal. The natural oils have been stripped from the scalp and the skin will feel very tight and itchy. Do not cover the scalp in petroleum jelly—this is a common myth. The ointment will not allow the skin to breath, increasing the healing time.
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Apply aloe vera lotion directly to the scalp for minor burns. Massage the clear gel into the scalp for cooling relief. Leave the gel on as long as desired.
Open several vitamin E capsules using a needle and squeeze out the oils. Rub the vitamin onto the burned skin area to promote healing of the scalp and surrounding skin.
Julie Hampton has worked as a professional freelance writer since 1999 for various newspapers and websites including "The Florida Sun" and "Pensacola News Journal." She served in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and nurse for over six years and recently worked as the Community Relations Director for a health center. Hampton studied journalism and communications at the University of West Florida.