Student left with 'football-sized head' after allergic reaction to hair dye

A young woman who woke up to find that her head had grown the size of a football after having an allergic reaction to hair dye has urged people to be “smart” and always have a patch test done.

Valentina Nikolova, 20 and from Sofia, Bulgaria, decided to dye her hair half black in a salon.

Psychology student Valentina had used temporary dyes and other colors before, but within 24 hours of dyeing her hair, Valentina noticed that her scalp was starting to itch to a point where she felt like she was in “hell.”

Her hairdresser had told her it was normal for the scalp to be itchy after dyeing the hair, so she wasn’t too concerned.

But when she woke up the next day, Valentina’s head was swollen into a spherical shape and she had trouble opening her eyes.



Valentina went to an allergist where she received an injection of corticosteroids and prescribed antihistamines to reduce the swelling.

She is now speaking out to warn people of the importance of a patch test before dyeing your hair.

Valentina recalled what she described as a terrifying experience, saying, “During the first twenty-four hours after dyeing my hair, my scalp started to itch. I went to bed and the next day the top half of my head was swollen.



Valentina's head swells to the size of a football


Valentina with swollen forehead

“On the second day, the swelling reached the bottom half of my head and my eyes were half closed. My head looked like a ball – you could say a football or something, it just had a very spherical shape.

“I was really scared and the fear crept into me when I first saw myself in the mirror. I couldn’t believe it was me.

“When it started to itch, I was in hell. Do you know when you burn and every movement is painful? It was worse than that. “



Valentina with the flowers

On the fourth day, the swelling started to subside, but the outer layer of her scalp started to fall off as her skin regenerated.

“That’s the day I got out of the shower and the pain and itching were so bad that I got really desperate and cried a lot. The pain and itching were only there after washing my hair.

“I went to an allergist and they gave me an injection of corticosteroids and also prescribed drugs.”



The 20 year old in hoodie and sunglasses


Valentina smiles

Valentina suffered from an allergic reaction to a chemical found in most hair dyes, paraphenylenediamine (PPD).

Many permanent and some semi-permanent hair dyes contain chemical PPD, which is known as an irritant and allergen. Dyes containing PPD are usually safe to use.

“I have not done a patch test and I recommend that people do patch tests before dyeing their hair to avoid this,” said Valentina.

“I would never dye my hair black again, but I would with temporary hair dye.



Student with swollen forehead

“If you have a reaction and you’re self-conscious about it like I was, wear a hoodie and glasses if you don’t want people to see you like that. Use baby hair shampoo so that you don’t irritate your skin.

“Go to the doctors immediately after you realize you are having an allergic reaction and take the medicine they prescribe for you. Don’t panic, everything will be fine, and it is only temporary.

“Please do a patch test before dyeing your hair, regardless of its color and whether it is temporary or permanent.

“Having a high-quality dye doesn’t mean you won’t have an allergic reaction. Be smart.”

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