A mum-of-two nearly died from serious allergic reaction triggered by a £50 hair dye product.
Shannon Thurston, of Essex, ended up in hospital with swollen forehead ‘like an alien’ and breathing difficulties after failing to carry out a patch test.
The swelling forced her eyes fused shut and her airways started to close up.
Now, the 24-year-old is determined to raise awareness of the dangers of PPD (paraphenylenediamine), a common chemical used in many hair dyes.
The student social worker says: “I feel so stupid for not realising that your body can develop an allergy to ingredients even after being exposed to them before.
“I’m lucky I was treated in time. It almost killed me.”
Shannon has been dyeing her hair since 2007, when she was 12.
She’s coloured her natural light brown hair every shade from pink to bleach blonde, to chocolate brown.
She says: “I loved changing my style. My aunt Sharon, 47, was a hairdresser and she’d apply the box dye to my hair.
“I always did a patch test when I used a new box and I coloured my hair every two months.”
But in February 2012, when Shannon was 16, she wanted to dye her hair a dark chocolate brown.
She says: “I’d used the box before, it was a Nice ‘n’ Easy Perfect 10 dye. As I’d used it before, I told Sharon not to bother with a patch test.
“When Sharon applied the dye as usual, my head felt itchy, but I ignored it.
“I loved my new dark-brown hair, but the next day, I had red bumps along the bottom of my neck. Again, I wasn’t worried as I figured it was just irritation.”
The following day, Shannon woke up and her left eye was badly swollen.
Throughout the day, it worsened and her mum, Kay, 46, who works in sales, took her to A&E at Basildon Hospital.
By the time the pair arrived, Shannon’s eye was completely shut and her airways were beginning to close.
Doctors revealed she’d had an allergic reaction to PPD, and they gave her a nebuliser to open her airways.
They also administered steroids and antihistamines to control the swelling.
By this point, even her forehead was swollen.
Shannon says: “It was terrifying – l looked like an alien. The next morning, both my eyes and neck were swollen.
“My scalp was burning – it felt like it was on fire.
“I was in hospital for around four days, as doctors couldn’t get the swelling under control. Nurses tried to wash out the dye from my hair.
“They even suggested shaving my hair off to stop the reaction, but I begged them not to. I couldn’t bear the thought of having no hair.
“I was struggling to breathe and doctors told me that if I’d have waited to go to hospital, I could have died.
“My forehead looked like a water balloon and my eyes were completely shut, so I was temporarily blind.”
Eventually Shannon was discharged from hospital, but her face remained swollen for four weeks.
She also took steroids for a further three months.
She says: “Classmates pointed at my face and jeered at me.
“They even took pictures of me, it was so humiliating, but I was pleased to have survived my ordeal.
“I’ve never dyed my hair since then. It’s not worth it.
“I only get highlights now and make sure I get a patch test every time. My aunt felt so guilty, but I reassured her that it wasn’t her fault.
“Always do a patch test and leave it on for the recommended 48 hours. It could save your life.”
A spokesperson for Clairol said: “The safety of the people who use our products is our first and most important priority, so we’re very concerned to hear about Ms Thurston’s experience with Nice’n Easy.
“It is imperative patch tests are conducted at least 48 hours before colouring, details of how to perform this test are included with each of our products to help minimise risk to consumers.
“Allergic reactions are very rare and hair colourants are extensively researched to ensure they are safe when used as directed.”