Confidently Deal with Allergic Reactions

We offer our customers only products that have been intensively tested for safety as well as performance and are compatible with human health. However, no matter how thoroughly a cosmetic product has been tested, incompatibility reactions, such as an irritation of the scalp or even allergic reactions, cannot be ruled out completely.


‘Allergy’ is a term that is often misused to describe all kinds of adverse reactions. There are two main types of adverse reactions that may be experienced: Irritant reactions and allergic reactions. In fact, there’s a significant difference between being irritated by a substance and being allergic to it. Both types of adverse reactions can be stressful for you and your clients, but learning to spot the signs early on and knowing what to do when symptoms (as described in the following sections) occur, can contribute to convince your client, that you are  acting professionally. In this blog, we’ll walk you through the differences between allergic and irritant reactions, how to recognise and react to adverse reactions as well as various approaches in order to prevent reactions occurring.


Allergic reactions

A person who reacts allergic is “sensitised” to a particular substance. This is an individual reaction. Sensitisation persists for a whole lifetime. Typical signs are redness, swelling, formation of oedemas (e.g. face) and itching rather than burning on the skin. The time until onset of symptoms after product application may vary between minutes (“immediate type hypersensitivity”) and up to 1 or even 2 days (“contact allergy” e.g. reaction to nickel in certain metals). In general, allergies to products that hairdresser apply are rare, when taking into consideration that these products are applied millions of times a day. If any at all, such cases involve the application of hair colourants.


Irritant reactions are more common than allergic reactions, although still quite rare. An irritant type of reaction occurs during or shortly after the application of a product. Typical signs of an irritant reaction are redness of the skin, limited to the area of product application, as well as burning sensations rather than itching. These reactions generally clear up rapidly after ceasing to use the product that is causing the problem.


General advice: Critical or even life-threatening symptoms may occur in your salon without connection to application. Please ensure that all employees are familiar with the standard first aid procedures and the corresponding equipment (emergency call number, emergency kit etc.).


Preventing an allergic reaction

During an initial consultation, ask if the client is aware of anything they are allergic to or if they have ever experienced any reactions to cosmetic products, henna and/or permanent tattoos or to permanent make up in the past. Ensure to rule out irritated or even damaged scalp tissue and avoid colour service under these circumstances.


An Allergy Alert Test (AAT) or another evaluation (questionnaire) should be performed by your client before each product application. This applies to both new and existing clients, as people can develop allergies to a substance over time. Keep in mind that the AAT needs to be performed 48h in advance to the colour service. This can be an inconvenience; however, if properly explained, most clients will be appreciative of the care and professional attention they are receiving. It’s important to be aware that the absence of reaction to the AAT is no guarantee that an allergic reaction may not occur as a result of a future hair colouring process. However, this test is an important safety precaution. Please tell your client that he/she should consult a physician, if you or your client has any doubts.


Always prepare a record card for every client and document all relevant information according to the recommendations made above. Furthermore, also record the date and the results of the AAT or another evaluation. If necessary, obtain the client’s signature in order to confirm that a consultation was performed.


We suggest including:

  • Date of colour services
  • Allergic reactions in the past (temporary henna tattoo, make up, hair colouration)
  • Condition of the scalp and hair
  • Date & result of the Allergy Alert Test
  • Applied product (brand, shade, batch code and mixing ratio)
  • Recognising and responding to allergic reactions

Please follow the safety instructions and the instructions for use so that they become daily practice in your salon. We recommend that you keep a client record card for future reference. A professional consultation with your client should become an essential part of all Schwarzkopf Professional colourations.


Use the guidelines given above to recognise the first stages of a reaction. If a reaction occurs, immediately stop the treatment and rinse the product from the hair and scalp using lukewarm water. Do not colour again and avoid application of any products if symptoms persist. Immediately refer the client to a doctor or dermatologist if the symptoms do not rapidly improve.


Please always remember to document all kinds of adverse events and also to inform our Professional Partner Service Team about all adverse reactions.