STEPH O’Dell wanted to look glam for her sister Amber’s 18th birthday trip to Amsterdam, so she decided to dye her hair.
Rather than opting for DIY colouring, she went to a local salon for her new look — but the weekend away turned into a nightmare when she suffered an allergic reaction to the dye.
Steph, 24, was temporarily blinded, landing her in hospital, and her face ballooned to three times its usual size.
She says: “It was terrifying. I was left in agonising pain and I looked like an alien.
“I was lucky it wasn’t worse. I’ll never dye my hair again.”
Steph, a sales co-ordinator, had first discovered she was allergic to the chemical parapheny-lenediamine (PPD), a common ingredient in hair dye, as a teen.
She says: “I’ve always patch-tested products beforehand and, when I was 15, I did a test for a box dye and was left with a rash. I realised I was allergic to PPD, so I never dyed it.
“I’m also not allowed henna tattoos or to tint my eyebrows.”
Two years on, in June 2015, when Steph was 20, she visited a salon in her home town, Milton Keynes to get her hair dyed so it matched her hair extensions, for Amber’s birthday weekend away.
She says: “I wanted to look my best. I told the hairdresser I was allergic to PPD and showed pictures of my previous reaction.
“She assured me the dye would not touch my scalp and it was organic.
“She applied a patch test to my wrist and wiped the excess off, which I thought was strange.
“But I didn’t react to the test, so I felt happy to go ahead.”
Two weeks later the hairdresser applied the dye to Steph’s hair.
She says: “I was happy with how it looked when I left the salon.”
But, later that day, Steph’s neck began itching, and she realised some dye was left on her skin. She washed it off and applied an anti-itching cream.
The next morning, she and Amber flew to Amsterdam. But later that day, Steph’s face began to swell up.
She says: “My glasses began feeling tight and my neck felt like it was on fire. I hoped the swelling would go down.
“The next day, my head was huge and one eye was swollen shut. It was so painful. My face and head felt itchy and tight.”
That night, Steph went to hospital where she was given anti-histamines and eye drops. Then they went back to their hotel.
The next morning her face was so swollen her eyes had closed up. Amber then contacted their dad Simon, 53, a sales executive.
Steph says: “I was terrified. Amber was horrified and she phoned our Dad, who paid for us to get an earlier flight home that day.
“I had to hold on to Amber everywhere we went as I couldn’t see. It was really scary.
“Dad met us at the airport and took me straight to Milton Keynes Hospital, where I was given adrenaline shots.
“Nurses were worried about my breathing, as my neck was swelling. I thought I was going to die and had a panic attack.”
Her mum Gayle, 52, rushed to the hospital and Steph says: “She didn’t recognise me.”
Steph spent five days in hospital and was given steroids. Medics told her it was the worst reaction they had ever seen.
She says: “I looked like an alien. I’ll never be touching hair dye again. Instead I’ll embrace my natural hair.”
She adds: “Thankfully, I took my sister back to Amsterdam for her 21st birthday last year, so she finally got the trip she deserved.”
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