Personal Story: Allergic Reaction to Hair Product

PLEASE NOTE: This post is NOT medical advice. If you have any health condition that is concerning you, please follow your own good advice and act accordingly- be it calling 911, going to the ER, going to your doctor, calling your mom...whatever you need to do. My only intention in sharing this story is just that-to share a story. Feel free to take away anything you want (or, nothing at all).

I have a fantastic hairdresser. Her cuts are amazing and she is easy to talk to and isn't precious about her work, so you can actually tell her what you want and don't want. She's great. 

On Thursday Dec 23rd I went to get my hair retouched and trimmed. We use an organic ammonia-free paraben free hair dye, and inevitably some of the dye will make it's way onto my forehead, temples and ears. When this happens, as it did on this day, my hairdresser will use a solution to lift some of the stain off of my skin. I have never had a problem with this solution in the past, and I just learned she had used a different brand this time. Everything seemed perfectly normal when I went to bed that night. 

The next day I noticed my skin around my hairline felt a little tight, and by that evening it also felt a little itchy.  I went out that evening to grab some last minute presents and caught my reflection in a mirror, noticing my forehead seemed a little pinkish. Christmas Eve morning I woke up to a tight itchy rash all around my hairline. On my upper forehead, where the most solution had been applied, my skin was red, bumpy and weeping. I immediately washed my skin with a gentle soap and cold water. I didn't apply anything to my skin as I wanted to let it weep and do whatever it needed to do. I immediately began upping my water intake substantially. By late afternoon my entire forehead was swollen, giving me the appearance of a crazy Star Trek character! I applied ice packs to the swelling off and on for about an hour, and definitely considered a visit to the ER, but I have a terrible history with Western drugs (anaphylactic shock twice from antibiotics plus a host of other crazy allergic reactions). I was having no other symptoms; no difficulty breathing, no nausea, no dizziness, etc. I started mega dosing Vitamin C, and drinking cup after cup of stinging nettle tea. The burning feeling was intense and my forehead felt heavy from the swelling.

At bedtime on Christmas Eve I took magnesium and more Vit C, plus half a Benedryl. I normally take Zinc but didn't because we ate beautiful Alaskan crab legs for dinner, which are cooling and high in Zinc plus full of healing cholesterol. I was so grateful for my medical background and training in Chinese Medicine, so I could make food choices to help my body heal (rashes and infections are destructive Yang fire heat, crab is nourishing cooling Yin). I was very nervous about what was going on with my skin, but also felt better because I could take stock of my situation in order to assess myself.  

Christmas morning I was still very swollen but the rash was slightly calmer. I took a shower and washed my hair with a completely organic mild shampoo and conditioner which was very soothing on my skin. The swelling was moving downward from gravity, and I really looked like a weirdo! I slathered on coconut oil and dosed myself with Vitamin C. I also started very gently massaging the swollen areas. I drank more nettle tea and we opened presents! If any of you have a brother, you will really understand what I'm about to share next; when my brother and his wife arrived late morning, he took one look at me and said "Oh wow. That's so bad, I can't even make fun of you." Comic relief, that guy. I feel it is important to share that I invited in another component of healing on this beautiful Christmas morning- Love and Laughter. Even though I was uncomfortable, even though I did not look my best, even though was still a little nervous about my situation I chose to breathe, relax, and fully enjoy the JOY! Every smile, every thank you, every joke I absorbed and with each breath I pushed it into my wounded skin. I believe 100% it worked.

After presents, inspired by a tea gift from my sister-in-law (and-in-love) I added Golden Milk tea to my regimen, boiling chai spices (cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper) with grated fresh ginger and fresh turmeric and blending with ghee and coconut milk. The anti inflammatory properties of the turmeric/black pepper combo seemed to really help. I also avoided sugar, ate a lot of protein and fresh fruit and veggies. Still pounded the water. By Christmas night I felt a  shift and I knew I was out of the woods. The next morning the swelling was less and was shifting around. The rash was now just pink but still slightly itchy. I spent the day resting, eating healing food, stretching and foam rolling to move my lymphatic system, drank lots of water and had 2 cups of Golden milk tea. I also continued periodically to massage the swelling, encouraging it to dissipate. By Monday night I was feeling remarkably better. On Tuesday, day 5, I was nearly healed. The swelling was unnoticable unless you saw the process, the rash is faint, and the itching was mild to none. As I sit here finishing this post, as of yesterday, day 6, I am essentially healed all but for a mild sensation of tightness along my hairline. Incredible!

I am very grateful I am healthy. I am very grateful I have a body that is not in a state of auto-immune disorder and is not chronically inflamed. I am grateful I know how to take care of myself with food and nutrition. This could have been a lot worse if I hadn't been so healthy at the onset. This sort of reaction could have led to a staph infection, cellulitis, or at minimum hung around for much longer and been more aggressive.

I want now to share with you a run down of what I chose to take and why, as a reference point for those who are interested in the healing power of food as medicine:

Vitamin C (from rose hips and acerola cherry)- Anti Inflammatory, cellular health, wound healing. I took 4k mg twice daily.

Zinc (chelated)- wound healing, cellular health, immune function

Fish oil (in this case)- skin health, anti histamine, reduce swelling. I use Rosita

Nettle tea- anti histamine, anti oxidant, anti microbial, anti oxident.

Turmeric with black pepper- Piperine in the pepper increases bioavailability of curcumin, the active compound in turmeric. Anti inflammatory, analgesic.