A board certified dermatologist by the name of Dr. Greeta Yadav says that Ellison most likely suffered from contact dermatits, or, an allergy to something touching your skin.
“People think, ‘I’ve been using this hair dye all my life. I don’t understand why I have this problem now.’ But you develop a sensitivity over time,” the Skin Science Dermatology founder says of contact allergies. “For some people, it’s because they had eczema in their background, and they’re prone to developing a contact sensitization. But for others, it just happens with repeated exposure.”
Ellison additionally told BuzzFeed she experienced scalp tenderness, chemical burns and numbness in her face.
In the viral TikTok, which since garnered millions of likes, Ellison included a clip of her and a friend waiting for their hair dye to process.
“Always patch test before dyeing your hair,” the teenager wrote over her TikTok.
Dr. Yadav agrees saying it is hard to prevent a reaction as the allergy develops gradually.
“You can’t predict it. You try to avoid it when you can. But the reality is, we all like products that smell nice, that feel nice, that look nice and that requires several chemicals,” Dr. Yadav says. “But you eventually may not be able to tolerate some of them.”
Which is exactly what happened to Ellison, who informed BuzzFeed she’s been dyeing her own hair for “13 years” but has never experienced this type of reaction.
“I am used to my hairline and ears getting a little irritated when using cheaper dyes. I did not pay too much mind to it, assuming the dye got onto my skin and would take a few hours to heal itself, like it usually has in the past,” she explained. “The next morning, I woke up to my boyfriend yelling and asking me what happened to my face. I looked into the mirror and saw that the right side of my forehead was swelling.”
And while treatment options for contact dermatitis vary depending on the severity of the reaction, Dr. Yadav says dermatologists are most likely your best option.
“Ideally, the people that know how to handle this would be a dermatologist. But it depends on how bad it is. If it’s really blistering, and you’re really uncomfortable, and there’s tons of swelling, like in the TikTok video, for sure you would want to go to the emergency treatment as soon as possible,” she says. “If you go to the emergency room, they may not understand what happened, but they’ll give you something to treat it.”
Ellison and her mom immediately went to an urgent care two cities away to find proper care, which included steroid pills, Benadryl and ice packs. Ellison then posted an update on her TikTok account, revealing it took a total of five days for her face to heal.
“What happened to me was really scary to experience, and I’m so lucky that my reaction wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” she told BuzzFeed. “I wanted to share this video with TikTok to help advise people to be very careful with directions when dyeing their own hair, and make sure salons do patch tests with consultations if the option is given.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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