Elizabeth Njoroge (left) before the allergy and (right) after the allergy caused by black henna Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: An expatriate woman in Dubai, who suffered severe allergy on her face after using a natural henna product, has called for strict allergy tests for all types of hair products.

Elizabeth Njoroge from Kenya, who works as a procurement manager for a real estate company, said she recently suffered severe allergy after using a popular brand of natural black henna colouring powder from an African salon in Karama.

“I wanted to dye my hair but with natural products just to give it a darker black colour before I had to fly to the UK for my brother-in-law’s wedding,” she told Gulf News.

She said she opted for natural hair dye since she had previously had a mild allergy after colouring her eyebrows. “One of the staff members at the salon went to the nearby supermarket and brought this Indian brand of black henna. I asked the salon staff to confirm that it was natural and they recommended this brand saying it was the best.

“They applied the henna and after 30 minutes, they washed my hair. As soon as the wash was over, I started itching and within no time, my scalp was red and my neck started to swell. I took some antihistamine tablets expecting for it to go. As soon as I got home, I washed my hair over and over hoping that perhaps it would rinse the dye off. I also put some olive oil which seemed to calm the burning sensation.”

She said the next day, her neck and left eye were swollen to a point that she could not see and gradually that moved to her entire face and neck.

“I went to the doctors at GMC clinic where I was injected with cortisone and antihistamine. This was repeated for three days. Then my throat was constricting so I went to American Hospital for a second opinion where they gave me an additional steroid injection to clear the inflammation and swelling.”

She was also put on oral medication for the next week and was not allowed to stay out in the heat much as her scalp was heavily affected though she was given a fit-to-fly certificate.

Though the allergy went away gradually, it took over a week to subside considerably. “Even now, one side of my face is not perfectly fine,” Njoroge said on Wednesday.

She said neither the salon staff did any allergy test on her nor did she ask for it because she was told it was a completely natural product.

When contacted, the salon manager said they would only deal with the customer personally and could comment about the incident only when the shop owner returns from her country after the vacation.

Dr Beena Jose, specialist dermatologist with Aster DM Healthcare, said it is ideal for people to run allergy tests for any type of hair products they use. “They can test it on the back of the ear or the inner face of the forearm. They have to wait for 20-30 minutes to check if it is causing any immediate allergy. If there is any allergy, they shouldn’t use the product.”

She said people with sensitive skin and history of allergy must be more cautious. “They need to test the products for a longer time. Sometimes, some products can cause allergy after a long time as well.”

She said even natural plant products can also cause allergy [phytodermatitis]. “It depends on the type of the skin and its tolerance. So, it is ideal to test all products for allergy rather than suffering later. If there is any allergy, they should consult a doctor and not go for self-medication,” she added.

Redha Hassan Salman, director of the Public Health and Safety Department at Dubai Municipality, said the civic body would investigate the incident if the customer registers a complaint.

Njoroge, who is currently in the UK, said she would do it once she is back in Dubai later this month.