Mum ‘looked like Elephant Man’ as her head swelled up after hair dye use

Anita Benton, from Sheldon, West Midlands, said she was temporarily blinded for four days and fears she’ll have permanent eyelid damage after suffering a severe allergic reaction to the Schwarzkopf Live dye

Anita Benton's face became very swollen
Anita Benton’s face became very swollen

A mum has vowed to never dye her hair again after an allergic reaction left her looking ‘like the Elephant Man’.

Anita Benton’s face swelled dramatically and her skin erupted in a red, lumpy rash after dying her hair using the Schwarzkopf product last month, she has claimed.

The 41-year-old said she was temporarily blinded for four days and fears she’ll have permanent eyelid damage after suffering a severe allergic reaction to the Schwarzkopf Live dye in shade Cosmic Blue.

Anita thought she wouldn’t need a patch test as she has used the product every six to eight weeks since 2019 with no problems.

But just 10 minutes after applying the dye on October 16, the mum-of-three claims her scalp started ‘burning’.

Anita (middle) with her daughters


Kennedy News and Media)

The following day it was weeping so much her hair ‘stuck to her head’.

Over the next two days her Anita’s ballooned, swelling so much so her eyelids closed over, leaving her unable to see and forcing her to take a week off work.

Anita’s concerned boss asked for pictures of her medication to prove she was having an allergic reaction and wasn’t the victim of a vicious beating – while even her own dad didn’t recognise her.

A Schwarzkopf spokesman said they have offered expert help to identify the cause of her reaction and urge everyone to an allergy alert test before using hair colour.

Anita, from Sheldon, West Midlands, said: “I looked like Elephant Man.

“I took a selfie and sent it to my dad and he replied ‘who’s that?’. Even my own dad couldn’t recognise me.

“My manager asked me to send her pictures of my medication to prove I hadn’t been beaten up and that it was actually an allergic reaction.

“I’m never dying my hair again, I’m going to go grey gracefully.”

Her eyes closed over in the chemical reaction


Kennedy News and Media)

Anita was refreshing her hair colour using the dye in Cosmic Blue – a blue/black shade she’d previously used with no problem.

However, just 10 minutes after putting the product on her hair her scalp started burning so she washed it off.

That evening her head started to itch and weep and she was unable to sleep due to the discomfort.

Over the next two days her face ballooned, her eyes closed over and her head started to itch and weep.

Anita called her GP at 9am on Monday, October 18th who suggested she go to Birmingham Midland Eye Centre.

There, doctors ran tests and referred her to Heartlands Hospital’s A&E department in Birmingham, West Midlands, where she was prescribed steroids and antibiotics.

Days later the swelling started to subside but then Anita broke out in a lumpy, itchy rash that required another two lots of steroids, steroid cream and stronger antihistamines.

The extreme swelling started going down a few days after the dying


Kennedy News and Media)

Anita said: “I’ve naturally dark hair, I had a few greys coming through so I thought ‘right let’s sort those greys out’.

“I’ve been using the same hair dye since 2019 and never had any problems. I don’t patch test every time, I just did it on the first one.

“You usually leave your hair dye on for half an hour, as per the instructions, I had it on 10 minutes and I could feel this burning and tingling feeling.

“Then the burning just got too much so I washed it off.

“On Sunday morning I woke up and all my hair was stuck to my head because it had been weeping throughout the night.

“Later in the night there was a little bit of swelling by my left temple.

“I didn’t manage to sleep that night, the stuff weeping out of my scalp was running down my face and it was so itchy, I was dying to scratch it.

“I phoned my GP, he asked me to send some photos and because my eyes were swollen he told me to go to the eye hospital.

“When I got outside the hospital I could feel both my eyes swelling up that much that they were closing.

“They put loads of drops in my eyes, said there was no problem with them, and said I needed to go to A&E.

“As soon as the doctor there saw me he said straightaway ‘hair dye’.

“He gave me steroids and antibiotics and told me to buy some Piriton to relieve the itching.

“Both of my eyes completely closed, I could only open my eyes on Thursday.

Anita said she looked like the Elephant Man


Kennedy News and Media)

“The swelling went from my eyes and dropped down into my cheeks so I looked like a hamster, then my skin broke out in a rash all over.

“There were bumps underneath my skin, it was that itchy I was ripping myself to pieces.

“I went back to the doctor and he said I had a skin infection and I had another two lots of steroids and stronger antihistamines and some steroid cream.

“All in all I had eight or nine different medications and I pay for my prescriptions.”

While in hospital waiting to be seen, Anita contacted Schwarzkopf in a bid to get to the bottom of what had triggered her reaction.

Anita says she was told a ‘minor change to the perfume ingredient’ had been made and the hair giant have also offered to pay for dermatological testing.

After finishing her course of antibiotics, Anita is now fully recovered apart from a ‘baggy’ left eyelid that she hopes will go back to normal in due course.

Anita said: “I’m fully recovered and back to normal now. Where it swelled up my eyelid hasn’t gone back to normal, it’s a bit baggier than it was, but I just keep putting on loads of cream and hoping for the best.

“I want to raise awareness because a lot of women like myself don’t do patch tests purely because we’ve been using the same hair dye for years and years.

“These companies change their products all of the time, all they need to do is put a little sticker on that says ‘new and improved, please re-do your patch test’.”

A Schwarzkopf spokesperson said: “We were sorry to hear about Anita Benton’s experience and wish her a speedy recovery.

“She has been in contact with us and we have offered expert help to identify the cause of her reaction.

“We urge everyone to read the instructions and do an allergy alert test before using hair colour, even if they have used the brand or specific colour before, as allergies can build up over time.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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