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Safe or Not? The Ultimate Guide to Beard Dye Safety

For years now, I have been writing about the safety of dying your beard, and there have been so many re‐runs of the same old arguments that I felt like the Susan Boyle of beard dye. I was beginning to believe that this particular saga would go on forever. Not anymore. Today, I put an end to it.

Yes, beard dye is as ubiquitous as avocado toast at a hipster brunch, giving men the opportunity to channel their inner lumberjack or camouflage the effects of ageing. Yet the macho facade has been masking turmoil much like a patch of grey beard.

It is time to consider the chemistry of dyeing beards. Hydrogen peroxide releases hair cuticles, and p-phenylenediamine (PPD) (commonly known as para-phenylenediamine) is the colour prince. But – like Chelsea football club, before Roman Abramovich purchased it in 2003 – PPD has had a bad press, with allergy and general health issues.

But don’t worry, ladies and gentlemen of the beard. Science is here! Assuring us that when applied as directed, beard dye is safer than a kitten in a basket. Studies going back more than a few grey-beard years suggest the chance of adverse effects is about as likely as finding a four-leaf clover in your beard.

And you can relax if you’re a little bit nervous about slathering your face in chemicals, as the Cosmetic Ingredient Reviews (CIR) Expert Panel – a bunch of handsome, beardy blokes who definitely know their shit – have given PPD and its buddies a verdict of: ‘Makes no difference to humans whatsoever.’


But on the other hand, nobody wants to risk the possibility of losing their facial carpet. For customers who aren’t willing to take that chance, the biggest beard dye companies are taking matters into their own hands, replacing PPD, PTD and the like with para-toluenediamine sulphate (PTDS), what some articles refer to as ‘the gentler cousin of PPD’. You might think of that as your beard going to the spa, except that no one’s gluing cucumber slices to it.

Oh, and the regulations – there’s nothing more safety-conscious than government regulation. From the FDA in the US to the EU across the pond, rules exist to make sure your beard dye isn’t a result of a botched experiment-gone-wrong.

So there you go. Beard dye: safer than a marshmallow pillow fort. Go beard-wizard away! Just remember to slap it with some beard oil and soap. None of us wants a Brillo pad on our chin.




  1. Basketter, D. A., et al. (2012). "A risk assessment for p-phenylenediamine (PPD) use in hair dye." Contact Dermatitis, 66(4), 219-243.

  2. Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. (2006). "Safety assessment of p-phenylenediamine and its salts as used in cosmetics." International Journal of Toxicology, 25(Suppl 2), 11-30.

  3. Sosted, H., et al. (2009). "Allergic reactions to hair dyes." Dermatitis, 20(1), 3-8.

  4. Food and Drug Administration. (n.d.). "Cosmetics: Laws & Regulations." Retrieved from

  5. European Commission. (n.d.). "Cosmetics." Retrieved from

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