Most of the permanent hair dye products contain p-phenylenediamine (PPD), a well-known skin sensitizer. PPD may cause cutaneous reactions and leads to allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), a condition with major medical and financial repercussions. Hair dye-induced ACD represents a growing concern both for consumers and the cosmetics industry. In this study we introduced novel side chains on the PPD molecule with the goal of overcoming the hazard potential of PPD. Our strategy relies on the replacement of the colorless PPD with new, larger and intrinsically colorled PPD derivatives to reduce dermal penetration and thus the skin sensitization potential. We synthesized two oligomers with bulky side-chains, which displayed 7–8 times lower cytotoxicity than PPD, a significantly weaker sensitization potential (22.0 % and 23.8 % versus 55.5 % for PPD) in the Direct Peptide Reactivity Assay, minimal cumulative penetration through excised skin and an intrinsic ability to colour and preserve the nuance when applied on bleached hair. The lower skin permeation and sensitizing potential are absolutely crucial and give a clear advantage of our products over other standards. These novel PPD hair dyes show significantly less hazard potential than PPD and may, upon further risk assessment studies, replace PPD in consumer care products. © 2020 Elsevier B.V.