Toxic Hair Dyes

Not many people embrace their gray hair as they age (especially women)! Just as many people may not realize how many toxic chemicals are in most hair dyes either. While the jury is still out on whether or not hair dyes, especially the darker shades, are carcinogenic and directly contribute to certain cancers and make autoimmune conditions in the body worse, why take any risks?

Some proven facts about chemicals in dyes: Chemicals from the dyes are easily absorbed through the skin and lungs and can cause reactions like itching and rashes, damage to the hair itself, and trigger allergy and asthma symptoms from the fumes.

Research studies done in Japan and at Yale University have shown that long-term use of hair dyes with toxic chemicals can promote lymphatic cancer through absorption of the skin and into the bloodstream. They know which chemicals contribute to this, but federal agencies continue to allow their use in products and companies aren’t required by law to label them in ingredients. At the top of the toxic list is para-phenylenediamine, a.k.a PPD, considered to be the most dangerous hair dye chemical, lethal at a dose of 10g. It’s found in most hair dyes and can harm the immune system, nervous system, liver and kidneys.

Whether you color your hair yourself or pay to have it done, some things you can do:

Ask your stylist to use more natural products (vegan if possible, which guarantees that no ingredients have ever been tested on animals which helps cut down on animal-lab testing).

Lighter-to-blond shades are considered to be much less toxic (dark shades carry the most risk). Think about coloring with a lighter, warmer shade – as we age the dark shades may no longer blend in with our skin even if our hair was very dark when we were young.

High-lighting and low-lighting are options that keep the product away from the scalp (for the most part). Also, some stylists use a product that speeds up the time dyes are on the head. These don’t harm the hair, but should be nontoxic as well. Ask your stylist.

Henna and indigo are options for those who want to stay with a darker shade but want something more natural.

Embrace your gray! I’ve seen both men and women who have beautiful, soft-looking gray hair and it doesn’t seem to age them at all. (I don’t seem to be one of these people so I opt for vegan and natural products!)

Herbal ‘tea’ rinses such as rosemary and sage for darker hair, or calendula and rosehip for lighter hair have been used to lighten or reverse the gray. While I’ve never tried these, some folks swear by them.

Sometimes gray hair comes and goes with stress. You may be low in nutrients, so make sure you eat a balanced diet high in anti-oxidants with fresh fruits and vegetables, exercise daily, and get a good night’s sleep. Get into the habit of taking a time out for yourself during the day as well and just ‘be’, even if only for 5 minutes.

Both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine consider gray hair to be a reflection of an imbalance in the kidneys and blood and use food and herbal remedies to bring the body back into balance.

Even though your stylist may not be using dyes with chemical or ammonia in them, others in their salon may be. Simply breathing in fumes can cause serious reactions in some people. Seek out a single-stylist salon if possible.

Increasing the amount of organic, raw food in one’s diet has helped reverse gray in some people.

We’re bombarded with toxins every single day. Make wise choices when it comes to those which you can control – with hair and other personal products.