Dyeing to Go Green? Hair Dye’s Fading Reputation

So you want to look good, but aren’t convinced that the ‘go green’ options of natural dyes are going to cut it? Learn about the good, the ugly, and the risky business of hair dyeing in the modern world. With all of the regulations in place and years of hair dyeing, are there really any health risks left to debate? We have only hit the tip of the iceberg. With over 30 million individuals dyeing their hair every year, most of which are on a monthly dyeing cycle, there is much we have to learn. In 1979, the hair care industry voluntarily removed known carcinogens from dyes. Yet women using dyes before and after 1980 have the same cancer rate, causing concern throughout the medical community. So what does this tell us?

Despite sifting through contradictory medical reports and inconclusive evidence, two main theories arose. First, the ingredients in hair dyes can be toxic to human health, with rates and length of exposure playing a critical role. The second theory suggests chemicals are not the source, but instead promote a harmful reaction. Regardless of which theory you follow, keeping up on your hair dye ABCs is important to your health. Studies have linked hair dye to a multitude of cancers including bladder, blood, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and leukemia. And hair dressers showed a high risk for breast cancer specifically.

You are most at risk of you: dye your hair frequently (monthly or more) for an extended period of time (15 years or more), in particularly if you are dying it dark colors. Hair care professionals demonstrated the highest risk and range of cancer related to hair dye.

Best advice:

  1. Enjoy your natural beauty. No dye, no risk.
  2. Do not dye your hair until it goes 15% gray or more.
  3. Use semi-permanent color stains in place of permanent dye.
    It has a fraction of the chemicals, but lasts over a week.
  4. Go green with natural dyes
  5. Upkeep your hair and color to minimize dyeing

To go green with natural dyes look for high quality henna, honey, and vegetables in their purest form. There are several companies that create natural hair dyes, but be leery of product ingredient lists. Since the term ‘natural’ is unregulated, many products are identical to their conventional counterparts. Natural products are not tested on animals, and should not contain harmful ingredients like phenylenediamine (PPD), sulfates, 4-ABP, resorcinol, ammonia, and lead acetate. To learn more about safe ingredients visit Skin Deep’s database of product and ingredient safety. Companies that have signed on to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and do not utilize animal testing are good indicators of safer products. Test for allergic reaction with the patches offered by the company. Products that truly are a viable ‘go green’ option will not contain allergens, harmful chemicals, and unethical manufacturing and testing.

Thank you to the FDA, Mayo Clinic, American Journal of Epidemiology, the National Women’s Health Information Center, American Academy of Dermatology, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and Skin Deep for information on this topic.

Photo from Fit Sugar.