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Is There a Safe Hair Darkening Formula?

Updated on March 17, 2013
To darken or dye the hair as we age.  Should consumers be concerned about health risk?
To darken or dye the hair as we age. Should consumers be concerned about health risk? | Source

Although the topic of discussion is on the most popular hair darkening products in the marketplace, I've provided some safe use tips at the end of this article for conventional hair dye products and other organic hair color change alternatives.

All hair darkening and dye products should be considered similar in one regard. They all are made by man, considered chemical toxins and when entered into the blood circulation can present health risk.

The most popular hair darkening product in the marketplace is Grecian formula and was first introduced in 1961 as a way to get men to purchase hair products. The product is made by Combe Inc., and they are located in White Plains, New York. Grecian is also known as Grecian Formula 16 in New Zealand and Australia, and labeled as Grecian 2000 in the United Kingdom and other European countries as a "classical and scientific brand."

This hair darkening product liquid or foam is combed into the hair for a period of 2-3 weeks almost daily until desired darkened color is achieved. Thereafter, a weekly application is necessary to maintain the color. The active chemical ingredients that cause the hair to darken is lead acetate which coats and penetrates the hair shaft. It reacts with the sulfur to produce the preferred darkening tones [or shades of black] as determined by hair area application and frequency of product use.

Hair darkening formulas” are popular with men and "now" women because when used with frequency, there are no exposed grey hair roots typical with chemical dyes and no obvious “immediate” hair color changes.

Manufacturers are allowed to put lead acetate into their hair darkening lotions and cream products in low concentration under 0.4% as per FDA (Federal Drug Administration) guidelines. In liquid form this represent 98% by volume of hair product and the remaining ingredient that interacts with it is sulfur. Lead acetate has a sweet taste to it and throughout history has been also used as a sugar substitute. It is also suspected as a carcinogen and of high risk on health when digested.

Some doctors are concerned about the potential absorption through the skin and entering the blood stream. However, blood test trials show there was no significant increase of lead introduced through scalp absorption and then entering the blood stream. Since lead is not very water soluble and the product dries up within a short period of time after use, it is thought the likelihood of lead acetate absorbed into the skin is greatly reduced.

Colmes Inc. now has a product called Restoria that replaced the lead acetate solution with bismuth citrate to avoid using a suspected carcinogenic toxin chemical that is acceptable to many foreign markets that ban the sale of lead acetate hair products.

Regardless, the consumer should be aware that bismuth citrate is a toxin and is also considered to be poisonous to a less degree than its lead based alternative. The FDA has determined Colmes Inc., hair darkening lotions and cream products are considered safe in the United States when used per consumer safety guidelines.

Consumer “Hair Darkening” Preference Satisfaction Feedback - Many consumers report that Restoria does not produce the same result expectations as the original hair darkening formula.

Traditional Hair Dye Health Risk - No hair dye is free of health risk. Always avoid ammonia based and those that bleach with Hydrogen Peroxide and/or ammonia hydroxide. These are especially bad because of the associated health risks to various cancers: Experiments show long-term use of hair dyes increase the risk to blood and bladder cancer.

Traditional Hair Dye Coloring vs. Hair Darkening Products - If you consume or absorb “any” hair chemical product expect "some" chemical toxins to enter the blood stream which can present a health risk. Use product in accordance with consumer safety guidelines to reduce that risk.

Consumer Safety Hair Darkening Product Use Tips – You are more likely to ingest significant lead based hair darkening chemicals than you would through skin absorption. When you use hair darkening products be mindful of accidental ingestion from chemicals left on hands and hair that can enter the blood stream. For example, when you eat, handle or prepare foods for yourself or others, you end up passing the chemical toxins from your hands to foods to be ingested. So be sure to wash your hands frequently to avoid self-ingestion and passing of toxins to others. Also if you have small children and hold them too close to your face, be mindful if you’re treated hair touches another’s skin. Toxins can enter the blood stream through direct skin contact.

Should consumers use hair darkening or color dye Products? Consumer product use is a personal choice. If you feel it necessary to chemically darken or dye your hair and concerned about your health be sure to follow the product safe use instruction to reduce that risk. If you want to remove the chemicals for your hair products, there are organic hair dye alternatives like "organic" Henna (see product and other links) that can accomplish the same result without the health risk.

In conclusion, be very skeptical of hair products that are labeled natural as opposed to organic. Natural can mean that these branded products have some natural ingredients in them, but they "likely" have harmful chemicals in them as well. Only products "labeled organic" have no man made chemicals in them.

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