- Disabilities & the Disabled
Find a Safe Hair Dye or Safe Hair Color if You Value Your Health
Most of us experience the surprise discovery of a few gray hairs at some point in our lives - sometimes more than a few. As part of my quest to build a bionic immune system I have been forced to take a good hard look at the personal care products I use. In the past I have done a lot of crazy things to my hair, ranging from blindly using whatever shampoos and conditioners worked and smelled great, all the way to the Japanese Straightening Technique; all without a thought to the dangerous chemicals that were being absorbed through my scalp. After my hair started to grow back after chemotherapy I considered the idea of simply letting the gray show naturally (clearly the safest option). I should say, I briefly considered this option, but very soon discovered that I am not one of the people who can gracefully embrace the gray in my hair. On the other hand, I was (and still am) determined to minimize the dangers of any treatments, so I needed a solution that would hide the gray but not compromise my health. I did a lot of research before finding a solution that worked for me.
If you are interested in a safer hair dye check out these brands:
- Coastal Classic Creations
- Advanced Cosmetic Technologies
- Daniel Field Hair Color
What are the Types of Hair Dye?
There are several different types of hair dyes commonly used to deal with the gray hair situation.
- Temporary Color: This process does not penetrate the scalp and washes out after just a few shampoos. This is very useful for last-minute touch ups.
- Semi-permanent color: This process is used to make the hair darker and washes out after 6-12 shampoos. The benefit is that you can change the color easily if you don't like it, because it washes out fairly quickly.
- Demi-permanent Color: This process deepens and intensifies the already existing color of the hair. It lasts for about 12-26 shampoos.
- Permanent Color: This process removes the pigment from the hair while depositing new color. This can be used to make even a drastic change in color and does not wash out (although the roots need to be retouched every 6-8 weeks). This is the most effective way to cover gray hair.
How Dangerous is it to Color Your Hair?
Did you hear the story about Julie McCabe? She is in a coma caused by the Para-Phenylendiamine (PPD) in her hair dye. She had dyed her hair many times before without incident, but eventually the PPD built up in her body and caused a severe allergic reaction. Even if she recovers from the coma she will almost certainly have severe brain damage. Although this is an extreme case, allergic reactions from PPD are more common than people realize.
Did you know that the FDA does not have to approve the majority of the products used in hair salons or used to create cosmetics? These industries are free to regulate themselves, and as you can imagine, profit typically is higher on the priority list than safety. Here are just a few of the chemicals contained in most hair dyes:
PPD can also cause a person to be cross-sensitized, which means that a person who experiences an adverse reaction to PPD can develop a sensitivity to other related chemicals. A reaction can include anything from a blister rash to anaphylactic shock. One woman that became cross-sensitized after getting a blister rash from PPD can never feel safe walking into any new environment like a house or building; or be anywhere near people that have any trace of fragrance from their personal care products; and must avoid the textile dyes found in most clothing. She has to bring an Epi-Pen everywhere due to the risk of anaphylactic shock. Her life is forever changed after a reaction to common hair dye.
- Para-Phenylendiamine(PPD): PPD makes it possible for the color to penetrate the hair shaft. It is used in 99% of permanent hair dyes and is by far the most dangerous component. PPD can cause severe allergic reactions, ranging from welts on the body to, in extreme cases, coma or even death. It has been linked to bladder cancer, Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Hodgkin's Disease, and Multiple Myeloma with possible links to breast and uterine cancer.
- Ammonia and Hydrogen peroxide: Ammonia by itself can lead to skin inflammation, coughing, and difficulty breathing. This chemical can cause even worse health hazards when mixed with hydrogen peroxide because it turns into a carcinogen much more dangerous than either of the individual components.
- Lead Acetate: Although lead was removed from many household paints, it still remains in many hair dyes. It can disrupt the function of the brain's neurotransmitters and can also cause blood clots and reduce intelligence levels.
- Formaldehyde: This is used to embalm bodies and is also found in most products used to permanently straighten hair. Some of the short-term effects are headaches, nausea, burning eyes, and skin irritation. However the long-term effects can result in cancer.
Does your hair dye contain Para-Phenylenediamine(PPD)?
My Solution to Reduce the Health Risks Caused by Hair Dyes
I'm not one of those people that has the ability to achieve a good result with the home dye kits. Whenever I try it usually ends with some type of hair disaster, so I knew I had to find a salon that could do the job. I found the perfect place in the East Village in New York City. This salon uses an herbal color line that is perfume-free and safe for pregnant women as well as people with chemical sensitivities.
I had always felt very comfortable with all the products used in the salon, but when I began writing about the horrors of hair dye, I realized that I had never taken the time to really find out if the dye used by my hair colorist had PPD, or any of the other toxic chemicals. I knew it didn't make my eyes water, and in fact was completely odor-free, so assumed that it probably was a significant improvement. Over the past year I had been making gradual improvements in my lifestyle, focusing on what I saw as the biggest risks first, and simply picked what seemed to be a safe salon. Now, however, I had reached a point where I was ready to check out my hair dye to make sure that my choice was the right one. Fortunately I had an appointment scheduled so I decided to ask for full disclosure from my salon, regardless of the reaction I might receive.
I reached the salon by taxi at 12 noon on a Sunday. As I sat down to wait, I was offered the usual assortment of teas that this salon always has in stock, usually accompanied by some delicious treats of the raw foods variety. After choosing the delicious peppermint tea that I have developed a taste for, I explained that I was writing an article on hair dye and would like to know exactly what ingredients are in mine. At this salon you don't just get color or a haircut but an entire organic hair experience. My hair stylist Jane has been living the green life for many years and eats primarily raw foods. She is a wealth of information and I trust her completely to always give me an honest answer about the products, and even about how my hair really looks. It turns out that my hair dye contains less than 1% PPD, which is much less than 'normal' hair dyes, and Jane was currently experimenting with a completely PPD-free hair dye. The good news was that my current dye doesn't contain any toxins other than this tiny quantity of PPD. Since I only color my hair three or four times a year I am comfortable with this solution.
How often do you color your hair?
What Can You do to Minimize the Risk?
- Don't color your hair and learn to embrace your natural hair.
- Color your hair less frequently.
- Don't leave hair dye on any longer than necessary.
- Find a salon in your area that uses a safer alternative with fewer toxins
- Apply the dye at home using a dye that is free of PPD or other dangerous toxins.
Each individual has to make their own choice about the personal care products they use to feel good because feeling good about yourself is important to good health. Using a product without harsh chemicals will have the added benefit of hair that is healthier and shinier. If there is a safer alternative that is equally effective and minimizes the exposure to toxins I suggest checking it out. Small changes lead to big results. Cheers to good health!!