Avoiding Toxic Chemicals In Hair Dyes
Avoiding toxic chemicals in hair dyes is so important for our health. Conventional hair dyes and hair bleaches contain some very dangerous, toxic ingredients. This is something we all need to be aware of, as hair colouring is something that most women and some men will regularly do at some stage in their lives.
The facts are this, once most people start colouring their hair and especially those doing it to hide the greys, it is something that they will continue to do on roughly a 4- 6 weekly basis for years and often sometimes decades on end and this leads to accumulative exposure harmful chemicals.
Therefore knowing this, finding a safer hair colouring option really does makes very good sense!
When we colour our hair with permanent, or even semi-permanent hair dyes, we are applying directly onto our scalps, a range of chemical ingredients that are often extremely toxic and also therefore still being tested on animals also. These ingredients can burn and irritate our skin and can also potentially enter into our bloodstream, seriously affecting our health.
Toxic Ingredients In Hair Dye
Although not the easiest thing to do, try and avoid using the mainstream brands, of permanent, synthetic based, hair dyes, as these usually contain the harshest and the most volatile ingredients.
Consumers want perfect hair colour and 100% grey coverage in the shortest amount of time, so manufacturers work to produce products that will meet the demands of their customers and the results are anything buy safe!
Permanent hair dyes/ hair tints, contain some very potent and hazardous ingredients.There are hundreds, upon hundreds of ingredients that are used in the manufacturing of hair colouring products and they differ from country to country. Each country varies greatly as to which ingredients are deemed safe enough for use, therefore avoiding toxic chemicals in hair dyes comes down to the consumer knowing a little bit about which chemicals are the really dangerous ones.
Once again, Europe leads the way in health and safety, here is a list from the European Commission of Consumer Affairs, of 179 ingredients, banned for use in hair dyes. As recently as July 2006 The European Commission banned these 22 ingredients in hair dyes because of their suspected link to cancer.
Here is a comprehensive listing of studies done on hair dyes and their links to various cancers in both the adult colouring their hair and also in infants whose mothers regularly coloured their hair. See – Concern Of Hair Dye Use And Malignancy Development.
Some of the most common and dangerous ingredients used in hair dyes are;
These ingredients can cause serious skin, eye and lung irritation, immunotoxicity, allergies, chemical burns and blistering to the scalp, hair breakage and loss and some forms of cancer.
There is also scientific evidence to suggest that certain ingredients in darker hair colourants may lead to a higher chance of developing bladder cancer read the PubMed report here.
On top of the dyes and bleaches in hair products you then have the artificial fragrances used to mask the smell of ingredients like ammonia. These synthetic fragrances in themselves are health hazards, to learn more, read my article on Synthetic Perfumes Making Us Sick.
The Environmental Working Group is a great site to research, in-depth, individual products and their ingredients – have a read of one of their breakdown of a hair dye by a very well know cosmetic company here, (and this company, like many others, advertises the fact that the product is ammonia free, which is of little value when you compare the dangers associated with some of the other ingredients in the product).
If you still want to colour your hair after reading the above, there are safer, more natural based options.
Colouring Your Hair Safely When Pregnant
Pregnant women are advised it is better to avoid colouring their hair if they can, especially if they dye their hair rather than have highlights, as the colour mixture is painted straight onto the scalp, as opposed to just the hair itself and therefore absorb into the blood stream. Some studies have shown that some of the ingredients used in hair dyes may adversely affect a growing foetus and studies have shown an increase risk of cancer in children whose mothers coloured their hair during pregnancy – see report here and results are 3/4 down the page.
I realize that going without colouring her hair isn’t a choice every pregnant women is going to make so… if you have to colour your hair while pregnant, then use the safest natural hair dyes you can find ;e.g. pure henna or semi permanent hair dyes by Tints of Nature, and opt for foil highlights or low lights, this way the hair colour is not applied directly to your scalp.
Using Natural Products To Colour Your Hair Safely In A Salon.
If you prefer to get your hair coloured professionally, then research first and find a salon that uses more natural based colouring systems, or bring in your own products for your colourist to use. Be sure to tell your colourist that you take full responsibility for the product and the resulting colour, as many hairdresser may object saying they don’t know the product and prefer to use the products they know give them perfect results.
Colouring Hair Using Natural Henna.
By far the safest option to use when colouring your hair would be to use pure, organic Henna – there is only one true, 100% pure, Henna product and that is Lawsonia inermis.
This pure henna produces only a reddish, brown colour, all other colours of Henna need to be produced by adding in other ingredients e.g plant dyes.
Henna is also great at conditioning and adding shine to the hair.
Note: beware of Compound Henna Dyes, these are Henna colouring products that may use unsafe, chemicals to alter the Henna colours. Ingredients to beware of are Para-Phenylenediamine (PPD) a potential carcinogen and metallic salts e.g lead acetate etc. You can add natural ingredients such as Indigo, Cassia and Walnut to Pure Henna to alter the colour shades. If you choose to use pre-mixed Compound Henna products, make sure the ingredients are listed clearly and that they use only natural botanical, plant dyes etc.
Hair Colouring Safety Tips
Choose pure organic henna where possible, but if you are not going to use pure henna then follow these steps.
- Read the labels carefully. Don’t be fooled be advertising campaigns that say things like,’ botanical infused colouring systems’, or ‘contains organic ingredients’, or ‘natural fruit extracts’. You need to really read through ALL the ingredients and actually see what dangerous ingredients that the manufacturer is NOT using and then make a choice.
- Avoid the following chemicals, even if they are in natural products PPD, Resorcinol, Ammonia & Peroxide which is used to bleach and lighten hair.Cosmetic Datasbase by EWG, is a great source of information and lists thousands of products and rates the hazards of the ingredients of each product in detail.
- If you must go the synthetic way, then opt for semi-permanent tints rather than permanent, as these contain less of the harmful ingredients.
- It is highly recommend to avoid colouring your hair for as long as you possibly can. Plucking or cutting out few stray grey hairs has to be healthier than applying a chemical cocktail to your scalp.
- Teenagers should be heavily discouraged from colouring their hair. Yes we know that parents will often be met with extreme protest, but try explaining to your children why it is important to avoid hair colouring and allow them freedom to show their individuality in other ways where possible.
Cruelty Free Hair Colouring
I also ask that you choose to use certified cruelty free hair colouring products; e.g. Tints Of Nature, Logona and Sante that are accredited cruelty free and listed on the Cruelty Free List by Choose Cruelty Free here in Australia.
The Leaping Bunny List if your are living in the USA/UK/Europe is the only other list I can recommend, but only choose Leaping Bunny listed companies provided they are not owned by a parent company that are not certified cruelty free; e.g. Body Shop is owned by L’Oreal.
Please remember – you cannot trust that a company may write on their products, or advertise that they are cruelty free, as any company can use clever loopholes to claim this, when in-fact they are still animal testing. See more in Animal Testing Of Cosmetics Do Your Part To Stop It
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Browse more helpful articles in my Personal Care section here.