The Harsh Chemicals in Permanent Hair Dyes Linked to Health Risks
Did you know that there are synthetic chemicals like Para-phenylenediamine (PPD), ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, resorcinol, toluene, lead acetate, among others, in some permanent hair dyes?
That's quite a handful, right? Although it has been said that we're still barely scratching the surface of the long-term effects of harsh chemicals in hair dyes, these ingredients have been known to be linked (not found to be the cause) to certain health risks:
PPD → A coloring agent used in hair dyes. It is a coal-tar color which comes from petroleum that is linked to skin sensitization, cancer, allergies, and birth defects. Coal tars themselves, take note, have been strongly associated to multiple forms of cancer.
Ammonia → For permanent dyes to color hair, they use ammonia, a respiratory and asthma irritant and potential endocrine disruptor, to open up the protective layers of the hair's proteins so that the dye can reach the hair shaft.
Hydrogen Peroxide → A bleaching agent, though generally safe for the hair, can irritate the scalp. It also damages the hair cuticle, the outer layer of the hair, and when the cuticle is damaged, this may lead to hair loss.
Resorcinol → Usually used with other chemicals to get a specific dye color. This has been linked to organ system toxicity and hormone disruption.
Toluene → Also used to achieve a particular dye color, this has been associated to birth defects, pregnancy loss, and allergic reactions.
Lead acetate → A color additive and is also used to get a certain dye color. Linked to neurotoxicity, an effect that directly or indirectly disrupts the nervous system.
People who are allergic to the aforementioned ingredients or who have sensitive scalps switch to alternatives like semi-permanent plant-based dyes like henna. There are health risks connected to chemical hair dye use, so if they could find a safer choice that could basically do the same thing but without the damage, then they wouldn't have second thoughts about making the switch.
However, a note of caution: just because something is organic or natural does not mean that it cannot cause allergies! Some people may be allergic to certain plants and herbs, so it is strongly recommended for all to do a patch test first to rule out any adverse reactions. Safety first!
Using a cosmetic product surely should not be at the expense of health, which is why it's more of a good reason to embrace the ever-so-reliable henna and indigo for dyeing the hair.
But please be careful in choosing your natural alternatives, because some henna-based products still have chemical adulterants in their list of ingredients. It doesn't hurt to take extra time to verify a product's claims of 'safety' and 'organic' and 'plant-based' and to read the list of ingredients.
MADE SAFE (USA) is a nontoxic seal, and it screens ingredients for known behavioral toxins, carcinogens, developmental toxins, endocrine disruptors, fire retardants, heavy metals, neurotoxins, high-risk pesticides, reproductive toxins, toxic solvents, and harmful VOCs.
Products having this certification means that they are made without these ingredients known or suspected to harm human health and even ecosystems. Check out their database here.
Coloring our hair has been a human activity for thousands of years, and along with that are our own reasons of doing it. But with this desire and choice, we should always be mindful of what kind of hair dyes we use and what they are made of (don't stop at labels and claims—read the whole list of ingredients!), because it's one thing to have beautifully colored hair, but if there's a possible risk that could come with it, then maybe it's time to let old habits die hard and make healthier choices.