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How Much Do You Know About Hair Coloring?

Dark brown, black, auburn and maybe even a pinch of green, whatever hair coloring you choose there are many health hazards in these products. If you are a person that uses conventional hair dyes often, it’s really time for you to reconsider.

To a lot of people, they always get the wrong conception that coloring products are just composition of color agents meant to change their hair’s original color but actually a great deal of conventional hair dyes are really dangerous to your hair and health.

As a matter of fact, most conventional hair dyes and coloring agents contain the most potent and harmful chemicals compare to any other beauty products so it’s important to know what you are going to apply on your hair.


The Types of Hair Coloring

When you go in to your hair salon for coloring, there are loads of choices on what you can do with your hair’s color. Some of the most common ones are

  • Bleaching
  • Highlighting/Lowlighting
  • Tinting
  • Re-Coloring

If you are looking for a modest change in your hair color, it will usually take at least two to three steps to get the color style and look you desire.

Generally speaking, there are 3 main ways to change your hair color which are

Temporary Hair Dyes

If you are looking to change your hair color temporarily, the most common choice is temporary hair dyes. Temporary coloring products usually comes in the form of rinses, gels, mousses and sprays and majority of these products do not penetrate or modify the structure of the hair shaft.

Temporary hair coloring products usually work like surface paint as the molecules usually stay on the outer surface of your hair. In most cases, you can usually wash the color off immediately with a single shampooing. If you just want to experiment with a different hair color, temporary hair dyes might be the safest and least harmful way to go about it.

Semi Permanent Hair Dyes

A harsher but less invasive way to change your hair color is to use semi permanent dyes. Instead of staying on the surface of your hair, semi permanent dyes contain smaller molecules which will penetrate through your hair shaft and stay there for a longer period of time. Usually it will take around 6 to 10 shampoos to get the hair color out.

Semi permanents usually do not require the use of oxidization agents and the color change is less impressive for dark colored hair.

Permanent Dyes

Frequent use of permanent dyes is the harshest way you should treat your hair. There are a myriad range of strong chemicals found in permanent dyes that helps the color to stay in. Permanent hair dyes are divided into 2 categories

  • Oxidization Dyes
    To permanently change your hair color, you will require the use of dye intermediates like PPD and a developer containing hydrogen peroxide for oxidization. Both of these are mixed together before application and the chemicals will cause your hair cuticle to swell so that the coloring agents can easily penetrate through. Once inside your hair shaft, the agent will break up your original color pigments known as melanin and replaces it with the new color. In most cases, the color change is very permanent.
  • Progressive Dyes
    A progressive hair dye is another kind of permanent dye that changes your original hair color gradually by regular application. The dye contains lead acetate, which can easily absorb into your hair shaft and react with the structure of your hair. Over time, the lead will replace the color of your hair with the new color.

The Dangers in Hair Dyes

No matter what option you choose, each type of conventional hair dyes carries their own risks. The more you use, the more you are exposed to these harmful chemicals. Now let’s look at some of the most harmful chemicals found in conventional hair coloring products.


Para-Phenylenediamine (PPD)

The most common and potent ingredient found in most hair dyes is PPD, which is a chemical required to permanently infuse and darken your hair. PPD is listed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as a potential allergen where it’s commonly known to cause allergic reactions like

  • redness
  • sores
  • itching
  • burning sensations
  • headaches

PPD is also quite well known as a possible carcinogen (cancer causing agent) after oxidation with the developer like Hydrogen Peroxide or Ammonia required in most permanent hair dyes. A report from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggested that prolonged exposure to dark hair dyes might increase the occurrence of various forms of cancer ranging from

  • non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Breast Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Bladder Cancer

Most permanent hair dyes products contain PPD or its equivalent so think twice before you use any of these products.


Coal Tar

Another way to darken your hair is by using a common ingredient known as coal tar. As a matter of fact, almost 70% of hair coloring products contain this dangerous ingredient.

Coal tar is cheap to produce and it helps the dye to darken the hair significantly. It also can easily absorbed through your skin and trigger allergic reactions. That is why FDA requires all hair dyes manufacturer to indicate that coal tar is hazardous and advises you to do a patch test first to see whether you are allergic to this ingredient. However, even after doing the patch tests, allergic symptoms might only show after 10 years of use.


Lead Acetate

One of the most dangerous products found in hair coloring products is lead acetate. Regularly used for progressive dyes that change your hair color gradually, lead acetate is already banned from cosmetics in the European Union and it’s also listed as a potential carcinogen in California. Lead is said to be able to disrupt the function of your brain’s neurotransmitters and might also

  • Disrupts your heart activity
  • Causes blood clots
  • Reduces intelligence
  • Affects sensory and motor developments
  • Other neurological problems

If you are pregnant, then avoid lead products totally because it has been reported to be able to cross the placenta and the embryo that can lead to fetal mortality. That is why lead in the first place was banned from so many products like paint. Although studies have shown that there is no significant risk of lead contamination in hair dyes, regular use might increase your risk and might gradually lead to other health problems.


Other Health Risks in Hair Coloring

Take a look at the ingredients of most hair dyes, you will find many more names that you can’t even read. Majority of these products are synthetic chemicals that can have adverse effects on your health. Some more prominent names to remember are

  • DMDM Hydantoin
    Found in a lot of hair coloring products as well as a lot of beauty products like some shampoos and conditioners, this preservative is already been restricted in Japan because it’s linked with causing immune system problems.
  • Ammonia
    Widely used in fertilizers, plastics and explosives, ammonia is toxic and corrosive. This chemical can cause running nose, coughing and respiratory problems if inhaled. Some hair dyes contain high concentrations of ammonia can cause skin inflammations as well.
  • Resorcinol
    Another chemical with a funny name but comes with serious health risks. Resorcinol is used for oxidation in some permanent hair dyes and it has been classified as an irritant and also a potential carcinogen.

What Experts Say about Hair Dyes

Hair dyes are one of the most researched beauty products in the cosmetics industry because they contain so much controversial ingredients. Conventional hair dyes also receives a magnitude of complains from it users as a fair number of users had suffered side effects related to hair dyes. Take a look at some of the reports by the relevant authorities below.

CFSAN/Office of Cosmetics and Colors – Hair Dye Products
FDA Consumer magazine – Heading Off Hair-Care Disasters
FDA Report – Hair Dye and Hair Relaxers
FDA Consumer Magazine – Dangers of Lead Still Linger
Enviromental Working Group – Safe ways to color your hair
American Cancer Society – Hair Dyes


Reduce Your Risk NOW

To minimize your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, always be a smart consumer and asks your salon to use only chemicals and allergens free hair dyes products. There are environmentally friendly salons that offer products like Ecocolors or some other natural hair dyes like henna that do not contain harmful chemicals.

Some high end salons also use high tech equipment like infrared to open up the hair shaft for the color to absorb through rather than using oxidizers like peroxides and ammonia. If your salon does not have such alternatives, search for a new one.


Choose Natural Hair Colorings

The other way to change your hair color without risking your health is to choose a natural route. There are actually a lot of alternatives that you can use to change the color of your hair. Of course, natural effects might not be as prominent as their chemical counterparts, but there is definitely no point risking your health just for the sake of a more permanent and solid color.

<em>Chinese Proverb</em>
You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.Chinese Proverb

It’s time to compromise and you will find that using natural dyes will help you feel much better and healthier. It’s also the way of the 21st century.

Learn more tips of how to keep your hair natural and beautiful.

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The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. We strongly recommend you or anyone to seek professional medical opinion if necessary.
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