Are hair dyes safe? Are they safe to use if they don't touch your scalp or skin? What about those toxic fumes? These are many questions that women who color their hair and cannot bear the thought of mousy or gray locks, have to know.
It is important to remember first of all, that just because you do not see or feel an immediate reaction, that a chemical is not harming you. Some chemicals build up in your body and add to your chemical body burden, causing cancer or other disease years later. Chemicals may also cause seemingly unrelated problems, such as infertility that you will never associate with the beauty or cleaning products you were exposed to throughout your lifetime. When you use chemicals on or near your body, you are essentially performing a science experiment on yourself and your family that you will never know the results of.
That is why you should not put products on your skin or breathe the fumes of products that you are not willing to eat. This is especially true if you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant or breastfeeding, because a developing fetus or newborn baby is especially vulnerable to toxic chemicals. Just because you have colored your hair without an immediate reaction does not mean that there are no potential dangers. If there is a possibility that your newborn will suffer reproductive difficulties in twenty years or have cancer in forty because you colored your hair while pregnant or breastfeeding, would you still do it?
Hair dye, like other cosmetics and personal care products, is not regulated for safety. The government is not looking out for your welfare so it is up to you to research the products that you wish to use to determine if they are safe to use or not. Roughly 400 out of the 456 hair colors ranked at the Skin Deep cosmetics database of the Environmental Working Group are considered high hazard, which means they contain toxic ingredients linked to cancer, developmentive and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, organ toxicity, not to mention allergies and irritation of the eyes, skin or lungs.
What's a girl to do? Women are programmed at every turn to avoid the appearance of aging. We lust after luscious Aniston-esque bronde (yes bronde) high and low lighted shimmering locks. This is a conundrum of the highest magnitude. If you are a women who has always colored your hair, the thought of simply going natural one day is unthinkable. Friends and family would have opinions and comments, much of which will be unsolicited and possibly not so nice. If you are largely gray under your color, then you may face a certain amount of discrimination in the workplace. Forget about being seen as an attractive woman when you are out on the street unless you live in a commune.
Fortunately there are safer options for coloring your hair that will leave less of an impact on your body burden and the earth and will also allow you to wear your hair with confidence and pride. It is important to remember that no amount of color can compensate for a poor haircut. The first rule of hair care is to get a really great cut. The second rule is to keep your hair in great condition. If you have healthy hair and a fabulous cut, then hair color becomes a complement rather than the center stage on your head.
Generally speaking, the more permanent the color, the more toxic the product is. Semi-permanent and temporary colors are much less toxic than permanent colors. Darker colors have been shown to be more toxic than blonde and red shades. Hennas, herbal dyes, vegetable dyes and food based ingredients are the least toxic of all and can leave your hair luscious, healthy and full of shine. If you do insist on a permanent color then there are some smart ways to reduce your exposure to the toxins from hair dyes.
Safe Salon Hair Color
Salons are a safer environment than your home for hair coloring in some ways and a more toxic environment in other ways. because they often highlight/lowlight sections of hair rather than the whole head and the solution rarely touches the scalp. Salons are also usually larger and better ventilated than your bathroom is. You may still get all over hair coloring at a salon by request or prior to the highlights. If you receive all over color plus highlights then you are getting the double whammy of chemicals. You are also exposed to the fumes of every other person getting their hair chemically treated that day.
The easiest way to minimize your chemical exposure at the hair salon is to seek out a chemical free, odor free or herbal hair salon that caters to patients with multiple chemical sensitivity, allergies or cancer. This will also benefit you when you are visiting the salon for a cut because you will not be exposed to the secondhand coloring toxins.
You can also seek out an environmentally friendly salon because many of the same chemicals that harm your body also harm the earth either in the manufacture or disposal process. Many salon employees now suffer from multiple chemical sensitivity themselves or they are trying to avoid the cancers that they are more predisposed to than non-salon workers. Search for salons that use Ecocolors, Hybrid or European brands. Some salons use infrared technology to open up the hair shaft to absorb color rather than peroxides and ammonias. Tell the salon that you suffer from MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity) and they can point you in the right direction if they are unable to accommodate your needs.
Safer Home Hair Color:
You cannot beat the price and convenience of home hair coloring. While you miss out on the spa treatments, the cappuccino and the professional highlights, you can give yourself a quick boost and cover your gray for less than $20, wearing your pajamas, in less than an hour. In addition to being exceptionally toxic however, home hair dyes can leave your hair one dimensional with flat, lifeless unicolor that has been clearly colored at home. Natural, healthy hair has multiple colors and tones that the salons are always trying to emulate.
A great solution to the toxic, unicolor home dyes are henna based dyes which can also cover your gray. Henna is plant based, totally safe and non-toxic. Henna enhances your natural color rather than totally covering it, which allows some of your natural highlights to come through. Henna coats and seals the hair shaft so it not only products your hair from environmental and weather related damage, but it also makes your hair gleam.
Look for home based hair dyes that are henna or herb based, and do not contain PPD, ammonia, peroxide, heavy metals, pesticides or other chemicals. In addition, you probably want to seek a product that is environmentally friendly and not tested on animals. Another way of choosing a safe brand, is to check the Cosmetics Database for products that are rated low hazard (0-2) on the safety scale such as the Light Mountain line of hair colors.
Herbal Home Hair Color
A variety of herbs have been used throughout history to color hair. Using herbs, food or infusions is the safest, non-toxic and gentle way to color your hair. The changes to your hair are often more subtle, take much more time to see a noticeable difference and are frequently temporary. While the rinses and infusions will often condition your hair, you can also add some Vitamin E, Wheatgerm Oil, Avocado Oil or any other hair healthy oil to your rinses for extra shine and conditioning.
There is a great selection of shampoos, conditioners and styling products on the market today that will enhance and protect every color of hair from brunette to gray. This is a much more convenient alternative to creating your own infusions and rinses but most of these products still come with a toxic pricetag. You can check the cosmeticsdatabase to see if you want to take that risk otherwise whip up an infusion and treat yourself to old-school hair enhancing with no toxic additions to your body burden. Create an infusion by boiling the herbs in water then cooling and straining prior to using the rinse.
* Rinse your hair with the cooled water left after boiling unpeeled potatoes.
* Rinse with teas made from Rosemary, Sage, Raspberry leaves, Parsley, or Catnip
* Rinse with black Coffee or black Tea
* Rinse with an infusion of Tea, Walnuts and Coffee
* Rinse with and infustion of Apple Cider Vinegar, Rosemary and Coffee .
* Rinse with infusions or teas made from Saffron, Turmeric, Calendula (marigold), Mullein.
* Rinse with an infusion of Avena Sativa (oat straw), Licorice Root and Saffron
* Rinse with Chamomile tea
* Boil chopped rhubarb in water then cool, strain and rinse hair with water.
Red Hair Rinses:
* Rinse hair with cool, strong black Coffee
* Rinse with teas made from Rosehips, Red Hibiscus, Caledula or Saffron
Gray Hair Rinses:
* Use a Hollyhock infusion or Betony rinse to remove the yellow from gray hair.
Find great recipes for hair infusions and rinses at Geocities/Heartland/Prarie, longlocks.com and Vegfamily.
Written by: Environmental Working Group
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