Can Hair Dyes Cause Cancer? Some Organic Options

After seeing Amy Adams in American Hustle I knew it was time to go red – again.   I have some natural red in the genes (Grandpa Tom was a true redhead) but the winter really turns up the mousy-brown in my luscious locks.  I brought several bottles of red dye with me to Geneva from NY 3.5 years ago but have no clue what the shelf life is.  I began to wonder – is this stuff cancer causing?  Which led me to the below article from Good Housekeeping and several purchases on the internet.  I am still waiting for them to arrive so I can’t update you on the products yet.  But stay tuned ladies.

Finding Safe Organic Hair Dye Products

There is no such thing as organic hair dye. There are synthetic versions that work well and contain a lot of chemicals. And, then there are natural things like henna and vegetable dyes which are usually applied at home (unless a friendly salon worker/friend obliges). To be totally honest these safest options haven’t gotten the greatest reviews either in my inbox or online. People report turning orange as carrots (with real henna), or very inconsistent results, even with the same product, over time. These colors don’t last very long, either. But that’s par for the course with a more natural dye, as it doesn’t penetrate the hair shaft like a synthetic does.

Going for something harsher is a personal decision. Before doing it, be aware that The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) found that 69% of hair-dye products they tested for their Skin Deep database may pose cancer risks. A 1994 National Cancer Institute report states dark dyes used over long periods of time seem to increase the risk of cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. And a 2001 International Journal of Cancer study found people who use permanent hair dye are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as those who don’t dye. The FDA doesn’t regulate hair dye ingredients (synthetic or natural).  Great! So wonderful to know our government is looking out for us!

If you’re a chemical ingredient junkie, here’s some of what should be avoided in conventional hair dyes: ammonia, peroxide, PPDs (para-phenylenediamines, the chemical that creates color and is widely thought to be carcinogenic), coal tar (the FDA issued a warning about it being a possible cancer risk back in 1993), lead, toluene and resorcinol.

Salons

If you want to go to a salon for a professional application, John Masters in New York City says they have ammonia-free, herbal-based, low-PPD, dyes that are also lead-, toluene- and coal tar-free. His line of hair products, unlike the dyes, are totally organic (I’m a huge fan). When we interviewed him for the book, he suggested that highlights and lowlights are safer as they don’t place dye in contact with the scalp. Your hair, your choice.

Aveda salons are another option. Annie Berthold Bond, author of Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living ($13 on amazon), writes about their salons at Care2.com. Her thoughts:

“Salon brands of hair dye are almost all 100% synthetic and petroleum-based. The dyes are usually the controversial oxidative dyes. Aveda uses oxidative dyes like the rest of the industry (albeit in a small percentage), because so far there are no plant formulas that can provide consistent, long- lasting dyes. Oxidative dyes make up the 1% to 3% synthetic ingredients of the Aveda formulations. Oxidative dyes have no pre-existing colors until they are combined and joined with oxidizing ingredients. Most dyes use a synthetic to do this, but Aveda did research into essential oils and plant extracts, and have found and patented a process to oxidize the dye using green tea extract. Not only is the end process less petroleum-based, but the result is more natural looking. The common base formulas for dyes are petrochemical solvents, and in this process Aveda has substituted protective and lubricating plant oils in the formula so that it is significantly less drying to the hair than the solvents normally used.”

At-home Dyes

Here’s a list of seven brands I’ve heard are quite pure. Most are widely available but I’m including their manufacturer’s websites so people can do their own research and ingredient-label-reading before using. Several of these brands are also available at Naturalhairdye.com, which has an interesting decision guide to help consumers make educated choices.

I’m sure you noticed most of these dyes aren’t American-made. Another option is to hop a plane to Europe, carbon footprint be damned, as the European Commission banned 22 hair-dye substances that could potentially caused bladder cancer back in 2006. Or you could always — dare I say it? — embrace your gray.

FOLLOW me (button in right column) to receive an email when  new anti-aging tip posts.  You too can be as luscious as a goddess and as ageless as a vampire! Check out my ebook on amazon: The Ultimate Guide to Anti-Aging. It has a lot more pics of everything including yours truly… Spread the word please!!

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