Hair Dye Poses Health Risks – What Should You Do?

The practice of dying hair has been around since the time of Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire. Today it’s a $7 billion industry worldwide. But hair dye poses some health risks.

A Little Bit About Hair

Hair has two major parts – the hair follicle and the hair shaft. The hair follicle is located at the root of the hair and attaches each hair to the scalp. The hair shaft sticks out of the follicle. Although hair follicles contain living cells, hair shafts do not. Therefore, hair color comes from the pigment melanin, which is made by cells in the hair follicle. Your hair turns gray when the production of melanin decreases or stops.

A Little Bit About Hair Dyes

Hair dyes remove the natural color and/or add new color to the hair shaft. They can be natural or synthetic. Natural dyes like henna are obtained from plants. Synthetic dyes can be divided into two general categories: temporary/semi-permanent and permanent.
Temporary dyes only penetrate the outermost layer of the hair shaft and are easily removed with one shampooing. Semi-permanent and permanent dyes reach deeper into the hair shaft. While semi-permanent dyes are removed with 4-12 shampoos, permanent dyes are resistant to shampooing.
Permanent dyes cause chemical changes that increase the penetration of the product into the hair, bleach the natural melanin, and create color molecules that get trapped inside the shaft. These chemical changes can damage the hair. Semi-permanent dyes also contain chemicals that can remove melanin from the hair shaft, but they are not as strong and cause less damage.

Your Natural Hair Dye Options


Henna conjures up memories of the hippies BUT it’s the organic hair dye choice for anyone who wants color, gloss, and vibrance without the chemicals. It is a plant native to the Middle East that has been used to decorate the hair and body for thousands of years.

Henna is a great choice for DIY colorists

Check out Lush. Their hennas use Fair Trade cocoa butter and ingredients like indigo herb and fresh organic lemon juice to create bricks of organic hair dye. With practice, they are easy to use and give wonderful, lustrous color. Shades available include:

  • Fiery Rouge
  • Chocolatey Brun
  • Autumnal Marron
  • Dark Noir

These products are advertised to add shine and condition as the henna coats the hair in a protective layer, like a varnish.
Although it will gradually fade over time, henna does not wash out. Because of this, and because the dye works like a varnish over your natural hair color rather than chemically changing it, gray roots are far harder to cover. Your gray will reappear much sooner with henna than with synthetic dyes.

Our suggestions if you want to go with hennas

We suggest getting a red color-depositing shampoo and conditioner or getting your hair toned between appointments. And, remember to always test new products on a few strands of hair before you GO ALL IN!
Keep in mind that the more times you use henna, the more of each hair strand is covered with the henna particles gripping onto the cuticle of the hair. This means you can henna your hair as often as you like. Monthly will keep your color beautifully bright.

Other places to buy hennas:

Tints of Nature
This vegan hair dye company sells henna dyes.  They also sell natural Permanent Hair Color, which is known to naturally nourish hair and cover grays. Their products are 95% naturally derived with 75% certified organic ingredients; no ammonia, propylene glycol or other harsh chemicals, they are also vegan-friendly and cruelty-free.
Tints of Nature dyes come in 24 shades from black, brown, red, and blonde.
Madison Reed
Talk about a marketing machine, you would have to be living in a cave to not have heard of this company. Madison Reed claims to be at the forefront of innovation, the first-ever Smart 6-Free permanent hair color: Free of ammonia, parabens, resorcinol, PPD, phthalates, and gluten. And, they have added nutrients to their colors, including keratin, argan oil, and ginseng root extract to protect and pamper hair.
They have a large variety of colors.
Root Reboot
Root Reboot is great if you just need a root boost – it helps extend the life of your color by touching up the roots.
Regardless of which products you choose natural dyes or synthetic dyes you likely want your hair color to last as long as possible.

Tips to Help Your Hair Dye Last

  • Avoid hot showers
  • Don’t overuse hot styling tools
  • Always wait as long as possible to wash your hair – dry shampoo is a great aid in this.
  • Deep condition less
  • Avoid swimming in pools with your hair uncovered
  • Use a color-friendly shampoo

Our Final Thought

Of all of the options for dying your hair, permanent hair dye poses health risks the most.
Science-based evidence is still unclear on how risky chemicals from hair products and dyes are for you.  But there are indeed chemicals in dye and your scalp is a large, porous area.  Beyond this consideration, dye can damage the hair itself since it penetrates the shaft of the hair.
There are some who believe it may cause cancer.  But again, there is no research to back up any of these claims.
If you want to be aware, be sure to follow recent studies as they come out and for sure there are toxins and chemicals in hair dyes, and some are tested on animals.
Henna dye seems to be the best alternative because it’s all-natural and it colors your hair without penetrating it.
Most hair dyes will last 4-6 weeks. But if you need to cover gray with henna, you will want to reapply the product every 3-4 weeks.

80/20 Rule
Though I know that hair dye poses health risks I, for one, will continue to use permanent dye.  I do try to live by the 80/20 rule in what I eat and what I put on my body and hair.  I am not ready to show my gray and I am not ready to take on the process of DYI with henna.
Please comment below, I’d love to know how you are feeling about the options in hair color?  Are you all-natural? Do you use permanent or organic dyes?



Related Posts