Hair Dye has Health Risks – What Should You Do???

Let’s face it, very few women look great without coloring their hair. This might be why it’s a $7 billion industry worldwide.

The problem is hair dye has health risks. Most color contains chemicals.  The evidence is still unstable but many believe hair color is bad for us; some even believe it can lead to cancer.  To evaluate this let’s start with some basic education.

First, let me tell you a little bit about hair and how color works…

Hair has two major parts:

  • Hair follicles are located at the roots and attaches each strand to the scalp. They contain living cells. Color comes from the pigment melanin, which is made up by cells in the hair follicle. Hair turns gray when the production of melanin decreases or stops.
  • Hair shafts stick out of the follicle, they do not contain living cells.

When we dye our hair with either natural or synthetic products we remove the natural color and/or add new color to the hair shaft.

So what the difference between natural dyes?
  • As you would guess, natural dye typically in the form of henna is obtained from plants.
  • Synthetic dyes can be divided into two general categories:
    • 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.  Semi-permanent dyes also contain chemicals that can remove melanin from the hair shaft, they are not as strong and they cause less damage.
So what should you do???
Are you committed to avoiding chemicals? If so Consider Henna!

Henna is the best choice for organic hair dye for anyone who wants color, gloss and vibrance, without the chemicals! It is derived from a plant native to the Middle East that has been used to decorate the hair and body for thousands of years. Check out Lush’s hennas. I love Lush for anything organic and natural. For their hennas they 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.  Shade’s available include:

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

These products do not wash out although they will gradually fade over time. 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 and will reappear much sooner than synthetic dyes.

Tricks to work help natural dye last longer…
  • Try a red color depositing shampoo and conditioner
  • Consider having your hair toned between appointments
  • Stay with it – the more times you use henna the more of each hair strand is covered with the product. 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 Vegan Hair Dye. They also sell natural Permanent Hair Color  which is known to naturally nourishes hair and cover gray. These 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 have not heard of this company.  They taut that they are at the forefront of innovation, the first ever Smart 6-Free permanent hair color: Free of ammonia, parabens, resorcinol, PPD, phthalates, and gluten. With added nutrients including keratin, argan oil, and ginseng root extract to protect and pamper hair. They have a large variety of colors. Their Root Reboot also 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 for color longevity regarding of natural vs synthetic products
  • Avoid hot showers
  • Don’t over use hot styling tools
  • 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 thoughts…

Of all of the options for dying your hair, permanent color is the worst for your hair AND it lasts the longest.

Science based evidence is still unclear on how bad 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.

If you want to be aware, follow recent studies as they come out. I will be sure to keep you updated as well.

Henna dye seems to be the best alternative because it’s all natural and it does color your hair without penetrating it.

Most hair dyes will last 4-6 weeks but if you cover gray with a henna dye you will want to reapply the product every 3-4 weeks.

80/20 rule

I for one will continue to use permanent dye. For me it’s about living by the 80/20 rule in what I eat and what I put on my body and hair.  Hair color is in the 20% – I am not ready to show my gray and I am not ready to take on the process of DIY with henna.

What about you?

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?

2 replies
  1. Kellye Sheehan
    Kellye Sheehan says:

    I’m naturally a brunette with medium ash brown color. I started going gray early at 26. For a time I used black henna, to intensify the color, partially cover or soften the effect of the grays, and it gave my hair a nice shot of body and shine. All of which I liked. But as I got more grays, the henna didn’t really cover them and I had to resort to other options. For a while I stopped trying to cover them at all. Which was great for my career ! I didn’t look so young in the workplace. But this easily added 10 years. And at the age I am now – that’s not the effect I’m after. Also my grays are what is called “color resistant”. Which means any treatment requires leaving the dye on longer than for other women, just to have any effect. Each woman will have to make her own decisions, but at this point in my life. I am ok with paying a professional to do this for me, at a high end salon that focuses on using high-end quality ingredients and that minimizes hair breakage, leaving it on any longer than necessary, or exposure to more toxic chemicals than is necessary. I have been one to try new add-ins such as Olaplex and conditioning hair masks made from a variety of natural ingredients. I’ve been told that someday with my coloring; I will probably turn into a gorgeous silver haired lady and not need any color at all ! But not there yet.

  2. Kirstin Lund
    Kirstin Lund says:

    I’ve been dying my hair for more than 30 years and I’m definitely not ready to let it go gray. My younger sisters both have and they now look much older than me (still beautiful and their hair looks lovely, though!)


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