We all know that looking our best can go a long way toward feeling our most confident. And if you’re like many women, you also know that a new style and hair color are both great ways to refresh your overall look. While you probably think about the time, energy and money that goes into having your hair colored, you might not consider whether or not color is unhealthy for you or your hair. And if you dig deep enough into research on the topic, you’ll find that there is a lot of conflicting information out there about the potentially negative effects of hair dyes on your hair and your body. Here, we’ll try to cut through the clutter and address a few myths, considerations and alternative options to help you figure out what’s best for your own health when it comes to hair color chemicals. |
What’s that smell?
We’ve all breathed it in it at some point when walking into a salon... that nose-scrunching, chemical smell that tends to make our eyes water. That smell means there is some permanent hair coloring going on in your local beauty shop--and it helps to understand what’s in those dyes and exactly how the process works. At the risk of sounding like Bill Nye the Science Guy, here’s a closer look at how hair color and chemical dyes work. (Don’t worry, there won’t be a pop quiz!)
So, what does this mean for my hair?
The key to a great hairstyle is to have it look marvelous without a ton of maintenance. When it comes to color, a permanent dye definitely offers more longevity and less upkeep. But what about all those chemical processes we just read about? Should you be worried? We’ve explored six common concerns below:
1.Can hair coloring make my hair fall out?
It’s important to remember that every body is different, and there are many different hair types as well. That said, there is no hard evidence that permanent hair coloring causes hair loss. A bad color job can cause hair to dry out and create breakage that can be confused with hair loss, however. Thoroughly conditioning your hair before and after coloring goes a long way to prevent your hair from becoming brittle and breaking. Another factor that can lead to confusion on this topic is that over a lifetime there is a certain amount of hair loss that occurs naturally. Many times this natural hair loss coincides with graying hair and more frequent trips to your stylist.
2. Will coloring my hair thin it out?
Similar to hair loss, there is a certain amount of thinning that happens naturally over time and it’s not hard for the blame to jump to regular coloring. However, dying hair adds a layer of pigment that many people find actually thickens how their hair looks and feels. If hair loss and thinning are becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to forgo the coloring for a bit and determine whether it’s due to a specific reaction to the chemical dye or an underlying problem like thyroid issues, anemia or another medical problem. Always consult with your primary care physician if you have health concerns.
3. What can I do to prevent hair coloring from drying my hair?
Because of chemical processing, overly-dry hair that’s prone to breakage can be an unfortunate side effect of regular colorings at the salon. There are some simple steps that can help overcome this issue:
4. Does coloring my hair increase my risk for cancer?
The short answer is that studies have not been able to consistently link an increased risk of cancer to those who use permanent hair dyes regularly. The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers personal hair dye use to be “not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans,” based on a lack of evidence from studies in people. This is a tricky one though. There have been a couple of studies linking hair dyes to bladder cancer in lab mice, plus most studies of people exposed to hair dyes at work, such as stylists and barbers, have found a small but fairly consistent increased risk of bladder cancer.
5. Could I be allergic to hair color?
Yes, a number of substances in hair dyes can cause allergic reactions in a small percentage of people. The most common is 4-ParaPhenyleneDiamine (PPD), a substance that reacts with peroxide within the chemical dye. The allergies can result in a simple red rash around the hairline to itching, swelling and, at times, more severe skin irritations. The simplest way to avoid an allergic reaction is by using a patch test beforehand. Here are four simple steps to conducting a patch test at home:
When making an appointment with a stylist, have the stylist conduct a patch test 48
hours before your appointment to make sure you don’t have any allergic reactions.
6. Are there permanent, natural hair coloring options available?
There are plenty of natural hair coloring products out there, but because they don’t use chemicals to open up the hair cuticles, most tend to be semi-permanent and will wash out eventually. Still, a quick Google search will turn up a handful of alternatives that may work better for you and your hair. Specifically, if you are more chemically sensitive or have naturally thin or dryer hair, taking a good look into natural hair dyes is a great idea.
Now that you know how hair dyes work, and the considerations you should take into account before coloring your hair, you’ll feel more confident in not just your hairstyle, but your hair coloring choices, too.
American Cancer Society, "Hair Dyes," www.cancer.org, accessed on May 17, 2013.
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, "Allergic Contact Dermatitis," www.aocd.org, accessed on May 17, 2013.
WebMD, "Hair Dye Allergies on the Rise," www.wedmd.com, accessed on May 17, 2013.
Cleveland Clinic, "Hair Disorders," www.clevelandclinicmeded.com, accessed on May 17, 2013.