Eco-Living Magazine

Natural Hair Dyes – the Best Hair Dyes | Hair Dye Ingredients to Avoid

Posted on the 08 August 2011 by I Prefer Organic @ipreferorganic

natural hair dyesHave you ever wondered if your hair dye is safe? Is it safe, if it does not touch your scalp or skin? Do natural hair dyes give good results? Is there anything like organic hair dye? These are some of the questions whose answers you may want to know, if you color your hair.

Just because you do not see or feel an immediate reaction, it does not mean 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. Hair dyes are one of the most toxic cosmetic products, which should be avoided especially during pregnancy and when breastfeeding. If you, however, hate the color of your natural hair or want to hide the gray locks, then see what ingredients to avoid, what the best hair dyes are and why choose them.

Types of hair dyes

There are four basic types of hair dyes:

  • temporary hair colors, which coat the surface of the hair and wash out within two or three shampoos;
  • semi-permanent hair dyes – they penetrate into the hair shaft, but not as deeply as permanent dyes. They fade and wash out of hair after about five to ten shampoos;
  • gradual hair dyes, known as metallic hair dyes, require repeated applications to result in gradual darkening of the hair shaft. These hair dyes are most popular among men who wish to only blend their gray hair;
  • permanent hair dyes penetrate deeply into the hair shaft and don’t wash out.

In order to protect yourself and not to risk the health of your child (if you are pregnant, breastfeed or have small kids at the house), you should avoid hair dyes that contain the aggressive chemicals described below.

Hair dye ingredients to avoid

Roughly 90% of the hair dyes 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, developmental and reproductive toxicity, organ toxicity, allergies and irritation of the eyes, skin or lungs.

P-Phenylenediamine (PPD) is used in about 2/3 of the hair dyes on the market. This is the chemical that actually creates the hair color. The darker the color, usually, the higher the concentrations. Some of the so-called “natural” and “herbal” hair colors, while ammonia-free, contain PPD. It is known to be toxic to the immune system, skin, nervous system, respiratory system, liver and kidneys. It is the most toxic chemical in hair dyes.

Laboratory experiments have shown that PPD damages the DNA of human cells. Accumulated DNA damage leads to cancer. However, it is not conclusive whether the exposure to PPD from hair dyes is enough to cause cancer in women who dye their hair, although hair stylists who color hair at work do have higher cancer levels.The European Union classifies it as a toxin and irritant that is dangerous to the environment.

Ammonia – large amounts are found in the permanent hair colors.  It opens the hair cuticle to allow p-Phenylenediamine-based dye to penetrate into the hair shaft. It is irritant to the skin, eyes and respiratory system, and can cause asthma and breathing difficulties. Ammonia is used to clean the loo and you do not really want lots of it on your hair.

Peroxide is used in permanent hair dyes including bleaches. In order to make the hair dye permanent you have to get into the center of the hair shaft itself and change the chemical make-up of that area. To do this, your product has to be small enough to pass through the outer layer of hair and then it needs to swell to stop it slipping back out. This is what peroxide does.

Peroxide is corrosive and has toxic effects on the nervous system, respiratory and digestive systems at low doses. Other studies on animals have also shown that hydrogen peroxide can damage DNA, possibly leading to cancer.

Coal tar is brown or black liquid that is found in all dark permanent dyes. It also appears in many strong dandruff and psoriasis shampoos, but the FDA failed to ban it even though studies have linked it to cancer in lab animals. The EWG found that 71 hair-dye products contained ingredients derived from coal tar.The FDA issued a warning about it being a possible cancer risk back in 1993.

Lead acetate is an active ingredient in gradual darkening products. It is a known reproductive toxin, which is banned in the European Union, but is still found in some hair dyes and cleansers in North America.

Resorcinol - It is a common ingredient in hair dyes and bleaching products. It is a skin irritant, which is toxic to the immune system and a frequent cause of hair dye allergy. The federal government regulates exposures to resorcinol in the workplace, but there are no regulations limiting amounts of resorcinol in personal care products. It is banned in the European Union.

Finally, 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 blond and red shades. Highlights and lowlights are safer as they don’t place dye in contact with the scalp.

Always remember to read the labels carefully and to avoid the chemicals described above. If you are still not sure if the ingredients in the product you intend to buy are safe, check Skin Deep cosmetics database, which rates thousands of different ingredients and products for safety. Note that chemicals may have quite a few synonyms.

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