Why Risk Cancer from Chemical Hair Dyes

When Safer Alternatives Exist?

The roots of hair dying trace back at least 5,000 years and currently it’s estimated that 75% of women worldwide, regularly dye their hair. The number of men dying their hair has increased over the years to nearly 20%. From time immemorial to the 20th century, all dyes were derived from natural sources including plants, nuts, vegetables, and clays. The first chemically infused synthetic hair dye was made available to the public in 1907 by the founder of L’Oréal, Eugene Schueller. After 100 years of use, the negative side-effects of the synthetic chemicals used to color hair are becoming uncomfortably clearer. Hair dyes’ effectiveness range from temporary to permanent. Temporary dyes and semi-permanent dyes do not penetrate the hair shaft, which is why their effects last from two to ten washings. Permanent hair dyes, however, do penetrate the hair shaft and cause lasting chemical changes that permanently visibly alter the color of the hair. As the hair grows, a line of demarcation becomes starkly evident.

Hazardous Chemicals and Potential Ailments

Chemicals and chemical compounds exist both in nature and in laboratories, synthetically manufactured. An example of a naturally occurring chemical compound is hydrogen and oxygen combining as a water molecule, which is perfectly safe. An example of a synthetically manufactured chemical compound is chlorpyriphos, which is a pesticide comprised of seven chemicals: carbon, hydrogen, chlorine, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur. According to the National Library of Medicine, this combination of chemicals is labeled as an “Environmental Hazard” and “Acute Toxic”.

Now, both naturally occurring chemicals and chemical compounds and manufactured synthetic chemicals and chemical compounds can be either safe or toxic. When it comes to hair or skincare products, it’s a matter of chemical quantity and chemical combination that could lead to health risks including cancer. The key as a consumer is to be sure you’re only exposing yourself to chemicals and chemical compounds that have been proven safe. As is stated previously, temporary and semi-permanent hair dyes are non-toxic as they don’t require chemical combinations to penetrate the hair shaft and chemically alter the hair itself. Permanent hair dyes’ compositions are where consumers take the highest risk.

The Chemistry of permanent hair dyes is rather simple, three primary parts come together in a chemical reaction that causes the hair to change color. Essentially, an “intermediate” (p-Phenylenediamine (PPD) or Para-aminophenol) is a manufactured substance that will be transformed into another substance when in a chemical reaction. Other compounds required for the chemical reaction are hydrogen peroxide (responsible for the oxidation of the intermediate to lighten hair) and ammonia (to provide an alkaline pH, which causes hair cuticles to swell allowing hydrogen peroxide and dye molecules to pass into the cortex). Lastly, “coupling agents” are the chemical colors that contribute in quantity to the desired color.

One challenge with discerning the toxicity of permanent hair dyes is that there are so many chemical variations within varying products worldwide. There isn’t enough funding to have overseeing agencies test each product and companies are constantly altering their formulas as well. So, a chemical compound can be considered ‘safe’ on its own but may have deleterious effects when combined with other compounds also known to be safe. In the end, as consumers, it’s a matter of weighing the unknown and uninformed risks.

Cautions

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute and the International Journal of Cancer report that the use of permanent hair dyes increases the risk of developing diseases like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and bladder cancer.

The American Cancer Society notes that hairdressers and barbers have a consistently increased risk of bladder cancer. This evidence was also noted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). Studies are being conducted investigating links between permanent hair dyes and blood cancers such as leukemias and lymphomas.

Although the National Toxicology Program (NTP) (associated with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA)) has not currently classified hair dye exposure as a potential risk in causing cancer, they have classified chemicals used in permanent hair dyes as “reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens.”

Lastly, the National Breast Cancer Foundation has noted that some studies suggest possible links between hair dyes and breast cancer. The National Institutes of Health reported an increased risk of breast cancer with more frequent use of synthetic permanent chemical hair products. Professor Kefah Mokbel published a meta-analysis suggesting a 20% increase in the risk of breast cancer associated with synthetic dyes.

The Good, the Bad, and the Products that Make You Believe They’re Safe

If you think about it, the purpose behind dying hair is to improve its appearance. There may be a youthful incentive, a creative desire, or a sense of confidence or freedom. When weighing the risks of cancer and other allergic reactions, the choice becomes clearer. It would be tragic to suffer an illness and undergo treatments that may cause hair loss when the purpose of using synthetic hair dyes was to improve the appearance of your hair in the first place.

Fortunately, there are safe alternatives to potentially hazardous permanent hair dyes. Henna, a semi-permanent and all-natural dye, is made from powdered leaves of the henna plant (Lawsonia intermis). As a ‘deposit only’ dye, henna binds to the keratin in your hair without changing the chemical composition and although it can’t be used to lighten your hair, it does offer natural options in enriching your natural color or covering gray in the spectrum of browns and can be combined with indigo or blackcurrant skins to produce darker near-black tones. Unfortunately, there are imposters. Some manufacturers produce and promote henna-based dyes and market them in eco-friendly, all-natural-looking packaging materials, yet they’ve discreetly combined natural henna with hazardous synthetically manufactured chemicals. An example is ‘black henna’, which takes powdered henna leaves and combines them with p-Phenylenediamine (PPD) to achieve their version of the color black. PPD is one of the three key components of synthetic permanent hair dyes and is under investigation for its role in severe allergic reactions. Other presumably safe henna products contain metallic salts which can cause other adverse effects. We at Morrocco Method know how hard and time-consuming it can be to study and research the varying adverse effects of hair and skincare products. That’s why we’ve done the work for you and after decades of sourcing the cleanest and safest all-natural ingredients, we’ve carefully combined them with our passion, deep knowledge, and experience to create hair dyes that you can feel safe using. Our henna leaf powder is single-sourced in India, organically grown, and naturally processed. Nothing is added. With Morrocco Method’s Henna Hair Dye, you not only get great color, but natural henna also nourishes the scalp. So, why risk cancer from chemical hair dyes when safer alternatives exist? Try our Henna Hair Dye and see the difference without the risk!

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Article credit : Brian Serven