A few years ago, I saw an article about an ingredient in brown hair dyes being linked to lymphoma. It’s called Para-phenylenediamine, or PPD. The article caught my attention, because a girlfriend who was also a holistic health coach, had recently gone through treatment for lymphoma. We wondered if her cancer could have been attributed to dying her hair. At the time, I’d been coloring my hair for about 10 years, and it got me thinking. Could my vanity inadvertently cause me to get cancer?
Growing up, my mother (who has never colored her hair) lost two of her hairdressers in the same salon to lymphoma. Were their cancers caused by toxins from products in the salon? We’ll never know for sure…
However, what we do know is that the FDA does not regulate ANY personal care products for what chemicals they may contain. Shocking, right? Not only that, but there is NO testing to see how multiple chemicals within one product, or from several products combined, may interact with each other. When you stop to think about it, it’s SCARY! So should you go gray for your health?
Compelling reasons to go gray for your health
When my girlfriend’s hair started to grow back after her stem-cell transplant, she decided to go with the gray, and not color it anymore. Because the fact is, no one knows what caused her lymphoma, but Para-phenylenediamine (PPD) has been linked to not only lymphoma, but also bladder cancer, and breast cancer. Another friend’s sister, who was also a hairstylist, recently died from bladder cancer. You can look up all of your health and beauty products on EWG’s database, to see if they contain toxins.
Toxic chemicals in brown hair dye
Here are some other toxic ingredients commonly found in brown hair dyes:
- Para-phenylenediamine and tetrahydro-6-nitroquinoxaline, both of which have been shown to damage genetic material and cause cancer in animals.
- Coal tar, a known carcinogen (one investigation found that 71 percent of hair dyes contain coal tar)
- Formaldehyde, a preservative linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity and more.
- DMDM Hydantoin, another preservative that is a known immune system toxin (and has been restricted for use in cosmetics in Japan).
- Eugenol, a fragrance ingredient that’s associated with cancer, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and allergies.
Even after my friend’s ordeal, I had to think hard about going gray for my health. I’ll admit I’m vain. And I didn’t think I’d like how would look with all gray hair—so it was a tough decision! At the time I was going to an “organic” salon, so I thought that maybe my hair coloring was “safe.”
But when I talked to my colorist, he told me that PPD is in every shade of brown hair color, even “organic” ones, because it’s what makes the color stick to the hair shaft. So I thought maybe I could try a “natural” hair color product and went to look for one at Whole Foods—but much to my surprise, all of the “natural” hair color products you can find at your natural food stores also contain PPD. Ugh!
Go gray for your health
And so, in solidarity with my girlfriend—and to protect my own body from toxic chemicals and potential cancers—I decided to go gray for my health. However, I didn’t want to have a solid line of gray as my roots started to grow out. So my stylist foiled (lightened) my hair for a few months as gray grew out, to prevent a gray ring around my head. A few months later, my hair was mostly gray, with a few streaks of brown and highlights from the sun. And you know what? I absolutely LOVED my gray hair!! If I’d known how much I liked it, I would have never started coloring it! Plus the benefit to my health and body was totally worth it.
And in case you are blonde, or bleach your hair, you’re also at risk. Although blonde hair dyes don’t contain PPD, they still contain a whole host of other toxic chemicals. The only truly “toxin-free” form of hair dye is natural henna, which is reddish-brown.
It seems like many women have decided “Gray is the new Black”, and are embracing their gray hair. Who’s willing to join us, and go gray for your health? Please leave a comment and let us know you are going gray for your health!