Researchers have been suspicious about the adverse health impacts of hair dye for many years, and rightly so. Several studies have already revealed a strong link between the regular use of permanent hair color and an increased risk of certain cancers and rheumatoid arthritis in women.
As the largest consumer of hair products, it only makes sense that women would be the most vulnerable to these unwanted effects. Many over-the-counter body and skincare products also contain endocrine-disrupting-chemicals, which dramatically impact normal hormonal balance. So when recent researchers found that there’s yet another class of beauty-care products putting certain women at higher risk, it didn’t come as a big surprise.
According to a recent study that compared the differences in hair care products between groups of sisters, those that were using chemical straighteners AND permanent hair dye had a significantly increased risk of developing breast cancer over their biological counterparts. How does this work if the products only get applied to the hair? How would this increase the risk of breast cancer?
Well, as it turns out, the hair isn’t the problem at all. For these chemical dyes and straighteners to do their job, they need to be applied to the entire hair shaft, right up to the scalp. That’s where the problem lies. As our largest organ, the skin helps to separate things in the external world (our environment) from the inside world. It is also very porous, meaning it will absorb anything that comes in contact with the skin. So, when these toxic chemicals come in contact with the skin, they are transported through the skin directly into the lymphatic tissue, and ultimately, into the bloodstream.
As you can imagine, regular visits to a hairstylist for a routine color or hair straightening every 4-6 weeks will expose the skin to these toxic chemicals for 30-45 minutes, during which time, they are slowly being absorbed. Another clue as to their toxicity should be the distinctly toxic smell that is unavoidably inhaled when being applied. Every breath transports these airborne chemicals to the bloodstream via the lungs. So, between the direct contact on the skin and inhalation through the lungs, the risk of toxicity is pretty high.
Natural brands of hair color may be an option for some women. However, since they don’t contain the chemical mixture that opens the hair shaft, allowing the color to permeate, they don’t typically provide the same results as permanent hair color would. Even the natural brands can contain other toxic ingredients, so be sure to read the label carefully.
What are the options for health-conscious women when it comes to hair coloring or straightening? Well, for those who want to cover the grey or change their natural hair color to a different shade, studies have shown that using semi-permanent hair color doesn’t carry the same risk as permanent coloring does. The less-offensive semi-permanent products don’t force the hair shaft open as drastically, which means they might require a little more frequent coloring. As far as those hair-straightening chemicals, they are best left alone.
Our advice? Be proud of your hair, in whatever shape, style, or color it naturally comes in. We think you’re beautiful just the way you are!
Here’s to aging naturally and gracefully in the way that suits you the best!