To Dye or Not to Dye (And With What?)
Barbara Brant-Williams, Your Grooming Guru
I’ve been coloring my hair since 1972. It was probably the week I entered Beauty School. They couldn’t wait to get a hold of me… Bleach frosting (yes, that is what it was called then…) through a plastic cap with a crochet needle (ouch!) and then, to top it off, a shag haircut! I still have pictures and no, they won’t be posted on Face Book. And I’ve had red hair (many, many, shades!) since my sister wanted my hair to be all one color for her wedding in 1973, but that’s a story for another day.
Back in the 70’s Clairol had the best red colors for hair. They also used Red Dye #2, which was removed from the market in 1976 due to FDA Testing that showed it was causing cancer. As today, there was lots of controversy on this decision, because , of course, the tests that we hear about are the same as today, where huge amounts of a product is fed to rats over a period of time and then they get sick. However there was and is a lot of data that shows toxicity that we aren’t privy to. That was a huge finding in the beauty business, since Red Dye#2 was widely used in cosmetics as well as hair color and a LOT of foods. The red dyes as well as the other pigments used in hair color today, have been tested more and especially in organic colors, are sourced often from natural plants, herbs and fruits, and are much safer.
So how many women used this ingredient unknowingly and suffered the results? Hard to determine, but believe me, many hairdressers (or beauticians, as we were called then) had heart palpitations when they had to change their color formulas to get the same rich reds without the offensive red dye ingredient. We also know lots of ingredients on our planet and in our lives are toxic, but sometimes we just don’t know, or in many cases, aren’t willing to know. Or aren’t willing to change. Those of you reading Natural Awakenings and other holistic publications are the more conscientious people who are interested and making efforts to be more aware of your choices.
Just as the world continues to go green, and we are more aware of our environment, recycle and eat more locally grown and organic food, the products we use on our skin, face and hair are getting more and more attention and ingredients like ammonia and resorcinol in hair color are being looked at like the red dye of the 60’s. But good news, there are better options now. And for all the women who have heard all the cons of coloring your hair when pregnant, you do have better choices and options for on the scalp hair color. Also, if you can’t take the risk of getting coloring chemicals into your blood stream, there is always the choice of using highlighting techniques that keep all of the color off the scalp.
Now, If you are choose to color your hair at home, reading the labels can be daunting. It all sounds like a chemistry experiment, but if you are one who has been tested and knows what ingredient you are allergic to, you may know if the ingredient is present, but I would call the company or email them off their website just to make sure. Also, in all color directions, there is a section where the manufacturer tells you to do a “Patch Test”. This requires mixing a small amount of the color with the included developer and putting it on the skin, normally behind your ear, or in the crook of your elbow, and leaving it for 24 hours.
Please! I know it’s a pain, but take the time to DO THIS! Just think….if you are allergic, the only area that will be affected is that small area of skin, not your whole head or in some extreme cases, body.
I would use coloring products from my Natural Food market as a first choice. Be very careful when using regular box color and look for anything that sounds like a lead based ingredient. We’ve taken lead out of paint, but not out of some hair coloring products (and cosmetics). Along with being toxic, it can be damaging ( like, no kidding, melt off the hair damaging) if used in conjunction with other chemicals on the hair. The most offensive of these products seem to be for men. Speaking of which, for our men, there are a newer plethora of products targeting your dollars. Please don’t be shy, let a professional color your hair. Please. We have ways of making you look 5-10 years younger without looking like you color your hair!
For a long time and mostly back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Henna was being used by salons and people at home. The actual henna plant, the Lawsonia Alba (Root) or Lawsonia Inemis (leaves) processes as one color, a very burnt orange. While doing research for this article I came across the 1st full disclosure of ingredients in henna products that I have ever seen. It’s a company called Coastal Classic Creations out of California. Their Henna product shows that it’s many different herbs, plants, leaves, barks and roots that create the varied colors in a Henna line. And Looks to be exceptionally pure and toxic free. Henna can be beautiful and conditioning when done right, but It can also deposit unevenly on the hair shaft, and after repeated use, the coloring effect is, well, uneven. Unfortunately henna is also a very messy application and requires a lot of old towels whether you do it at home or get it done in a salon.
Color can create looks from as natural as possible, to the most forward fashion statement, using every color on the spectrum on one head of hair. For those of you who aren’t sure about using color as a part of your total look, I can tell you, using it can make you look refreshed and certainly younger! Years ago, I saw Nora Ephron, while appearing on the Oprah show on an episode about being ageless, look right into the camera and say, “Women, color your hair!” You’ll be doing a service to your community!”
Now, if you are already a highlight queen and maybe need a gentle alternative to those crunchy white blonde pieces, there are options and techniques that treat your hair with more TLC.
As for me, I continue to play with my color formula, but now use nontoxic colors, since I would like to know that I’m doing my very best to protect myself. Believe me, as long as I have anything to say about it, this girl will be a grey free redhead!