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Hair Colour Chemicals

Men's Health, Women's Health | January 25, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

men, women's health

Hair Colour Chemicals

Each month, 1 in 3 Australians visit a colourist and 1 in 5 colour their own hair at home [1]. Separating fact from fiction is tricky when it comes to chemical-laden hair colours – salon staff may guarantee a natural product and you could still walk out with an allergic reaction. Likewise, natural colours may not be what they seem...

What Dye Does To Your Hair

Permanent Hair Colour

The hair shaft is surrounded by an outer layer called the cuticle. Ammonia changes the pH of the hair which causes the cuticle to “relax” and lift up, allowing dye to penetrate into the shaft. Note that this lifting is not a natural occurrence for the hair cuticle and this process weakens the hair [2]. The longer that the cuticle is lifted (i.e. the longer you sit with dye in your hair) the more damage can occur.

With access to the hair shaft beyond the lifted cuticle, peroxide goes to work and breaks down the natural hair pigment within the hair shaft. Colour from the artificial pigments in the dye then attach to the hair strand, replacing your natural colour.

Temporary or Semi-Permanent Hair Colour

Temporary dyes don't contain ammonia or peroxide, so the hair shaft isn't exposed or bleached. These colours contain tiny pigment particles that slip inside the hair cuticle and are eventually washed out with shampooing. With less nasties like ammonia and peroxide, semi-permanent hair colourings may be a safer option, but keep in mind that conventional brands still contain plenty of toxic ingredients [2].

NOTE: Demi-permantent hair colour lands somewhere between semi-permanent and permanent – some may contain peroxide and ammonia.

The 5 Most Questionable Ingredients in Hair Dye

  • Para-Phenylenediamine (PPD) – A common allergen that can cause burning sensations, weeping blisters, chemical burns, swelling of the face, hair loss and anaphylaxis! Many people are born with a PPD allergy, but others develop reactions unexpectedly after years of using hair colour – a good reminder to patch test before applying any hair dye to the scalp, each and every time.
  • Quaternium-15 – Quaternium-15 releases formaldehyde which can cause serious allergic reactions [3].
  • Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) – APEs are known hormone disruptors that are used in hair dye as a detergent and wetting agent [4].
  • EthanolamineOften used in ammonia-free products, ethanolamine is a known irritant and has been shown to cause more damage to the hair than ammonia [2]. Its major benefit comes from having a more pleasant smell than ammonia [5].
  • Lead acetate Lead acetate is used in hair colour restoring formulas. In large amounts it can act as a neurotoxin but studies haven't confirmed if it can penetrate through the scalp and into the bloodstream [6].

How Natural Hair Colours are Different

Natural hair colour products offer an alternative to conventional dyes, but the “natural” is a misnomer. Rather, these formulations are “low-chemical” – there is no such thing as a natural dye. These low chemical products still are not completely free from questionable ingredients. The most common allergen in conventional hair dye, PPD, is also found in many natural hair colourants and even in henna products. Natural dyes usually contain lower amounts of irritants to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction, and they may opt for natural pigments instead of synthetic colours.

NOTE: Always check the label for irritants and allergens, even if the box says “natural” or “organic”!

Natural products may be labelled as “ammonia free”. In most cases, these products will contain alternatives like ethanolamine which smells much nicer but actually causes more damage to the hair shaft than ammonia [2].

NOTE: “Natural” permanent hair colour will always contain some amount of PPD and peroxide. If you are allergic to PPD or sensitive to peroxide, ask to see the ingredient label or speak to the manufacturer before agreeing to salon hair colouring treatments.

Can Hair Dye Cause Hair Loss?

Can Hair Dye Cause Hair Loss?Hair colouring – particularly using temporary colours that coat the hair shaft – may actually strengthen hair, protect it from UV and chemical damage, and reduce hair fall (and split ends!) giving the illusion of a fuller head of hair [3]. In some cases, the repeated rubbing, rinsing and conditioning involved in the colouring process provides enough friction to remove any hairs that were already naturally on their way out of the scalp, which can appear like excessive hair loss but is just accelerated clearance of loosened, dead hair.

However, sudden and severe hair loss can occur as a result of an allergic reaction to ingredients in hair dye. This most often occurs as a reaction to PPD, which has been shown to cause a 90% loss of hair within 2 months of initially applying the colour [7].

Always do a spot-test before applying hair dye to the scalp!

If you are experiencing hair loss or thinning, speak to a medical practitioner or naturopath to determine the cause – there are many underlying problems that present with changes to hair, such as thyroid issues and anaemia.

Can Colouring Your Hair Cause Greying?

The scalp's natural production of hydrogen peroxide is implicated in going grey Click Here For Article, but conversely, applying peroxide to the exposed hair shaft does not contribute to this natural greying process. Grey hairs develop deep within the hair follicle, far below the reach of hair dye. Genetics, stress and diet are the major contributing factors to greying –

Do Hair Colouring Products Contribute to Serious Disease Risk?

There's not a lot of research available to answer this definitely, but one review concluded that there is an epidemiological association between incidences of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, breast cancer, and hair colour use.

The researchers suggest that people with a family history of these conditions avoid using hair colour products as the risk is accumulative [8].

Natural Therapies for Coloured Hair

The effects of chemical applications can turn hair dry, weak and brittle. Support your hair's natural lustre with these home remedies:

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can help to restore the pH balance of the scalp and remove build-up of heavy metals and minerals from products and unfiltered shower water. For longer lasting colour, rinse hair with 1tbsp apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of water after your regular shampoo routine, up to twice a week. An ACV rinse will help to lock in natural and temporary hair colours, and remove build-up mineral sediment on the hair shaft to freshen up highlights and boost shine.

Coconut Oil

Moisturised hair holds colour for longer than dry hair – and nothing dries hair out like ammonia and peroxide!

Coconut OilSmooth a tablespoon of coconut oil to the ends of your hair and braid it before hitting the gym or sauna – the heat will help to lock in the moisture from the oil. The size and shape of the triglycerides in coconut oil allow the fat content to slip inside the hair shaft and nourish it from within. Studies have shown that coconut oil is able to reduce protein loss when used before shampooing, and when used as a styling oil [3].

Horsetail Rinse

Not the literal horse – the herb! Horsetail is a herb that is rich in silica and other minerals for strong, healthy hair. Brew up a strong tea and allow it to cool before using as a hair rinse. For a stronger blend, combine horsetail herb with apple cider vinegar in a glass jar and allow the mix to “brew” in a dark place for 3 weeks. Strain with a cheesecloth and dilute it 1:1 with water before using as a rinse. Horsetail is also a great herb to take as a supplement to promote strong, healthy hair from the inside out [9].
Click Here For Article on Beautiful Hair  Australia’s best online discount chemist


[1] Roy Morgan (2015) Hair apparent: the Australians choosing a professional cut and colour or a home bathroom dye job.

[2] Bailey, A. D., Zhang, G. & Murphy, B. P. (2014) Comparison of damage to human hair fibers caused by monoethanolamine- and ammonia-based hair colorants. J Cosmet Sci., 65:1, 1 – 9.

[3] Dias, M. F. R. G. (2015) Hair cosmetics: an overview. Int J Trichology., 7:1, 2 – 15.

[4] Yang, O., et al. (2015) Endocrine-disrupting Chemicals: Review of Toxicological Mechanisms Using Molecular Pathway Analysis. J Cancer Prev., 20:1, 12 – 24.

[5] da França, S. A., et al. (2015) Types of Hair Dye and Their Mechanisms of Action. Cosmetics., 2:2, 110 – 126.

[6] Sanders, T., et al. (2009) Neurotoxic Effects and Biomarkers of Lead Exposure: A Review. Rev Environ Health., 24:1, 15 – 45.

[7] Ishida, W., et al. (2011) Severe Hair Loss of the Scalp due to a Hair Dye Containing Para phenylenediamine. ISRN Dermatol.

[8] Saitta, P., et al. (2013) Is There a True Concern Regarding the Use of Hair Dye and Malignancy Development? A Review of the Epidemiological Evidence Relating Personal Hair Dye Use to the Risk of Malignancy. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol., 6:1, 39 – 46.

[9] de Araújo, L. A., et la. (2016) Use of silicon for skin and hair care: an approach of chemical forms available and efficacy. An Bras Dermatol., 91:3, 331 – 335.

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