Chemicals in Hair dye
Hair Dye and Cancer Risk
If you’re concerned about your appearance you’ve probably spent at least a little time thinking about your hair. You may take time to find a good hair dresser in your area or research trendy or up-and-coming hairstyles, and, of course, you’ve thought about what color you would like your hair to be. The use of hair dye is popular in North America and Europe, and it is believed that one third of women over the age of 18 and one out of ten men over the age of 40 use hair dyes. There’s no doubt that using a hair dye can help you to look and feel good about your appearance, but did you know that these dyes also contain chemicals that can potentially cause cancer?
Some of the first hair dyes that were used by the public contained incredibly harmful chemicals. In the 1970s some of these chemicals were removed from dyes, but this didn’t quite fix the problem. Today hair dyes are broken down into three categories:
- Semi permanent
Permanent dyes are the most popular, and they take up about 80 percent of hair dye sales. Permanent dyes use colorless intermediates, which are chemicals called aromatic amines, and dye. When these chemicals are introduced to hydrogen peroxide they create the color that is seen after it is applied to the hair.
But how does this color interact with hair? While trying to achieve great looking hair, hair dyes actually cause damage to the structure of the hair. When taking a look at a strand of hair under the microscope it actually looks similar to fish scales. The molecules that provide hair with its color are found underneath the scales, and hair dyes need to get underneath the scaly layer in order for the hair to hold color. Hair dyes force the scales apart so that they dye can be deposited, and this action damages the hair and compromises its overall health.
Serious Health Concerns About Chemicals in Hair Dye
Since so many people use hair dyes on a regular basis, scientists have been trying to figure out if these chemicals can cause cancer. There are over 5000 chemicals that have been found in hair dyes, and many of these are harmful human health; enough so that in 2006 the European Union banned 22 chemicals. British researchers have found that the chemicals in hair dye can penetrate the skin and hair, and they can remain within the body for years. If you think that’s bad, there’s also a danger of dye that is used in food, as food coloring.
The Working Group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a report that stated these chemicals were probably carcinogenic to humans. It was found that barbers and hairdressers had an increased risk of bladder cancer, and some studies have also found links between the use of personal hair days and cancer. One study analyzed four previous case studies on hair dye and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The analysis looked at approximately 4500 women with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and nearly 5800 without it. Researchers discovered that those who had been using hair dye prior to 1980 had a 30 percent increased risk in non-Hodgkin lymphoma compared to those that had never used it.
Some studies have also found an increase in the risk of leukemia, although there are conflicting results. One study looked at 769 people that had leukemia and 623 that didn’t. There was a slight increase in risk for those that had been using hair dye, and the risk was greatest in those that had been using hair dye for more than 15 years.
Research in Britain has also found some other troubling discoveries:
- Some hair dyes contain allergens that can lead to potentially fatal reactions.
- The chemicals in hair dyes may be especially harmful for smokers. They can potentially interact with tobacco smoke to create N-nitrosamines, which are highly poisonous and dangerous chemicals. There are also similar concerns over hair dye and car exhaust.
It is important that you realize that when using hair dyes you are putting your body at risk for some serious health concerns down the road. The consistent and long term use of hair dye appears to put consumers at the most risk, and it appears that just about everybody consider alternatives to these chemical laced hair dyes.