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To Dye or Not To Dye

Many members of the 40-plus generation find themselves lingering in the hair dye aisles of drugstores, wistfully eyeing boxes displaying the colors their hair once was.

But covering gray is not the only reason people color their hair.  It is estimated that over 50% of women and a smaller number of men streak, highlight, lowlight or altogether change the color of their hair to make themselves feel more attractive.

The decision to change ones’ hair color has become more complicated because some studies have linked hair coloring with an increased risk of contracting certain cancers.

Most hair dyes also don’t have to go through pre-market testing for safety that other cosmetic color additives do before hitting store shelves. Consequently, consumers are often on their own when deciding whether hair dyes are safe.

The FDA is responsible for overseeing the safety of cosmetics sold in this country and can prohibit the sale of any cosmetic found harmful – except most hair dyes.  Although the adulteration provision of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act enables the FDA to seek removal of a cosmetic from the market if it is shown to be harmful under conditions of use, hair coloring made from coal-tar were given special exemption from bans when the act was passed in 1938.

The main ingredient in the coal–tar hair dyes manufactured at the time prompted an allergic reaction in some susceptible individuals. Fearing the FDA would ban the sale of hair dyes, the industry successfully lobbied before the act passed to get coal-tar hair dyes exempted from the adulteration provision. Most hair dyes in use today derive their ingredients from petroleum sources, but have been considered coal-tar dyes by the FDA because they contain some of the same compounds found in the older dyes.

So how does one find an alternative to potentially toxic petroleum-based dyes? There are lots of box colors in the health food stores made from roots and seeds and although the results are respectable, they can be inconsistent. We often think the color on the box is the color you’ll get, and then are disappointed when strawberry blonde turns into bright orange. With hair color there are so many variables, like what chemicals are already in your hair and what your natural color is, that go into what the end result will be.

Many of us trust our salon professionals to care for our color. As of yet, there are no salon hair dye brands that are 100% plant derived. Some companies have done their research and developed hair color formulas that come pretty close. Aveda uses demi-permanent dyes of which 99% are plant–derived and the permanent dyes are 97% plant based. The key plant ingredients are sunflower, castor and jojoba oils. They protect the hair during the process and deliver superior shine and condition.

Extensive research into essential oils and plant extracts has created a process to oxidize the dye using green tea extract, thereby substituting protective lubricating plant oils in the formula so that it is significantly less drying to the hair than petrochemicals solvents normally used.

The bottom line: Petroleum based hair dyes may be a risk to your health and are non renewable for the environment. The art and science of pure flower and plant ingredients are renewable and protect natures’ beauty while enhancing yours. The choice is yours!

Holly Hodgdon, Co-Owner: Tangerine Salon and Spa & L’Essence Day Spa-Salon. Call 775-851-7271.