A large percentage of people, mostly women but this includes some men too, start dying their hair or otherwise color treating it in some way when the dreaded greys begin to surface. This is not to say that some people feel perfectly fine with grey hair. But there are plenty of people who don’t view it that way and would prefer to keep the naturally saturated, rich color of their youth.
There is something to be said about the presence of color, as opposed to the absence of it when it comes to hair. Hair that is drenched in pigment tends to look shinier, thicker, more “there” than grey hair simply because color adds to the look of youthful volume and sheen. It's not always about age or greys either, plenty of young people without a concern of greying dye their hair simply to keep things fun and change it up now and then.
Safety Concerns About Traditional Hair Dye
There are plenty of well-founded safety concerns when it comes to hair colorants, especially when you consider that they must be used on an ongoing basis which obviously increases exposure. Hair color usually contains a laundry list of questionable chemicals that can damage both the hair and the scalp. And they end up absorbing into the scalp, which means that they almost assuredly make their way to the blood stream.
Most hair colors wash out, even the “permanent” ones, in a relatively short amount of time. They have to be refreshed every 6-8 weeks in order to maintain their depth and vibrance. This is where the less intense, washable color refreshers can come in handy – read more about hair color refreshing and enhancing products.
Why Dark Hair Colors are Thought to Be More Toxic
While lighter hair coloring products that are intended to lighten or highlight the hair are more damaging to the hair itself, dark hair colors are actually more likely to have higher concentrations of toxic chemicals. Often times in order to dye the hair darker, and get the deposited color to “stick”, there are chemicals included in these formulations that have higher potential for toxicity.
Not only that, but the actual chemicals used to create the darker look are more likely to be toxic. So, even though these darker hair dyes may make your hair look “healthier” on a temporary basis, they also can have potentially toxic effects on your scalp. The good news is that there are a growing list of companies offering healthier hair coloring alternatives that do not contain the most concerning chemicals commonly used.
What are These Concerning Chemicals in Dark Hair Dyes?
- PPD (P-Phenylenediamine)
- Lead Acetate
These are the top four in my opinion, but you also have ingredients that are just “standard” manufactured product ingredients like parabens, artificial fragrances that include phthalates, and a broad range of other preservatives that concerning.
What Are the Alternatives to Toxic Hair Dyes Then?
Henna Based Hair Dye - One of the old standby natural hair dye alternatives that have received very mixed reviews is henna. Henna is a completely natural dye alternative that often comes in powder form and must be mixed into a paste and applied to the hair. It’s a pretty messy process, and some people complain that it is hard to control and will easily stain the skin and anything it happens to touch that is not actual hair.
I actually tried a pure henna hair dye many years ago. I was not pleased with the outcome. It’s really hard to control the depth of color you get with a pure henna product too. It takes practice to get the right level of color, and if your hair is porous (read about why shampoo pH matters if you have porous hair you can very well inadvertently dye your hair WAY too dark.
Color Depositing Hair Dye
When looking for a better hair color alternative, consider hair colorants that rely more on using heavy pigments to deposit color into the hair. Concentrate your search on “nontoxic hair color”. This will return the type of brands you want to look at first. Know that if you want a less toxic, but still effective, hair color, then you are going to have to pony up more cash than you would for the traditional brands that use a laundry list of easily available chemicals.
But it will be worth it. Some of these more natural hair colors may not be as convenient to use as traditional hair dyes. For example, you may have to do a multi step process. Or you may have to add heat to the mix and sit under a heat element or blow dry your hair under a cap for some amount of time to get the product to work and stick.
In the end, if you are using a product that doesn’t make your eyes water, and doesn’t burn your scalp where it touches, you know you’ve got a winner. Want to read more about getting fabulously healthy hair? Read our article about why you may want to wash your hair more often if you're currently an infrequent washer (who can blame you if you are, washing, conditioning and drying hair is a pain!)