I hate being the bearer of bad news. Really, I do. But I figure if someone knew information that could radically affect my health and didn’t tell me, I’d be pretty upset.
It’s with this frame of mind that I’ll start this week’s posts where I’m sharing information about three of the most dangerous types of personal care products available – hair dye, perfume, and nail polish – along with healthier alternatives. The initial information is frightening – after I learned what I was putting on my body, I stopped using all three immediately and only recently learned about safer varieties.
Today, let’s discuss dye. More than 5,000 chemicals are found in hair dye products 1 – and most of the extremely toxic choices include one or more of these three ingredients: p-Phenylenediamine, resorcinol, and p-Aminophenol.
While p-phenylenediamine is used in many hair dyes, it’s a hazardous ingredient that’s linked to allergic reactions. It’s restricted in Canadian and European cosmetics and irritates skin, eyes, and lungs.
P-phenylenediamine is a known human immune system toxicant and human respiratory toxicant. It’s also a possible human carcinogen. There’s strong evidence that it’s a human skin toxicant and human neurotoxicant. And there’s moderate evidence that it’s a human nervous system toxicant. 2
Resorcinol is another common ingredient in hair dyes, yet it’s banned in Japan and is known to irritate skin. While the U.S. government limits the amount of resorcinol used in the workplace, there are no limits for private use – and no limits in personal care products.
Resorcinol causes hair dye allergies and is a known human immune system toxicant. There’s strong evidence that it’s a human skin toxicant and human endocrine disruptor. It’s also linked to convulsions, dizziness, vertigo, confusion, disorientation, and tremors. In animal studies, it’s known to disrupt thyroid hormone synthesis. 3
P-aminophenol, a chemical that irritates eyes, skin, and respiratory systems, requires the use of safety glasses, gloves, and good ventilation. Toxic to aquatic organisms, it’s a known human immune system toxicant – plus there’s strong evidence that it’s a human skin toxicant and moderate evidence that it’s a human immune system toxicant.
P-aminophenol is one of the byproducts of coal tar, a thick liquid byproduct of bituminous coal distillation that contains toxic impurities. Coal tar is a known human carcinogen used in over-the-counter drugs – and hair dyes – that adds to a person’s body burden. 4
Two other toxins, 1-naphthol and ethanolamine, also are common ingredients in hair dyes. They both irritate lungs, skin, and eyes. There’s strong evidence that 1-naphthol is a human skin toxicant, and in animal studies it affects the brain, endocrine system, nervous system, and reproduction.
Peroxide and ammonia also are common ingredients – they’re both known to burn and irritate skin, scalp, and eyes. 5
Hazardous to your health?
Aside from the obvious dangers I just stated, many studies have tried to prove a link between hair dye and cancers like bladder cancer, breast cancer, and leukemia. However, the studies just provide conflicting results. Even though there is no specific human proof that hair dyes cause cancer, many of the chemicals found in hair dyes are known carcinogens in animal studies. 6
Personally, I don’t need scientific proof to limit my use of a potentially dangerous product. I remember the annoying odors along with my burning and itching scalp and forehead when I used to color my hair. Those sensations alone tell me that the product can’t be very healthy or safe.
Fortunately for those who like to experiment with hair colors, henna is a great hair coloring option – it’s a natural coloring taken from plants. Many websites and stores that sell natural and organic products carry the henna dyes.
If you still want to be daring and use a chemical kind of dye, check a ranking of hair dyes and their levels of health risk in the Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database.
Join me again on Wednesday, when I’ll reveal what stinks about perfumes.
1. “Hair Dyes and Cancer Risk.” National Cancer Institute. U.S. National Institutes of Health.
2. “Hair Color and Bleaching.” Skin Deep. “Hair Colors.” On Your Body. The Naked Truth Project.
3. “Concise International Chemical Assessment Document 71 RESORCINOL.” Drs. S. Hahn, J. Kielhorn, J. Koppenhöfer, A. Wibbertmann, and I. Mangelsdorf. Fraunhofer Institute of Toxicology and Experimental Medicine, Hanover, Germany. World Health Organization; 2006, pp. 29-30. “Hair Color and Bleaching.” Skin Deep.
4. “Hair Color and Bleaching.” Skin Deep. “Hair Colors.” On Your Body. The Naked Truth Project.
5. “Ethanolamine Health Guidelines.” United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “Hair Color and Bleaching.” Skin Deep. “Hair Colors.” On Your Body. The Naked Truth Project.
6. “Hair Dyes and Cancer Risk.” National Cancer Institute. U.S. National Institutes of Health.
© Rebecca Abell | Dreamstime.com
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