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Non-Toxic Hair Color Facts
by Karen M. Shelton, Lamas Beauty Magazine Contributor

Introduction to Non-Toxic Hair Color Facts

Since the beginning of time people have gone to some extraordinary measures to attain what they perceived to be the standard of beauty for their time. Who hasn't heard of the many beauty routines that Cleopatra endured to be the most beautiful Queen of the Nile? Some of her beauty products were thought to be poisonous, but that didn't stop Cleo from doing whatever it took to be stunning.

Unless you happen to be born with it, achieving beauty is rarely easy. This includes achieving gorgeous hair. No matter how much people search for it, there is no quick fix to fabulous hair. It takes time, work and it takes, in many cases, products that contain some form of chemicals.

Karen M. Shelton - The Hair Boutique
Karen M. Shelton
The Hair Boutique

Which brings us to the topic of hair color. The Romans were fascinated with hair dyes and history has uncovered as many as 100 different formulas that were used to alter hair color. Some of the Roman ingredients included everything from leeches and charred eggs to walnut shells. Ironically walnut shells are still used in modern times for some dye formulations.

Time has not lessened the power of hair color. Currently Clairol makes more than 70 different shades of just blonde hair colors.

Why does hair color hold such fascination? Hair color can be that magic wand that instantly transforms dull mousy locks into glorious golden lights that shimmer and shine. It can also instantly erase years of age by covering gray, adding depth to fading colors and cranking up overall shine.

Color From Chemical Agents

While the end results of gorgeous color seem worth it to many people, there is no easy way to get from dull to dynamite without some form of coloring product. A famous hair colorist once told me that blondes may have more fun but they also have to have more done to their hair to achieve true color nirvana.

Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, hair-coloring products will almost always require the use of some form of chemical agents.

Why? According to master colorist Theresa Dufour who has represented the Herbavita Corporation in North America for the past 9 years, you have to be able to open the hair cuticle to lighten and deposit color. It’s just that simple. If you can't pop open the hair cuticle you will not be able to apply color or make it last. It will wash right out at the next shampoo.

Pick Your Poison

Although consumers have historically proven to be allergic to a wide range of ingredients in beauty products, hair color products are considered by many health care experts to pose one of the biggest risks of serious emergency level problems.

Although not all experts agree, many believe that a leading cause of hair color allergic reactions are related to PPD which is short for p-Phenylenediamine. Others argue that serious reactions in hair color can be linked to ingredients such as ammonia, peroxide or diaminobenzene.

If a hair color product claims that they do not use PPD then they will use something else that can be even more damaging like mercury, lead or other metals. Ms. Dufour reported that consumers often tell her they shun products containing PPD for “safer” alternatives like Loving Care by Clairol. As Theresa pointed out, products without PPD may actually be more dangerous due to the high concentration of metals, leads and mercury.

Almost all coloring products that lighten hair contain some amount of hydrogen peroxide. This colorless liquid achieves two major actions. It will first break down the natural melanin in the hair shaft which instantly "lifts" the color of the hair making it lighter. The peroxide also releases oxygen, which combines with the dye molecules and helps them to develop and deposit color. The depositing part is important for covering gray.

Although many people worry about the toxicity of using hydrogen peroxide on their hair there are more potentially toxic ingredients, as Ms. Dufour pointed out, that can be lurking in popular hair dyes.

Aniline dyes are liquid chemicals that are derived from coal tar and are used in commercial semi-permanent hair dyes. The various aniline dyes are often considered to be toxic and irritating to the eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Hypersensitive people may experience allergic reactions to these dyes. Historically these dyes have also been proven to cause blindness in some cases when used in the eye areas.

Ammoniated mercury and related metallic chemicals also provide bleaching agents that encourages color lift. Like PPD and other hair color chemicals, allergic reactions have also been linked to these particular chemicals which may or may not appear in current hair color formulations.

How do you know what chemicals are in your hair color brands? Read the labels or ask your colorist to tell you.

PPD - Serious Allergic Reactions

For all your label readers p-Phenylenediamine may also be referred to as phenylenediame, phenylenediame dihydrochloride or benzenediamine dihydrochloride. It is also known by the name aminoaniline dihydrochloride.

All of the various PPD derivatives may cause allergic reactions in chemically sensitive individuals. The key word to remember is may. Not all people will react to PPD and even less with have severe reactions.

Reported allergic reactions have also included facial and neck swelling. If swallowed it can cause vomiting. The chemical may be toxic if inhaled directly and may cause coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath and in some rare cases, cyanosis (blue lips). In extreme cases respiratory distress has been reported. Although rare, if you or a loved experience these reactions seek medical attention immediately.

When PPD makes contact with the skin it may cause rashes and contact dermatitis. Eye contact may cause irritation, redness and pain. Corneal damage and loss of vision has been reported in some very isolated cases. Chronic exposures to PPD may affect kidney or liver function and can cause bluish discoloration of the lips or tongue.

Non-Toxic Hair Color Facts Part 2., To Color Or Not To Color?

Non-Toxic Hair Color Facts Part 3., Honesty Is The Best Policy

More Thermal Reconditioning Articles By Karen M. Shelton

TR The Inside Scoop

Chemical Hair Straightening Faqs

Yuko Founder's - Words Of Hair Care Wisdom

Discuss this topic with others right now at the Salon Discussion Board!

Karen M. Shelton is the founder of HairBoutique.com which has been featured in numerous magazines including 101 Celebrity Hairstyles, Today's Dallas Woman Magazine, WE-Women's Enterprise, The National Enquirer, American Salon Magazine and Self magazine, as well as international publications.

Karen M. Shelton was featured in DFW Tech Biz as winner of the Emerging CEO - Tech Titan award. In 2001 Ms. Shelton joined 101 Celebrity Styles & Short Cuts magazine as consumer hair editor.

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