Did you know the United States only partially bans 30 chemicals from use in personal care products? That’s it…30. Conversely, over the last two decades, the European Union has made strides by banning almost 1,400 chemicals from personal products. Cosmetics are, therefore, wildly unregulated in the United States because a major federal law to ensure the safety of such products has not been passed since 1938. (1) So what does that mean for something as popular as hair dye?
Is Hair Dye 100% Safe?
Whether you are looking to make a wild change to your appearance or wanting to hide those graying roots coming in, research from Finland recommends you listen up. According to Sanna Heikkinen from the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Cancer Registry, the practice of dyeing hair can increase the risk of breast cancer. Heikkinen studied 8,000 women with breast cancer and compared them to a control group of 20,000 women. She noted a 23% increase in breast cancer risk in those who dyed their hair regularly. (2)
In addition to Heikkinen’s findings, other researchers have found an increase in cancer risk that comes with the use of hair dyes. For example, a 2000 study conducted in Los Angeles, California found that women who consistently dyed their hair (once per month for 15 years or more) also increased their risk of bladder cancer. (3, 4)
How Does Hair Dye Lead To Breast Cancer?
There are no direct explanations for why hair dye can be a risk factor for breast cancer. However, research suggests that some chemicals found in hair dye may react with other pollutants in the air, causing a trigger to the creation of tumors. There is also speculation that the chemicals themselves are enough to trigger cancer growth.
There are over 5,000 different chemicals that can be found in commercial hair dyes. Many of these chemicals have been classified as carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in animals. Researches have explored the possibility of these chemicals having similar effects on humans and have found this possibility to have some foundation. (5, 6, 7)
The findings for chemicals in hair dye raising cancer risk for people was enough to get The European Commission involved. The European Commission is the platform responsible for drafting European Union legislation. They ended up withdrawing their support from hair dye products all throughout Europe based on the notion that there was no substantial evidence to support the safety of hair dyes. They had specific concerns and have since warned against the use of the chemical para-Phenylenediamine, or PPD, which is commonly used in hair dye. (8)
The CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) warns against the use of para-Phenylenediamine, stating, “Repeated or prolonged contact may cause skin sensitization. Repeated or prolonged inhalation exposure may cause asthma. The substance may have effects on the kidneys, resulting in kidney impairment.” (9)
If there is such substantiated concern over the use of so many potentially harmful chemicals on your body, why take the risk?
Alternatives To Commercial Hair Dye
Luckily in this day and age where natural alternatives to commercial products are such a widespread trend, hair dye also has alternative options that are safer and not nearly as chemical-ridden as most products on the market.
There are also things like coffee, herbs, henna, tea, and more that can also help add some color to your hair if you’re going for something more natural in appearance. (10) Find a few natural options that seem appealing to you and see how they take to your hair. You just might love what you find!