If you ask me, dyeing your hair, hands down, is the most fun thing to do. People have gotten used to me changing hair colors to the point where they are completely unfazed when they see me with blonde hair one day and blue the next. That being said, I cannot deny that dyes can often come with harmful side effects. With how much I’ve put my hair through in the past year, I’d say I’m lucky that my hair drying out is the only thing that has happened. And so while I take a break from treating my hair like a science experiment, I’ve decided to put together this article on the side effects of hair dyeing that everyone should know before they color their hair.
Side Effects Of Hair Dyeing
NOTE: All of the information given below is in reference to permanent hair dye unless otherwise specified.
To put it simply, hair coloring is just basic chemistry. It’s all about the reactions that take place in between the pigments in your hair, the pigments in dye, peroxide, and ammonia. And with all the experience we’ve had with chemicals, the one thing we’ve come to accept is that—they’re usually not good. Here’s why:
1. Over Processing
Permanent hair colors often contain ammonia (or chemicals similar to it) and peroxide. The ammonia breaks through your hair shaft, and the peroxide neutralizes (or bleaches out) the natural pigment in your hair, stripping away color. This process of relaxing the hair cuticles to reach the cortex of your hair and bleach out its natural pigment is, essentially, hair damage. Over treating your hair with these chemicals will cause it to lose luster, break easily, and in some extreme cases, wash away with water. While processed hair can be revived to a certain extent with hair care treatments, the only way to get rid of the damage from over processing is to chop your hair off.
2. Allergic Reactions
Hair dyes causing allergic reactions is not uncommon especially because permanent hair dyes contain paraphenylenediamine which is a common allergen. People who have contact dermatitis are particularly prone to reactions because of the PPD and other chemicals present in dyes. People with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis should also refrain from using hair dyes to color their hair. In milder cases, permanent dyes can cause itching, skin irritation, redness, or swelling on your scalp or other sensitive areas like your face and neck. Another thing to keep in mind when using these dyes is that not having had an allergic reaction in the past does not mean you won’t have one in the future. The more you color your hair, the more likely you become to having an adverse reaction.
3. Effects On Fertility
Lead acetate is a common ingredient used in permanent hair dyes. Research has drawn a possible link between this chemical and fertility issues in men and women (1). It should also be made a point for pregnant women not to use any kind of hair dyes as the chemicals present may cause malignancy in their unborn infant (2).
While this is not technically a side effect, it can be cause for some. A lot of people don’t realize just how much goes into the upkeep of colored hair. It’s a long-term commitment that will have you rushing back to the salon every month or so, which can be hard on your hair. You will need to buy products that are specially formulated for colored hair. A few styles need regular touch ups, and your hair, in general, needs so much extra care. Post process hair is really vulnerable to damage and demands a lot of time, patience, and care. Failing to give your hair what it needs will result in locks that lack shine, luster, and health.
Failing to exercise extreme caution when dyeing your hair can result in the chemicals making contact with the sensitive parts of your face. In some cases, when chemicals from hair dyes make contact with your eyes, it can lead to conjunctivitis or pink eye. In other cases, it causes inflammation and severe discomfort.
Hair dyes aggravate asthma because of the persulfates present in them. Continued inhalation of these chemicals leads to coughing, wheezing, lung inflammation, throat discomfort, and also asthma attacks.
When permanent hair dyes were first introduced they had compounds which were carcinogenic (cancer causing.) While the formulas were altered to replace these chemicals, the debate as to whether hair dyes can cause cancer has not been put to rest. On the contrary, more scientific research and studies are needed to establish a definite link between the use of permanent hair dye and cancer.
Precautions To Take While Dyeing Your Hair
If these side effects were not enough to scare the living daylights out of you, here are some precautions you could take to minimize the risk of possible side effects.
- Try to avoid using permanent hair color as much as possible. Instead, you could opt for semi and demi-permanent hair colors. While these are temporary, they do not contain as many harmful chemicals in them as permanent hair colors do.
- Always conduct a patch and strand test before you dye your hair. The patch test will help you avoid a possible allergic reaction while the strand test will help you determine whether your hair is healthy enough to be processed.
- Get your hair done professionally. There is so much that can go wrong when you try to color your hair on your own. Go to a professional you trust to avoid a hair disaster.
- Always color your hair in a well-lit and well-ventilated area. Poor ventilation can cause eye and nasal irritation.
- Do your research and use products from trusted brands that do not use many harmful chemicals, even if this means that you will have to spend a little extra money.
The safest way to color your hair would be to give up permanent hair dyes and switch to natural hair dyeing alternatives.
While these methods might only give you subtle results, they’re a great alternative to permanent hair dyes and will give your hair a much-needed break.
Freshly brewed coffee or tea can significantly darken light hair. All you need to do is pour the brew through your hair as a final rinse and let it air-dry. The color will wash out the next time you shampoo your hair, but you can just repeat the process as it has no side effects. In fact, some teas can actually improve the health and texture of your hair.
2. Food Color
Food color and pigmented flavored drinks like kool-aid can be used to attain a whole range of crazy colors. Simply mix the food color or kool-aid with conditioner and apply it to your hair. Let it sit for a couple of hours and then rinse it out with water.
3. Beet And Carrot Juice
A beet and carrot juice treatment is often used to add red undertones to blonde and light brunette hair. You simply need to mix 3 parts of beet juice to 1 part of carrot juice and saturate your hair with the mixture. Let it sit for about an hour and then rinse it out with shampoo.
Henna is one of the most popular natural hair coloring treatments. Simply make a paste out of henna powder and water and apply this to your hair. Let it sit for a couple of hours and then proceed to shampoo and condition your hair.
5. Lemon And Honey
Lemon and honey work well together to lighten your hair and give you natural highlights. Mix equal parts of the two ingredients and apply it to your hair. Sit out in the Sun for an hour or apply heat using a blow dryer. Wash the mixture out with shampoo and then proceed to condition. You might have to repeat this process a couple of times to get visible results.
I will never deny how fun experimenting with colors can be. But I can also vouch for the damage it leaves behind in the form of dry and brittle hair from personal experience. It is always a good idea to switch to safer and more natural alternatives. Do you have a hair coloring experience you want to share? Tell us in the comments section below.
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