Up to four out of five people who identify as female use synthetic hair dyes they can buy and apply themselves over attending a salon. However, as cheap and effective as they are, there are still risks involved and you should always follow the safety instructions on the label. But is it safe to dye your hair at home?
Is hair dye safe?
It can depend on your own hair condition, the product you use and your sensitivity to certain ingredients. Hair dyes are made up of ingredients which are considered of being able to change your DNA - or mutagenic.
They are also considered capable of making your immune system react each time its exposed to the hair dye. Not every single hair dye works the same or contain the same concentration of ingredients - darker or permanent colours tend to have a higher concentration.
Hair dye product ingredients have changed over the years since their introduction, with a number of aromatic amines being banned as carcinogens in the 1970s.
Does hair dye cause cancer?
Hair dye is a cosmetic product used to change the natural colour of hair. The majority of hair dyes contain synthetic chemicals, including aromatic amines, that can be hazardous to human health.
Research has shown that frequent and long-term users of hair dyes have an increased risk of developing cancer and other illnesses. In this article, we discuss how to dye hair more safely using natural and synthetic dyes.
The aromatic amines commonly used in hair dyes today are related to carcinogenic compounds that were previously removed from the market. Although hair dye manufacturers argue that the levels of these compounds in their products are safe, many experts remain concerned about the long-term effects of their use.
Research has linked hair dye use to an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma, lymphocytic leukemia, breast cancer, and multiple myeloma. The risks are higher for frequent and long-term users of hair dye, those who use dark and/or permanent hair dye, and those who started colouring their hair at a young age.
Hair dye allergies are also a growing concern. Many hair dye allergens can sensitise the skin over time, leading to a life-long allergy to the material. Ignored cases can lead to serious reactions.
How to dye your hair safely
To dye hair more safely, consider using natural dyes instead of synthetic ones. Natural products are often temporary and have limited colour options, but they are generally safer than synthetic dyes.
Henna is one of the most effective natural hair dyes, offering beautiful shine and body to hair. It adheres to the cuticle, allowing the natural lowlights and highlights of the hair to shine through. Other natural options include chamomile, beetroot, and coffee.
If you prefer to use synthetic hair dyes, you can take steps to limit your exposure to the product. Having a professional colour your hair can reduce the risk of product splashing or dripping down your skin. Communication is key to ensure minimal contact with the product.
Lighter shades usually contain lower concentrations of aromatic amines. Also, paraphenylenediamine-free hair dyes are believed to reduce your risk of sensitisation - which leads to your immune system at risk of reacting more each time it is exposed. Extending the intervals between colouring your hair can also help.
Why should always patch test hair dye
Before using a new hair dye, it is important to patch test it. Only around half of hair dye users in Europe patch test, but this is the best way to prevent serious allergic reactions. The diagnostic patch test should be applied for at least 48 hours, and if a red skin reaction occurs between 48 to around 96 hours later, the person has developed an allergy.
You should also patch test before every single use - just because you initially was not allergic to the product, doesn’t mean you won’t develop an allergy over time.
In conclusion, the risks associated with hair dye use should not be ignored. It is essential to be aware of the potential risks and take steps to dye hair more safely. Using natural products, visiting a professional, using lighter colours, extending the time between colourings, patch testing, and wearing protective clothing are all effective ways to minimise the risks associated with hair dye use.