Safer Beauty: What's In Your Hair Color?

"Being a girl is a lot of damn work," I told Derek.

"It really is," he replied in total agreement. I had just finished coloring my hair ALL BY MYSELF and I was exhausted. I had colored my hair and what hair I wasn't coloring I was plucking and/or completely removing, covering my body in lotions and anti aging creams and serums. A lot of damn work, yes, but also totally worth it.

I haven't colored my own hair since college. All it takes is turning your hair an unattractive shade of orange one time to make it a bad idea. But college is a time when you're willing to take all kinds of chances, including those involving hair color.

I started turning gray several years ago and have been coloring my hair every six weeks ever since. And every six weeks I sit in the stylist chair feeling light headed from the color soaking into my head. I usually left the salon feeling high, and not in a good way. I don't know much, but I know that can't be good for you.

It didn't make sense. I was being so careful with everything else that I was putting on my skin but was totally ignoring what was in the hair color that I was putting on my head every six weeks. Frankly, I wish I could just let my hair color be natural, but I'm not ready. I'm too young to be gray headed, even if it's just a light dusting. Maybe one day. Or maybe not.

Researching more about hair color, I found this article from the American Cancer Society website sharing interesting facts about the possible connection between hair dye and cancer. Another article in The Atlantic also was very informative. In a quick nutshell, here is a short list of some of the chemicals often found in hair color that should concern us:

  • Ammonia: exposure to these fumes can cause irritation to both skin and lungs
  • Resorcinol: used as a dye, can cause allergic reactions as well as being toxic to the immune system as well as an allergen that 
  • PPD (para-phenylenediamine): made from coal tar, a petroleum-derived chemical, the EPA warns that long-term exposure can cause all sorts of problems like asthma, gastritis, renal failure, vertigo, tremors, convulsions, and coma in humans
  • Ethanol Alcohol (isopropyl alcohol): drys out your hair after coloring
  • Parabens: can cause skin irritation as well as being a hormone disrupter
  • Lead Acetate: used as a color additive for the dark shade hair dyes, said to cause anemia and produce neurological problems

This lead me to Madison Reed. These products are made in Italy which means they follow the EU's regulations when it comes to known toxins in beauty products. The EU bans 1,400 potentially toxic ingredients in beauty products. The U.S.? Only 30. I know. It's a real problem. And when it comes to hair dye, the EU bans 22 hair dye chemicals.

Madison Reed's website said, "At the forefront of innovation, we created the first ever Smart 6-Free permanent hair color: Free of ammonia, parabens, resorcinol, PPD, phthalates, and gluten. And we added hair-loving nutrients including keratin, argan oil, and ginseng root extract to protect and pamper hair." Seemed like a great choice, but would require me to color my own hair. Yikes. I wasn't so sure about that. I suck at doing hair so I figured I suck at coloring it too. But when I saw the price ($30 including shipping when I was used to paying close to $200), I was suddenly convinced that I could give it a try.

After following their questionnaire for choosing the right air color (Tuscany Brown for me), I placed my order. It quickly arrived with everything I would need to be successful, including an app with step-by-step video instructions and a timer. Let me just say, the "during" portion of the coloring process was a total shit show. I wish I had videoed myself trying to color my long, thick hair, but standing there in nothing but my bra and yoga pants I thought better of it. Hair and dye and chip clips and cuss words were everywhere. I quickly understood why stylist charge you so much to do this shit for you. I placed the cap on my head, cleaned up, sat with my book for 45 minutes and prayed that my hair wouldn't be a total and complete disaster.

I should have taken a before pic (my roots were about an inch long and lots of grays poking out), but I was so nervous that I forgot. I think this after pic proves that the shit show was totally worth it! My hair color turned out beautiful. Covered my roots, the grays, and didn't leave me high or woozy afterwards. Will I do it again? Absolutely! I can only hope that I will get better at it the more I do it. (Of course next time I will only be doing a root touch up instead of all-over color like I did today.)

Reminder: I am not paid by these companies for these reviews so you can trust that what you read is my honest opinion of the products.

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