Tuesday, January 15, 2008

To Dye or Not to Dye? . . . a Hairy Story.

According to some estimates, almost 60% of American women dye their hair in some way.

As for me, I started dying my hair when I was in 8th grade (yes, you heard that right, eighth grade). It was Halloween and I was dressing up as Molly Ringwald from "Pretty in Pink" which, obviously, meant that I needed red hair (my natural hair color being ash brown - yes, possibly the worst natural hair color ever!) So, you are wondering, what parent in their right mind would let a 15-year-old color their hair (wait, was I 15 in 8th grade? Anyway . . .). It didn't really phase my mother, however. In fact, she said I looked better . . . and years of the monthly ritual of hair dying began.

Over the years I have been:

A red head.

A blonde.

A mix.

And, most recently, a brunette.

(There was some fuchsia in there somewhere, but I can't find a pic.)

So, you can say that I am a hair dye veteran and that my hair - and hair color - has always been a way for me to express who I feel like at the moment. But, over the last few years, I have noticed that my hair just isn't as resilient as it used to be after the color. It would be conditioned and soft for a few days after the color, but - even with the best, most expensive, hydrating conditioner - it would get brittle and dry soon after. In addition, I had always been aware of the many studies examining the link between chemicals found in hair dye and cancer and other health issues. Although the evidence has not shown any conclusive relationship between the two, I also didn't want my vanity to result in these chemicals (the main ones being ammonia, P-PHENYLENEDIAMINE, and resorcinal) being flushed into the ecosystem, potentially damaging aquatic habitats and affecting water supplies. (In some counties, unused hair dye is considered a hazardous waste!!!)

So, a year or so ago, I stopped coloring my hair altogether. Since my last shade was fairly close to my natural color, it was easy not to worry about it for the first few months. To my chagrin, a few months later, I realized that I had become a lot grayer than I had ever realized (having dyed my hair religiously for so long and all). Now, granted, I think that our society has horrible double standards for men and women when it comes to looking our age. Few Hollywood actresses would let their hair go gray, yet many male stars do - with no issues, no judgments (btw, how hot is George Clooney?).

But, hey, I am only in my early 30s - I was not really looking "my age". Some may call me shallow, but, for me, it was all about looking how I felt - which has been the role of my hair for my entire life. And I didn't feel gray . . . yet. I am sure that when I get older, I will transition to one of those awesome, aging gracefully, gray bobs. Just not yet. Not yet.

What to do, what to do. I finally decided to try a "natural" hair dye, that did not have many of the chemicals that other, more mainstream dyes, had. There are many varieties, but the one I got at Whole Foods was Naturcolor. It didn't have ammonia or resorcinal, and only a small amount of the phenyl-whatever. I was concerned that the color would be uneven or too dark or would fade too quickly. But, I am pleased to report that it worked out great! My hair was SO SOFT after I dyed it and there were NO harsh fumes while it was working. The color has faded a bit - especially on my ends, which were bleached - but its hardly noticeable and a small price to pay for reducing harmful chemicals in the environment. However, it will not lighten your hair, so, if you're a "bottled blonde" you may be stuck with what you have - unless this is the year for a dramatic change. Here is some inspiration to go dark:

So, the moral of the story is: if you dye your hair and want to try something containing less toxic chemicals that is also easier on your hair and on the environment, check out the hair color aisle in Whole Foods or a similar store.

Here is my own BEFORE and AFTER.


Anonymous said...

What about Aveda's dyes? Are they safe? Thanks.

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