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7 Surprising Health Dangers of Hair Dye

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December 13, 2016

By ARIADNE WEINBERG, Featured Columnist




A change of look can always be good for self-esteem; when your hair gets too long or you need to change it, a cut and color can be a nice energy shift. I recently cut and dyed my hair, and I feel much better.

However, like most things in life, even those that seem innocuous, it's important to take precautions. If you become addicted to dyeing your hair, whether you're retouching it or giving it a new color, there are an array of health dangers that show up.

There is one type of toxic chemical in permanent dyes, called arlyamine, which has been found to cause cancer in lab animals. Cancer risks, along with many other factors, are some of the risks that go along with dyeing your, or someone else's, hair.

The most risks found in dyeing hair reveal that the longer you dye and the more frequently you dye, the more at risk you will be. This is just plain logic.

However, the kind of hair dye you use is also important: If it's permanent, oxidative hair dye, or black henna, you're in more danger than if it's a product that washes out easily.

When you started coloring your hair matters, as well. There are some toxins used in products in the 1980s and beforehand that have been taken off the market now. Also, if you're a person who dyes hair for others, you may have to take even more precautions than a frequent dyer.

In any case, it's good to stay informed about what possible side effects your hair dye might have.

Here is a list of things to watch out for.














1. Hair Dye Increases Your Risk of Bladder Cancer

According to a 2001 study from Manuela Gago-Dominguez and researchers at the University of Southern California, people who regularly color their hair with permanent dyes, as well as hairstylists who use them, are at risk for bladder cancer. They found that, even when factoring in cigarette smoking which is one of the risk factors for bladder cancer, people who use permanent dyes at least once a month for one year or longer have two times the risk of bladder cancer than those who don't. For monthly or more frequent users who have been dyeing their strands for 15 years or more are at three times that risk. Barbers and hairdressers may be in even more danger: Haircare professionals who have been working for 10 years or longer are five times more at risk than the general population. The study emphasizes that only permanent dyes cause these kinds of effects.

2. Hair Dye Increases the Risk of Leukemia in Children

If you are pregnant, consider waiting on dyeing your hair. There could be health dangers for your babies.

In 2013, A.C. Couto and colleagues from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro looked at the association between maternal exposure to hair dyes and hair straightening cosmetics during pregnancy and leukemia at an early age.

They did a multicenter hospital-based case control study in 13 states in Brazil between 1997 and 2007. Mothers of 176 acute lymphocytic leukemia and 55 acute myeloid leukemia cases as well as 419 controls were interviewed. Accompanying relevant data was added to their interviews.

The researchers found that maternal exposure to hair dyes and hair straightening cosmetics may be involved in the etiology of children with leukemia under two years old.


3. Hair Dye Can Cause an Allergic Reaction

The chemicals in hair dye have a high potential to irritate your scalp and skin. Depending on your personal chemistry, coloring hair may be an uncomfortable experience.

The contact allergic reaction that occurs is mostly due to sensitization to para-phenylenediamine (PPD). Para-phenylenediamine is a derivative of p-nitroaniline that is used in oxidizable hair dye and also found in black henna.

Exposure to para-phenylenediamine may lead to delayed type IV hypersensitivity, which manifests as acute contact dermatitis, according to a 2016 report from S. Isik from the Dokuz Eylul University Hospital in Izmir, Turkey.

4. Hair Dye Can Cause Occupational Rhinitis and Asthma

It turns out that the chemicals in hair dye are not so great for breathing, especially if you're working with these products all day long.

Oxidative hair dyes typically have para-phenylenediamine and para-phenylenediamine derivatives, which can cause hypersensitivity in consumers and hairdressers.

Luckily, few cases occur, but these toxic hair chemicals are present in the environment. In one 2014 Finnish study from E. Helaskoski and researchers from the University of Helsinki, scientists examined cases of asthma and rhinitis.

The scientists reviewed patient files from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health between January 1st 2001 and May 31st, 2011, to identify people with those diseases associated with oxidative hair dye. They used skin prick tests. Their results revealed five cases of occupational asthma and five cases of rhinitis.

These instances of  asthma associated with hair dyes maybe small in the statistical scheme of things, however certainly impressive that they can occur in the first place.

You wouldn't want to be the unlucky hairdresser, using an inhaler and extra meds at work.

5. Hair Dye Can Cause Hair Loss

The scientific name for hair loss is alopecia, which certainly sounds a lot prettier than the experience itself.

According to a 2015 report from Z.D. Draelos at the Duke University school of medicine in North Carolina, any chemical process, including hair dyeing, can further hair loss through breakage.

Permanent waving and straightening are also not friendly for your strands. Draelos suggests frequent haircuts to get rid of split ends. Mild shampoos and body-building conditioners can also help.

6. Hair Dye Can Cause Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is also known as cancer of the lymph tissue. The disease can be found in the lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrow.

When lymphoma spreads, it begins to affect and suppress the entire immune system. In Genoa, Italy, a study was carried out by S. Parodi and researchers, who examined the risk factors of hair dye on Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, as well as leukemia.

After collecting data from a population-based case control study with 294 cases (199 lymphoid, 95 myeloid) and 279 controls, a standard multivariable logistic regression analysis revealed something disturbing. Hair dye used for at least 15 years was associated with a higher risk of both lymphoma and leukemia among females.

Since the study was done in 2016, the scientists thought it might have had to do with toxic chemicals in dye in the past. However, some of the same chemicals could be floating around in hair dyes today.

7. Hair dye is a risk factor for multiple myeloma in white men

Women are typically the ones who get mentioned the most in scientific studies about hair dye, because they are more frequent users. However, that doesn't mean the dangers of hair dye don't equally apply to men.

There have been links between the use of hair coloring products with mutagenic and carcinogenic chemicals and multiple myeloma in men.

In a 1992 case control study L.M. Brown from the National Cancer Institute in Maryland examined men from Iowa. He and researchers took 173 white men with multiple myeloma and 650 controls along with information about their hair dye use, and analyzed the data.

The risk of multiple myeloma was much higher amongst hair dye users, and even more so with those who had been dyeing their hair once a month for a year or more.



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