Is It Safe To Use Hair Dye?

August 21, 2020

Dyeing your hair may be a ritual for teens to test their style and a way for older women to cover up the gray. But are hair dyes bad for your health?

“There’s a lot of controversy about the health risks associated with hair dyes,” says Dr. Shilpi Khetarpal, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Decades ago, older hair dye products were found to contain carcinogens, but now the link between certain dye ingredients and cancer is more challenging.

In the late 1970s, researchers discovered that several chemicals in hair dyes, such as 4-MMPD and 2,4-tolylenediamine, increased the risk of cancer in laboratory animals, so manufacturers removed them from their products. Now, there is little evidence of a link between the two.

Some studies do suggest a possible link between the use of hair dyes and bladder cancer. Several studies have shown that salon stylists who color their clients’ hair, and therefore are frequently exposed to hair dyes, have a “small but fairly consistent increased risk of bladder cancer” compared to the general public, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). According to a 2008 meta-analysis of 12 studies in the journal Cancer Causes and Control, the study found no such link between personal hair dye use and bladder cancer.

Studies investigating the relationship between hair dyes and breast and blood-related cancers have found mixed results, with no conclusive evidence of a link. For other types of cancer, there isn’t enough data, according to the ACS.

“Based on the studies, it’s really not clear how much, if any, personal use of hair dyes might increase cancer risk,” Khetarpal told Live Science. “Most of the studies have not found a strong link.” The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, did not classify hair dyes with cancer risk, saying there was not enough evidence.

Another major health concern with hair dyes is that some people are allergic to their ingredients, Khetarpal said. Most people who react to hair dyes are allergic to the chemical para-phenylenediamine (PPD).” This is a relatively common ingredient in many dark hair dyes,” says Khetarpal. According to a 2018 study published in the Annals of Dermatology, people who are allergic to the chemical may experience itching, skin redness, eczema and hives.When using hair dye for the first time or switching to a new brand, do a patch test, dab a little dye behind your ears and wait 48 hours to see if you experience an allergic reaction, Khetarpal says.

Hair dyes can also irritate the skin if used improperly. So here are some tips: to protect your hands, always wear gloves when applying hair dye; Khetarpal suggests that permanent and semi-permanent dyes can cause chemical burns to the scalp if left on too long, so practice your technique with temporary dyes for your first at-home hair coloring.

Also, don’t dye your eyebrows because your hair is too fine. Never mix dyes, and if you want a custom color, it’s best to go to a salon. Otherwise, there is no safe difference between box dyes and salon hair dyes, says Khetarpal.