Before giving it up, I’d been dying my hair, originally for fun and then later on to cover greys, for about 15 years. Most of the time I just used an at-home-kit, with some regretful results including jet black and trailer trash blonde zebra stripes. I was usually too broke or too tight to afford a salon job.
My natural hair colour could be described as medium brown with a hint of auburn and now a sprinkling of grey. At one time I was embarrassed about having grey hair, heading straight to the beauty isle of the supermarket the minute I noticed one of those wiry, sparkly greys poking its way through. However, the last time I dyed my hair, I was in the early stages of pregnancy with Peanut. The smell of chemicals was so strong I was only able to handle 10 minutes of the dye before washing it out, as opposed to the 25 minutes recommended on the box.
This got me thinking about how bad hair dye must be for our health and consequently what cocktail of chemicals was I washing down the drain. That was well over three years ago and I haven’t dyed it since, but it is only now that I have enough grey hair that people are taking note of the fact I’m “letting myself go”. I say that because, like make up, the one and only reason to dye your hair is for cosmetic reasons. According to Sierra Club, in the USA alone, 1.43 billion units of hair dye are sold annually with 75 percent of women using hair dye. This is a significant increase since 1950, when just 7 percent of women dyed their hair.
A google search on the matter informed me that hair dyes are anything from a skin irritant, causing mild dermatitis to being a carcinogenic. However, on further research, a study published by Science Direct concluded ” the weight of evidence suggests that consumer or professional exposure to hair dyes poses no carcinogenic or other human health risks”. So while the evidence is not clear, I’m still hedging my bets that the chemicals used in hair dye definitely aren’t good for our bodies or our health!
What concerns me even more though, is what effect these chemicals might have on the environment. According the United States EPA, “contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), including pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), are increasingly being detected at low levels in surface water, and there is concern that these compounds may have an impact on aquatic life”. Many chemicals in PPCPs are toxic to aquatic life and bioaccumulate, meaning, they don’t break down quick enough and begin to build up in the environment.
Then lastly, there is the waste problem. Every time I’ve had my hair dyed professionally, the process has included the use of foil, which inevitably ends up in landfill, rather than being recycled. This is a massive waste as aluminum is infinitely recyclable, with scrap aluminum requiring only 5% of the energy used to make new aluminum from the raw ore. Plus, there’s also waste bottles, boxes, combs, sachets, gloves etc. that possibly and probably end up in landfill, whether they used at home or in a salon.
Last year I came across Sustainable Salons – A social enterprise that rescues up to 95% of salon resources from landfill and finds repurposing solutions that benefit our planet, all while supporting the community!
So what do they do exactly? Here is a quick overview:
95% of of waste is collected for recycling including: chemicals, metals and plastics. The hair is collected and turned into hair booms, which are used to help clean ocean oil spills! And, as if that wasn’t enough, all proceeds from repurposing salon materials are donated to OzHarvest and KiwiHarvest to provide meals for those in need!
– Only have my hair cut at a Sustainable Salon to support those that want to make a difference.
– Say no to convention and the unattainable beauty standards set by Hollywood and social media by embracing the grey! Why is a man with grey hair, such as Mr. Clooney, considered a silver fox, while a greying woman, albeit in her 30’s, is “letting herself go”? Not only am I being an honourable feminist (not my usual role), but by doing this I’m avoiding added chemicals entering my body and the environment.
Quitting hair dye may seem like a drastic step of little consequence to my health and the environment, but so are many of the other little changes I’ve made over the past year and a half. Whenever I think this, I try to remember, every little bit we can change, however small, makes a difference and if we all change, then what a huge difference!