New Study Finds Hair Dye Connected to Cancer
By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Last month a shocking study revealed that women who dye their hair have higher rates of cancer. If this is true, the implications affect an estimated 75% of women in the US who dye their hair. Let’s dive into the study results and take a closer look at the risks of dying your hair.
History of Hair Dye
Having dyed hair has become commonplace, but not too long ago it was a rarity! In 1950 only about 7% of women dyed their hair. Now, around 75% of women dye their hair.
Back in Ancient Rome, women dyed their hair blonde with pigeon dung and ashes! After rubbing it into the strands, they had to add urine to act as ammonia and strip the hair of color. This sounds gross, and we’ve come along way from using essentially sewage to color our hair. Unfortunately, the chemical cocktail used on our heads these days may be presented nicer, but a breakdown of the ingredients may still alarm you.
Study Results: Hair Dye Linked to Cancer
A new study in the International Journal of Cancer reports a link between use of hair products, including dye and straightening treatments, and cancer.
The researchers also uncovered the following data:
- Using permanent hair dye is associated with a 45% higher risk of breast cancer in black women and a 7% higher risk in white women.
- The more frequent you use hair dye and hair straighteners, the higher the risk of cancer.
- Women of color have an even more significant risk.
- Black women using permanent dye every five to eight weeks had a 60% increase of breast cancer risk, while white women show an 8% risk increase.
- Straightener products also correlate with a higher breast cancer risk, which increases the more frequently the straightener products are used.
- Using hair straighteners every 5-8 weeks leads to a 30% increase in risk of developing breast cancer.
Beyond Dye: Straightening Treatments and Styling Products
Dye isn’t the only hair product to be aware of: most styling products contain dangerous chemicals, toxic fragrances, and other endocrine-disruptors. The average woman uses 12 personal care products a day containing 168 different chemicals, many of which lack sufficient safety data. Chemicals in mainstream hair products are linked to hormone disruptions, allergies, birth defects, organ damage, and even cancer.
“Fragrance” is a secret ingredient that seems to be lurking in everything these days, including hair dye, conditioning treatments, detangler, hair spray, and shampoo. This deceptive marketing term is a catch-all term used on ingredient lists to indicate a ‘trade secret’ recipe that can contain hundreds of synthetic chemicals–none of which has to be disclosed or even safety tested. What about the chemicals that have been tested? Many cause reproductive harm, respiratory issues, and some are known neurotoxins and carcinogens.
For example, phthalates are a key components in plastics. Dimethyl phthalate is a common ingredient in hair spray, though its presence is often not noted on labels. According to the EPA, known effects of short-term exposure via inhalation are irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. Meanwhile, “no information is available on the chronic (long-term), reproductive, developmental, or carcinogenic effects of dimethyl phthalate in humans. Animal studies have reported slight effects on growth and on the kidney from chronic oral exposure to the chemical.”
One would hope for more of a proven safety track record of dimethyl phthalate as an ingredient in products that are used on a habitual basis, multiple times per week over the course of many years. Unfortunately, that is not always the case when it comes to personal care products.
Beautiful Hair, Naturally
If you are ready to embrace your natural hair and are looking for ways to support its health, growth, and shine, there are supplements and topical treatments you can safely use for more luscious locks!
- A Vitamin B complex can strengthen hair, helping it grow longer without breaking.
- Collagen promotes the growth of not only hair. One of the best sources of collagen is in bone broth. I recommend Kettle & Fire bone broth. If you’d prefer a source of high-quality grass fed collagen that you can add to your coffee or tea, click here to see which ones I recommend.
- Omega-3s from wild-caught fish, antioxidant-rich green tea, and foods rich in vitamins A and C such as bell peppers, broccoli, and sweet potato all support health hair growth.
- Try a coconut oil hair mask 2x/week for added moisture and to prevent split ends. To stimulate hair growth and healthy follicles, rub coconut oil into your scalp and roots.
- Rosemary oil can stimulate hair growth, and is being used as a natural alternative to conventional hair loss medication!
It’s important to be aware of the risk associated with using products such as hair dye and relaxers. While dye alone may not be the sole cause of breast cancer for every individual, by knowing the potential risk, you can make informed decisions regarding the products you choose to buy and have exposure to.
Fragrance: The New Secondhand Smoke
By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Have you ever walked into a bath and body store, full of scented bath bombs and candles, and left with a headache, sore throat, or itchy nose? Those of us who are more sensitive may have already connected the dots between artificial fragrances and feeling foggy. While scented products are generally used with the positive intention of changing the scent of a person or a room, many people don’t realize the consequences. For the more sensitive among us, reactions can be immediate, but we are all at risk for the long-term effects of toxic fragrances.
What is “Fragrance”?
“Fragrance” (or “parfum”) is listed as an ingredient in practically everything these days: body wash, shampoo, soap, perfume, laundry detergent, fabric softener, hairspray, dish soap, household cleaning products… the list goes on and on. While any of these may list the ambiguous “fragrance” as an ingredient, they all have very different scents. Which leads us to the question: what exactly does “fragrance” mean?
Seeing the word fragrance or parfum on an ingredient list indicates a “trade secret” recipe that can be composed of hundreds of synthetic chemicals, selected from a database of 5,000 various components. Not only are companies not required to disclose which chemicals they use, none of these thousands of chemicals has to be tested for safety. There are some that have been studied, and the health effects are seriously scary. Reproductive harm, respiratory issues, and some of these fragrance chemicals are known neurotoxins.
Fragrance has been linked to:
- Endocrine disruption
- Hormone imbalance
- Brain fog
- Memory and concentration issues
- Headaches and migraines
- Respiratory problems
- Birth defects
- Damaged sperm
One example we can look at are phthalates, which help chemicals absorb into the body (alarm bells are already ringing). What are the associated risks? Reproductive system birth defects, hormonal changes, reduced sperm motility and concentration, increased damage to sperm DNA, obesity and insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, thyroid irregularities, asthma, and skin allergies, miscarriage, and infertility, to name a few.
EWG product testing found phthalates in nearly 75% of name-brand products, while not a single product listed phthalates as ingredients. This is because phthalates fall under the umbrella of a secret ingredient, and can be slipped into the chemical cocktail that results in one simple word, fragrance, on the ingredients list.
Think about the potential health effects linked to using phthalates that we listed above. This is just one of 5,000 ingredients that are mixed together to create a product’s fragrance. None of these chemicals are required to be tested for safety, yet we are exposed to them every single day!
Some of us are more sensitive than others and have an immediate reaction to scented products, and will avoid purchasing them. However, the majority of the population (unwittingly) still uses these toxic products. Perfume, scented laundry, hair products, air fresheners… Just like cigarette smoke, these fragrances create an aura of fragrance that pollutes the air. At their core, second-hand smoke and today’s fragrance epidemic are both battles over indoor air quality.
What Can We Do?
Shop with your dollars, and purchase products that are fragrance-free or contain truly natural ingredients, like pure essential oils. In fact, essential oils can take the place of a variety of scented products. doTERRA On Guard Cleanser is made of pure essential oils, including cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, and wild orange. A lavender essential oil can be mixed with a carrier oil (coconut, avocado, olive, rosehip, etc.) to create a natural moisturizer. Shopping for fragrance-free products is not hard, but making them yourself adds an extra layer of fun & personalization!