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.