The Pros and Cons of Coloring your Hair


Today looking younger that your age is more necessary than ever, especially in a culture and time where youth is equaled with beauty, romance and some would say even professional success. One of the earliest hurdles to a youthful look comes in the form of graying hair, to deal with which men and women often consider hair dye, now popularly known as hair color. But like most alternatives, it is not without a few drawbacks – here are a few pros and cons of using hair color to hide the growing streaks of silver.

Disadvantages of hair color

The most obvious reason for keeping off the hair dye is that the harsh chemicals in it are sure to damage your hair. Abrasive compounds in hair dye like ammonia and peroxide make the hair strands brittle and dry which in turn gets weaker and falls out. In this way, coloring your hair can be a direct cause of hair thinning or worsen your condition if you are already experiencing hair loss. Furthermore the chemicals in hair dye can worsen underlying scalp conditions like dandruff and psoriases with results ranging from itchiness and redness on the scalp to infections even. Even if you do not have any scalp conditions, you can still develop a serious allergy to the chemicals in the dye  which is the whole point of a mandatory skin-test before applying the color to your hair.

Some time ago hair colors were in the news for containing chemicals that could lead to cancer. Over 5,000 different chemicals are used in hair dye products, some of which were found to be carcinogenic in animals because so many people use hair dyes, scientists tried to determine whether exposure to the chemicals in hair coloring products is associated with an increased risk of cancer in people. That danger seems to have lessened now since according to the National Cancer Institute1, studies reporting on the risks of bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and leukemia as a result of using hair dye have yielded inconclusive results. but this still does not meant hair dyes and colors are problem free since the NCI web site further elaborates that “Some studies have indicated that people who began using hair dyes before 1980 have an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma”. Even more significantly, over the years, some population studies have found an increased risk of bladder cancer in hairdressers and barbers. A 2008 report of the Working Group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), mentioned in the NCI website, concluded that some of the chemicals these workers are exposed to occupationally are “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Although certain potentially carcinogenic chemicals in hair dyes have been banned since the 1970s, in places where hair dye companies are still using earlier generation of chemicals, consumers continue to be exposed to dangers like cancer. Even if the ban is enforced, it may be that the newer chemicals are as bad as the old, in terms of long term effects on health. For instance the NCI website mentions that regarding pre-1980 dye formulations, risks for Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia and bladder cancer are marginally higher for people who have been using hair dyes for a long time like fifteen years or more as well as who are opting for darker colored hair dyes. Then again there are concerns about hair dyes harming the health of unborn babies when used by pregnant women. When you use hair dye, a small amount of the dye can penetrate your skin. Some studies have found that very high doses of the chemicals in hair dyes may cause harm. However, these doses are massive compared to the very low amount of chemicals that a woman coloring her hair is exposed to.

Even when potential health hazards are not a concern, using a hair color to hide graying hair is tiresome. You may have just shelled out around $150 at the salon to get your hair colored but you are sadly mistaken if you think that is the end of it. You'll probably need an appointment every four to six weeks with in-between visits for root touch-ups – and the impact that these repeated visits to the salon will have on your budget is going to be substantial.

Advantages of coloring your hair

The greatest source for worry over using hair color comes from the possibility of it containing carcinogenic agents. However as the NCI website clarifies that there is no definite proof of contemporary hair dye formulations causing cancers among humans who color their hair. Such a link had been found in hair dyes of the 1980s which contained chemicals, including aromatic amines that were found to cause cancer in animals. In the mid- to late 1970s, however, manufacturers changed the components in dye products to eliminate some of these chemicals. If you are using modern hair dyes from well-reputed brands, your chances of coming down with a cancer are not increased by coloring your hair. Also there has been no conclusive evidence that hair color used by a pregnant or breastfeeding woman poses harm to her unborn child or infant2. So as long as you follow instructions like wearing gloves while coloring your hair and not leaving the hair color on for more than the recommended time, your health is unlikely to be affected.

The very chemicals that lend color to your hair are charged with making it dry and brittle. But you can always counter this by deep conditioning your hair after a hair color procedure. In fact most reputed hair color brands these days come with their own conditioner and protective serum which offers a quick and easy way to prevent any potential damage to your hair from coloring chemicals. And many women have even found that the deep conditioning which follows hair coloring makes their locks even softer and fuller as compared to how it feels after a normal shampoo. And if you are worried about your budget going haywire, there are many DIY hair color packs available, which with a little bit of practice, can give your equally good results.

Finally who doesn’t feel good after acquiring a shiny new color in your hair which probably bring out your best features and scintillates as the sun reflects your highlights. Using a hair color to hide your grays or going for a makeover can give a powerful boost to your self-image.

In the end, like with any other cosmetic aid, moderation is the key – if you use hair color only occasionally and from a reputed brand, there is little that can go wrong and you are sure to wow others with an attractive and shiny mane of hair.


National Cancer Institute - Hair Dyes and Cancer Risk

NHS - Is it safe to use hair dye when I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?