scalpRecent health issues have prompted me to really re-think my product lines. How do the chemicals I work with affect my clients? Are they truly safe for the hair, skin, lungs, and environment? What does long term consistent use do to our hair and bodies? Is this a contributing factor in hair loss? Are there safer products out there that can still achieve the results my clients know and expect?

I started doing more research. First, what’s in there? What are the main ingredients in color? For the sake of not boring you to tears, I’m going to go through the 5 main ingredients found in most permanent hair color. These are phenylenediamine (PPD), ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, resorcinol, and formaldehyde.

•  Ammonia. Ammonia is an alkaline agent used to raise the PH of hair which is usually a 4.5-5.5 so the cuticle layer of the hair shaft can open up to take color. It usually drives that pH up to around a level 10. Some hair textures can tolerate this, some cannot. In doing so, the hair is compromised. This blast cannot happen without at least a little depletion of the protein and nutrients in the hair. This means the after product of ammonia on the hair is loss of strength and elasticity. This affects the health of the hair, the longevity of the color, and eventually the overall integrity of the client’s style. The amino acids and proteins, once depleted, can also deplete the natural pigments in the hair, thinning and weakening the hair shaft! What an AHA moment, right?!So what is used when ammonia isn’t? What else gets the job done? Many ammonia free color lines use a naturally derived, coconut basked chemical called MEA. For so long in our industry MEAs got a bad rap. But lack of knowledge leads to ignorance and once we know we are wiser! It’s used in small doses along with oil delivery systems to swell and open the hair without blasting it up to a 10.

•  PPD (para phenylenediamine). Another relative to this with a similar use and effect is PTD or para toluenediamine. These two chemicals are derived from petroleum products. Because of their use, many people develop rather strong sensitivities, even allergies, to them over time. The dyes containing these chemicals are the strongest proponent for allergic reactions and sensitivities in hair color clients and users. So with just PPD and ammonia we already have hair damage and scalp sensitivity. We are getting close! 

•  Hydrogen peroxide. This one is simple. On its own, peroxide really has no effect on hair or hair color. Peroxide developers surly can lighten the hair when used by themselves but only slightly. This is really due to the action of it opening the hair shaft slightly. It’s predominant activity is creating the necessary oxidative reaction to achieve the colorists’ desired result. 

•  Resorcinol. This is a big one. And I won’t cover it all here. I will say this, there is toxic resorcinols and non-toxic ones. These provide couplers in hair color to give it its permanence. Many times when PPD’s and PTD’s and ammonia are eliminated or lessened, the resorcinol is increased. Although finding products with less resorcinol or better yet none at all proves a constant challenge, it’s one I am willing to tackle because toxic resorcinol is just simply dangerous! Here’s a summary of it’s negative affects: skin irritant, damaging to the immune system, cause of hair dye allergy, can disrupt hormone synthesis, can lead lead to damage of thyroid gland, affects metabolism, it can also cause other issues when absorbed into the skin. Although the government regulates exposure in the workplace, there are no governmental regulations on it in the hair or cosmetic products. It is not recommended for use when someone has open wounds or is pregnant or nursing. Hello RED FLAG! The good news here is that the nontoxic substitutes are as good or better than the toxic ones. 

•  Formaldehyde. This one is sneaky. It is known by so many names and can be arrived at by reactions of other chemicals. When you use most of your hair care products, you will use some sort of formaldehyde. If you are using more organic solutions and products, likely care has been taken to lessen the ability for the absorption process to take place. Hence the push for better hair care lines. 

Really makes you think, right? We’re so careful about what we put in our bodies these days what with organic food, protein shakes, and even filtered water, but so many people use products that are damaging to their hair and skin either because they don’t know any better or they think they can’t afford it. Well, I’m determined to make sure you know what to look for when seeking out a new hair salon or stylist! Stay tuned!