In America alone, hair dyes are used by 64.27 million people. This is a significant chunk of the country’s total population and shows just how many people are coloring their tresses regularly.
As there are lots of reasons to do so, the numbers shouldn’t be too surprising. Some need it to get rid of graying hair while others use it to style their locks and express their personalities. This is why they’re so widely used as they’re both necessities and tools for vanity.
However, due to the synthetic and chemical composition of hair dyes, there’s a worry that they can be harmful to the user. For decades, there has been a belief that the use and exposure to permanent hair dyes can increase one’s cancer risks.
These claims are not without basis as there were lots of studies that suggest such. Different studies found out that users of permanent hair dyes are more likely to have breast and bladder cancer as well as various cancers of the blood and marrow like leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
Certain ingredients in permanent dyes were also found to be carcinogenic to animals. Most manufacturers stopped using the ingredients that were found to be cancerous but there’s still no guarantee that the currently used ingredients will not cause cancer.
However, these studies have its flaws. For starters, most of them have very small sample sizes. As we all know, the size of the subjects is an integral part of how reliable a study can be. If it’s small then it cannot represent the large majority of the population.
Then there’s also the fact that not all hair dyes are made the same way or using the same ingredients. Since there are probably hundreds of different hair dye products in the market, it will be hard to find out which specific chemical can be carcinogenic. Some manufacturers, especially those from other countries, also do not note everything in their labels, so it’s going to be hard to determine what’s in a specific product. Comparing different ones to each other will also be quite a feat.
A few studies like the recent one done by the National Institute of Health (NIH) have many of the requisites for a convincing study. The findings of the said study points that women who use permanent dye and hair straighteners are likely to be at risk of breast cancer. They tested nearly 50,000 women and saw that those who regularly use hair dye are 9% more likely to develop breast cancer. Sixty percent of the African American women in the study were said to have higher likelihood of getting the disease.
New Study Uncovers New Information
A new study, however, somehow refutes and confirms the claims of the other works before it. As published in the BMJ, examined data from 117,200 women over the course of 36 years. All of the subjects do not have cancer in the beginning of the study.
Over the years, those who reported to regularly use permanent dyes did not show increased risks for developing cancer. Their risks for cancer in the bladder, colon, brain, lung, skin, kidney, blood, and immune system did not go up.
However, permanent hair dyes are not completely in the clear as it showed signs of increasing risks of basal cell carcinoma of the skin, especially among women with naturally light hair. It also suggested risks for ovarian cancer and some types of breast cancer.
This study also reaffirms the claims of the above mentioned research on the connection of permanent hair dyes to NHL. Naturally dark haired women are said to be at higher risk of the disease.
What Can You Do?
To be honest, all of these are still not a hundred percent confirmed so it would be premature to say whether you should avoid dyeing your locks entirely. If you want to err on the side of caution, however, you can try these things:
Stick with high-quality products.
As mentioned above, hair dyes tend to come in different formulations so there’s really a good chance that some might cause cancer if they’re not made of good ingredients. By being more discerning about what you’ll put into your body, you might be able to skip the cancerous ingredients in the process.
Entrust your coloring to professionals.
Trained professionals are highly informed about hair dyes so you might be able to rely on them to help you avoid the ones with very toxic ingredients. Going to highly reputable salons like Sally Hershberger or Ulta Salon would help you find an expert that can be of great help to you regarding your concerns.
If you really do not want to risk it, you can always go natural. More and more folks are loving the silver fox look as of late so you can definitely embrace your grey hairs if you want to. Trying a bold hairstyle instead of coloring your locks might be a good alternative to bright hair hues, too.