THE CASE FOR A 100% NATURAL HERBAL HAIR DYE VS CHEMICAL DYE
Dato' Dr SG Lim, DSPN
MBBS (Malaya), FRCS(Edinburgh), FRCS(Ireland)
Dato' Dr. S. Sellappan, DSPN
MBBS(Mys), MRCP(UK), MRCP(Ireland), M.Sc.(UK), DCH(London), DCPaed(UK), Allergy Diploma (UK)
Traditionally herbal hair dye has been used in many ancient civilizations and it is only of late chemical hair dye started to make its presence felt in the consumer market. It has virtually controlled the hair dye market mainly because of its versatility in choice of colours, rapidity of colouring and of course the wide availability coupled with the intense advertisements. However, there are still a sizeable number of people who use the traditional hair dye and this has spurned a new category of dye i.e. “pseudo natural herbal hair dye”.
The 3 categories of hair dye can hence be classified as below:
Chemical Hair Dyes:
These will encompass some of the better-known brands. It is completely chemical right up to the dye and it uses Ammonia, Hydrogen peroxide, Barium peroxides, Para Phenyldiamine etc to oxidize and fix the dye to the hair. Some dyes contain bleaching agents which will “stripped” the hair white before the dying process starts. These chemicals will also give a very pungent and stinging sensation to the scalp.
“Pseudo” Natural Herbal Dyes:
This is a name that I coined out for these dyes. As the same suggest, these are wannabe natural dyes. The small 10 gm Henna hair dye that is popular from India selling at RM 2 to RM 10 invariably contains Para Phenyldiamine and some will also have oxidizing agents such as Barium Peroxide. There is also a recent surge in pseudo dye from China, which claims to contain herbs, but unfortunately it is mostly chemicals. These could be more dangerous than the well-known brand chemical dye as some of these chemicals are not scheduled to be used as hair dye.
100% Natural Herbal Hair Dyes:
These are hair dyes made from herbs. The 2 main plants are the Indigo & Henna. Their leaves are pluck as in tea leaves and dried before being grind to fine powder and various other herbs, which have nourishing properties to the hair follicles and the scalp, are added. They rely on the intrinsic properties of these plants to oxidize and dying the hair. As it is 100% herbs, it has a leafy pleasant aroma and does not harm the scalp.
Each hair grows from an individual hair follicle which is alive and as the hair sprouts from the hair follicle it will be exposed to the element resulting in drying, cracking and damage. The hair follicle itself is also subjected to these elements and damaged will result in thinning of hair and worse still permanent damage will manifest as permanent baldness.
In using chemical hair dye, we are always advice not to rub it into the scalp and to refrain from using it if we have abrasions or breach in our scalp. The chemicals may seep into the hair follicles and in the long run may damage it resulting in thinning, shedding of hair and eventually early baldness. In contrast, due to the nourishing effect of the herbs, we advise to massage the natural dye paste into the root of the hair as this not only will dye the root of the hair but also promote healthier and stronger hair.
Microscopic analysis of this dyed hair will demonstrate that the chemically bleached hair will have lots of penetration of these harmful chemicals into the shaft of the hair itself. That is part of the reason why a freshly chemically dye hair feels brittle and rough for days to come whereas the 100% natural herbal dyed hair feels soft and natural as if it has been conditioned. Herbal dye will only coat the outer surface of our hair and it does not penetrate into the shaft. Henna and the other supplementary herbals possess conditioner properties and these account for its soft texture after dying.
We should not be dying our hair too frequently using chemical dye because of the potential chemical harm. However hair growth can be quite rapid and in some individual by 2 weeks, there are already a centimeter or so of new grey hair root and chemical dye producer advised “touching up” of this area, which is also akin to chemical exposure. On the contrary, we are advised to massage natural herbal dye regularly not only to cover up the newly grown grey hair but also to harness the nourishing effect of these herbs.
The pungent and stinging effect of the ammonia, peroxides etc can cause undue damage and irritation to the scalp in the long run and there are recorded cases of chronic dermatitis after prolonged usage but the herbs tend to have soothing effect on our skin and traditionally, henna is applied to the foot of Indian ladies during summer where temperature can soar to more than 40*C for its cooling effect especially if one have to walk bare footed.
Before the 80’s, there is a correlation between chemical hair dye and cancer of the blood i.e. Leukaemia, Lymphoma & Bladder Cancer. The offending chemical has been removed but even until today, there is no conclusive evidence that it is absolutely safe to use these dyes on a regular basis. The fact that cancer is on the rise both in number as well as striking at a younger age is suspicious enough to avoid these chemicals. Invariably when the hair dye is applied to the scalp even if we refrain from massaging it, it will seep via the root of the hair into the hair follicle, which is enriched with blood supply. From here the chemical will enter our blood and get disseminated through our body.
Are hair treatment chemicals dangerous during pregnancy?
Manufacturers frequently change formulas and many different chemicals are used in these processes. These chemicals are not generally evaluated for effects on pregnancy so limited data on use during pregnancy is available (1).
Pure henna (Lawsonia inermis) — a semipermanent vegetable dye that's been used for thousands of years — is considered safe (2).
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). Its major goal is to identify causes of cancer. Based on the data regarding bladder cancer, IARC has concluded that workplace exposure as a hairdresser or barber is "probably carcinogenic to humans" (3)
The most recent research on hair dyes and cancer, a seven-year study of 573369 women was conducted by the American Cancer Society. It found that women who used very dark dyes did have a greater potential to develop bone cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, however. It has been suggested that dyes could have been a cause of Jacqueline Onassis’s cancer. And other studies have associated an increased risk of cancer with hair dyes. Women who regularly use permanent hair dye may be putting themselves at increased risk of bladder cancer, new research findings suggest.
Cancer or no, dyes aren’t very healthy for your hair. They can cause it to become brittle and break easily.
Those who reported regular use of the hair dye for at least 15 years were more than three times as likely to develop bladder cancer as non-dye users, concluded the study.
Even some hairstylists and barbers were 50 per cent more likely to have bladder cancer than those who did not experience occupational exposure.
Henna, a plant-derived dye, is okay to use (4).