Hair Dyes, to Die For? The Dangers of Hair Dyes

Hair Dyes, to Die For? The Dangers of Hair Dyes

Joined: January 13th, 2003, 7:14 am

April 16th, 2003, 8:21 am #1

Hair Dyes, To Die For? The Danger Of Hair Dyes
By D.A. Fox

I recently read a report on hair dyes that I had to share, so I spent some time typing some of it up for you. Following this I did a small amount of research on the net to see what other thoughts were. With the internet you have to remember that some of the sources are old, but for the most part, this ingredient seems to pose a risk for many, in various ways.

Safely Gorgeous Hair Dyes to Die For
By Daniel Steinman

Today, 35 to 40 percent of American women, aged 18-60- some 50 million- use hair dyes. That these products, as a class, remain unlabeled for their human cancer hazard is one of the worst public health scandals today.

Because of loopholes in the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, these killer products continue to bear no warning whatsoever of a very real cancer hazard. The best thing that women can do to protect their health if they are using these products, particularly the darker shades, is to stop now and seek safer brands.

Specifically, use of permanent and semipermanent hair dyes is associated with increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and Hodgkin’s disease. *(lists notation reference numbers)

*Researchers from the National Cancer Institute estimate 20 percent of all cases among women of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the disease that killed Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, are due to women’s regular use of commercial hair dye products. * The risk seems to be greatest among uses of dark shades.

The evidence is suggestive of an association with breast cancer, as I, together with my co-author Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., reported in The Breast Cancer Prevention Bible (Macmillan 1997). * The dye para-phenylenediamine, used in virtually every commercial permanent and semipermanent product, was shown in 1986 to be carcinogenic to the breast following oxidation with hydrogen peroxide, precisely as these products are used by women. *

Further evidence of the cancer risk from hair dye use comes from studies of hairdressers that have provided clear evidence both men and women are at increased risk for bladder and other cancers. *

Finally, hair dyes may also pose a risk to children whose mothers used them shortly prior to conception or during pregnancy. In fact, the risk of childhood cancer could be increased by as much as tenfold. *

The information goes on to promote pure henna color like Light Mountain Henna, and color by Paul Penders called Paul Penders Color Me Naturally. It is herbally based, totally safe, and works extremely effectively without ammonia, peroxide, lead, or sulfur.

It gives information to find Paul Penders Color Me Naturally line or Light Mountain products, by contacting Lotus Brands, Inc., Box 325, Twin Lakes, WI 53181 or call them at (800) 824-6396 or (414) 889-8561. Their email is: or Lotus Brands is the exclusive North American distributor of the Paul Penders Color Me Naturally line.

It concludes with further color information by saying…. The fact that the hair color industry is legally exposing millions of women to carcinogenic chemicals without label warnings is, in part, due to legislation governing cosmetics dating to the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. At that time, intensive special interest lobbying on behalf of the hair dye industry persuaded Congress to exempt the dyes used in these products from government regulation. Under the Act, only an acute health hazard warning is required to be included on the product labels that blindness might result from use on eyelashes and that a preliminary test should be conducted to avoid allergic reactions. *

This legislation shouldn’t be an excuse for the Food and Drug Administration’s inaction on this issue. The fact is that the FDA has never gone to Congress asking for regulatory authority over hair dyes. Nor has it advocated explicit labeling of hair dyes for their carcinogenic hazard. The FDA has always heeded lobbying pressure from the hair dye industry. The dirty secret behind hair dye’s glamorous façade remains concealed in a complicit unspoken pact between Congress, the beauty industry, and lobbyists.

This story was originally published in The Doctor’s Prescription for Healthy Living whose publisher and editor is David Steinman. He is author or co-author of Diet for a Poisoned Planet (Crown 1990, Ballentine 1992), The Safe Shopper’s Bible (Macmillian 1995), Living Healthy in a Toxic World (Perigee 1996), The Breast Cancer Prevention Program (Macmillian 1997) and the forthcoming Doctor’s Arthritis Cure (Keats Publishing 1998). He is chairman of Citizens for Health and served two years on the committee of the National Academy of Sciences where he co-authored Seafood Safety (National Academy Press, 1991). Steinman is a member of the teaching faculty at National University. He has won awards from the California Newspaper Publishers’ Association, Sierra Club, and Society of Journalist’ Best of the west. He is married to artist Terri Steinman and they have one son. Subscriptions to The Doctor’s Prescription for Healthy Living are $19,95 per year and $34.95 for two years. Make checks payable to Freedom Press and send to 1801 Chart Trail, Topanga, CA. 90290.


 Read label. Avoid choosing any product whatsoever listing the phenylenediamine chemical family.
 Look for the following disclaimer on the package: “Caution: This production may contain ingredients which may cause skin irritation on certain individuals and a preliminary test according to accompanying directions should first be made. This product must not be used for dyeing the eyelashes or eyebrows; to do so may cause blindness.” In both the U.S. and Canada, such warnings on the label mean that the product contains ingredients which are exempt from the provisions of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, including phenylenediamine-based dyes.
There is some evidence that most of the cancer risk of hair dyes is attributable to the darker shades.

Some mainstream manufacturers have begun offering hair coloring products which they’ve added herbal extracts, and then call these products natural. Forget it. Every line we’ve investigated contained deadly phenylenediamine dyes.


Drug stores and salon brands of permanent and semipermanent hair dyes account for about a quarter of all cases of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which is often fatal among women in the United States. Now the authors of a new book reveal that the key dye in permanent and semipermanent hair colorings is carcinogenic to women’s breasts. Federal labeling laws are powerless to warm consumers. Safer brands are available.

By David Steinman

The reason that I co-authored The Breast Cancer Prevention Program (Macmillian 1997) is simple: I wanted to prevent breast cancer in my family and every family. Much of what women do, the little things, can cause their breast cancer. Women’s choices in food, medical procedures, even her attitude toward life and willingness to get out and exercise, all impact her risk. Of particular concern are undisclosed risks that are in consumer products. The greatest offender today for women’s cancer in general, and probably some breast cancers, are hair due products from the major manufacturers. It is our opinion that the use of ingredients in these products is recklessly endangering women’s lives. Fortunately, women can find safe, alternative brands at their health food store. This is, ultimately, a good news story, because these safe brands also work extremely well even for covering gray.

The key problem, with regards to breast cancer, in hair dyes is a dye called para-phenylendiamine. It is a key dye used in almost all permanent and semipermanent products. It should be further stressed that in 1986 para-phenylendiamine, the basic phenylenediamine dye in current use in virtually all permanent and semipermanent hair coloring products, was shown to be carcinogenic to the breast following oxidation with hydrogen peroxide.* However, this has never been further investigated. It should also be noted that there are other dyes in hair color products for which there is no available or inadequate evidence of carcinogenicity (Appendix 6.2)

There is a chart of things good and not good. I will have to scan it in. Some of the so called natural ones that got a full caution in both categories (Allergies/Irritants and Cancer) is Antica Herbavita Herbal Permanent Hair Colours. Hennalucent by Ardell got 50% cautions in both categories as well. Since most of these are in darker shades that they comment on, I will add the blonde ones that are mentioned. Clairol Ultimate Blonde and Clairol Ultress Gel Colorant (Dark Blonde). Clairol Balsam Color Conditioning Shampoo-In Haircolor (palest blonde). All colors of Clairol’s Nice and Easy. It must be a popular ingredient with Clairol! Anyway, I hope to scan the list for you at some point if I can. Until then, I’ve done some researching on the net. Here is more on this ingredient. You can also see the names and chemical names used for this ingredient so you can check your labels.


<a href=" ... en.html</a" target=_new> ... en.html</a>

I didn't know that para-phenylenediamine was such a dangerous component of temporary tattoos. For some reason, this made front-page news today. But judging from the results of a quick Medline search, this is not new news. We should counsel our patients to avoid this stuff.

<a href="</a" target=_new></a>

<a href=" ... 2109535</a" target=_new> ... 2109535</a>

search list
<a href=" ... me.html</a" target=_new> ... me.html</a>

Synonyms for para-Phenylenediamine
BASF Ursol D
Benzofur D
Developer PF
Durafur Black R
Fouramine D
Fourrine 1
Fourrine D
Fur Black 41867
Fur Brown 41866
Furro D
Fur Yellow
Futramine D
Nako H
Pelagol D
Pelagol DR
Pelagol Grey D
Peltol D
Renal PF
Santoflex LC
Tertral D
Ursol D
Zoba Black D
Synonyms for para-Phenylenediamine hydrochloride
4-Aminoaniline dihydrochloride
para-Aminoaniline dihydrochloride
para-Benzenediamine dihydrochloride
1,4-Diaminobenzene dihydrochloride
para-Diaminobenzene dihydrochloride
Durafur Black FC
Fourrine 64
Fourrine DS
Pelagol CD
Pelagol Grey CD
1,4-Phenylenediamine dihydrochloride
para-Phenylenediamine dihydrochloride
<a href=" ... cl.html</a" target=_new> ... cl.html</a>


* 1,4-Benzenediamine-terephthalic acid copolymer
* Aramica
* Kevlar
* Kevlar 29
* Kevlar 49
* para-Phenylenediamine, polyamide with terephthalic acid
* para-Phenylenediamine-terephthalic acid chloride copolymer
* para-Phenylenediamine-terephthalic acid copolymer
* para-Phenylenediamine-terephthaloyl chloride copolymer
* Poly(imino-para-phenyleneiminocarbonyl-para-phenylenecarbonyl)
* Poly(imino-para-phenyleneiminoterephthaloyl)
* Poly(1,4-phenylene terephthalamide)
* Poly(para-phenylene terephthalamide)
* Poly(para-phenylenediamine-terephthalic acid amide)


Over the past few years here has been much discussion amongst lichenologists concerning the dangers inherent in using para-Phenylenediamine. It is known to be carcinogenic but recent evidence seemed to suggest that the dangers were remote and that it was only a very weak carcinogen. However, the latest work on this compound indicates that it should be treated by lichenologists with great care. Articles in The Times (January 6 and 22) and the British Journal of Dermatology emphasizes the inherent dangers of para-Phenylenediamine. An especial danger is present in its easy absorption through the skin. A study in the United States found that people who used this, or similar products, as permanent hair dye can treble their risk of bladder cancer. A survey reported in the British Journal of Dermatology of 612 people suffering from eczema, gave a result whereby 4.2%of them developed contact dermatitis of the scalp after using para-Phenylenediamine as a hair dye. A woman in Birmingham recently died from anaphylactic shock after her hair was dyed using a mixture that contained para-Phenylenediamine. However, there is no other record of a similar death in the literature and one cannot therefore be certain that this substance was the cause.

Other cases do have a direct link to para-Phenylenediamine. For instance, it is a custom in the Middle and Far East to produce intricate patterns on the hands and face using henna. The henna dyes the skin and the patterns remain visible for some weeks forming a temporary tattoo. Tourists to these areas often pay to have such temporary tattoos painted on their skin. Genuine henna is a rather expensive substance and unscrupulous artists have substituted para-Phenylenediamine as it is considerably cheaper to purchase. A seven year old girl from Newcastle was on holiday on Greece where she had such a temporary tattoo of a four inch long dolphin painted on her upper arm. Her arm swelled up and developed large blisters. She also found that subsequent exposure to sunlight caused her to come out in a rash. Dr Aileen Taylor, the consultant dermatologist that she saw on her return, stated that this was the fourth case that she had seen in a year. She said that this patient was sensitized to para-Phenylenediamine and would have to be careful about exposure to sunlight for two years and probably would never be able to wear make up. Dr Celia Moss, a consultant dermatologist at Birmingham Children's Hospital, stated that she had seen numerous children who had had allergic reactions to dyes that contained para-Phenylenediamine.

With its simple passage through the skin, these and other cases suggest that great care should be used when working with para-Phenylenediamine. Even when extreme care is taken in removing a crystal from a bottle, minute brown stains from this chemical will often appear at a later date on the paper where the test was carried out, demonstrating how easily it can be spread. Especial care must be taken when dissolving it in alcohol. The alcohol rapidly evaporates and leaves a fine deposit that can easily be blown about and then breathed into the lungs.

A. W. Archer (The Bulletin No. 60 Summer 1987) mentions Santesson's idea of using o-dianisidine but this is also thought be a carcinogen. He suggests using the photographic developer known as Ôcolour developer 4Õ in a solution with anhydrous sodium sulphite. The article includes a list of the colour reactions given by this solution compared with those produced by para-Phenylenediamine. Further work is required on substitutes for para-Phenylenediamine but until then, do not let your interest in lichenology be the death of you.

Frank S. Dobson

<a href="</a" target=_new></a>

<a href=" ... 181.htm</a" target=_new> ... 181.htm</a>

A further patient history was elicited. The patient, upon further questioning, regularly dyes his hair with a para-phenylenediamine containing hair dye. His occupation is a layout technician for a sheet metal company. He learned through his material safety data sheets from his employer that the oils involved in processing sheet metal contain para-phenylenediamine as well as the black work gloves that he used while handling these metals.

This case illustrates the importance of considering allergic contact dermatitis in cases of persistent, recurrent eczematous dermatitis.

When I was a family practice resident, prior to training in dermatology, our family practice chairman taught us a very important clinical pearl, which came to be known as "Dr. Simoni’s Rule of Three". His "rule of three" referred to the adage that we should give our outpatients three clinical visits to see if we can help them clear up. If after three office visits they’re still not better, something else must then be done. This may include patch testing or skin biopsy or further lab work-up or referral to another specialty. We have found this clinical pearl to be quite useful in helping our patients, and also in keeping us from missing a hidden, sometimes serious underlying diagnosis.

Para-phenylenediamine (p-PPD) often is found in permanent hair dyes ("coal tar" dyes). PPD may also be found in dark-colored cosmetics, black rubber, printing inks, photo copying inks, oils, greases, and gasoline.

Patients with occupational exposure, such as the patient presented here, may use vinyl or latex nitrile gloves to prevent direct contact.

This patient was instructed on avoidance of PPD exposure. He will also switch to a PPD-free hair dye (such as a henna hair dye or one of the vegetable-based hair dyes)and begin the use of vinyl gloves while at work.

<a href="</a" target=_new></a>

<a href="</a" target=_new></a> I found it totally amazing that the FDA tries to ban henna instead of the chemical causing the problem! Unreal!

While it is unclear exactly what this ingredient will do for all humans... this human is going to avoid it!

Added 5-1-03
Additional information below found here: ... si-dye.htm

Are dye jobs to die for?

By Mike Falcon, Spotlight Health

With medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.
Rosa Blasi in Strong Medicine.

For millions of Americans a new hair color offers a chance to recapture their youth or break out of their personal appearance doldrums. But it may also offer them a chance to get bladder cancer, according to a recent study.

And the more you color, the greater your risk.

This means that next to hair salon professionals, actors may be one of the groups most at risk. Rosa Blasi, who plays Dr. Luisa Delgado on Lifetime's award-winning Strong Medicine, recently discussed the issue in a chat on hair coloring safety.

"Women are often faced with some pretty tough choices in balancing beauty and health," says the 28-year-old Blasi. "Permanent hair dye is definitely one of those issues. The new University of Southern California study linking increases in bladder cancer to permanent hair dye use definitely gives you pause for thought."

According to the USC study, getting that "to die for" color may be a far more serious health risk than previously thought.

Researchers compared 897 cases of bladder cancer where information about recollected hair dye use was available with a similar number of adults who did not have their hair color altered. A second segment studied 1,514 women with bladder cancer to determine the occupational risk for hairstylists and barbers.

The results were published in the International Journal of Cancer, and included three critical findings:

• Women who used permanent self-administered hair dye at least once a month for a year or longer were twice as likely as women who did not use permanent hair dye to develop bladder cancer.

• Those women who used permanent dye monthly for 15 years or more were more than three times as likely to develop bladder cancer as non-dye users.

• Hairstylists and barbers with just one year or more occupational exposure to permanent hair dyes were 50% more likely to have bladder cancer than those who did not. This increased to five times — 500% — more with 10 years of professional exposure.

For the first time, the USC study also adjusted for cigarette smoking, a known contributor to bladder cancer. Previous studies that found that hair dyes contributed to bladder cancer did not factor in cigarette smoking.

The American Cancer Society estimates that last year there were 53,200 Americans diagnosed with bladder cancer, and 12,200 deaths. Bladder cancer represents 6% of all new cancer cases in men and 2% of all new cancer cases in women.

Fatal beauty
On the Web

The National Women's Health Information Center on the USC study

USC's press release on the hair dye study

Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association

Strong Medicine Web site

Health issue controversies are nothing new to hair dye manufacturers. After extensive lobbying, most hair colorings made from coal tar were exempted from the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) safety removal provisions of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. They remain unique in that arena — they have only to warn about skin and eye irritation.

In 1978, the FDA proposed a warning on the labels of hair dyes containing 4-methoxy-m-phenylenediamine (4MMPD) or 4-methoxy-m-phenylenediamine sulfate (4MMPD sulfate), two coal-tar ingredients. This followed findings by researchers at the National Cancer Institute — based on feeding lab mice large amounts of the substances — that the compounds were carcinogenic.

Although ingesting large amounts of carcinogenic compounds is a far cry from the amounts absorbed through the skin, hair dye manufacturers withdrew the substances from their products. But they substituted compounds with similar chemical structures.

Since then a wide variety of studies have argued back and forth about the danger posed by the permanent dyes.

Despite the USC study findings indicating that a significantly increased risk of bladder cancer accompanies increased exposure to permanent hair dyes — particularly in hair stylists and colorists — researchers emphasize that the USC study needs additional amplification before people should stop using the products.

"It's perplexing that other studies did not show this level of risk," says Dr. Debra Silverman, the National Institutes of Health's lead researcher charged with determining bladder cancer risk factors. "Clearly, we need larger and more controlled studies to definitively assess these concerns."

"Of course I am happy to have helped create an impetus for further study of the issue and welcome it," says Dr. Manuela Gago-Dominquex, lead author of the study. "But these occupational hazards are clear and well-defined."

"The study did find a pretty significant level of occupational risk," admits Silverman. "The trouble is that we don't know the entire list of what other things these hairdressers and barbers may be exposed to."

But according to Gago-Dominguez there are other "good studies" which show the use of hair dye is associated with increased incidence of other types of cancers as well, including ovarian, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and leukemia.

Lessening hair dye exposure

But until further studies determine precisely what is happening, there are a few steps both professionals and home hair dyers can take to minimize exposure, says the FDA:

• Don't leave the dye on your head any longer than necessary.

• Rinse your scalp thoroughly with water after use.

• Wear gloves when applying hair dye.

• Carefully follow the directions in the hair dye package.

• Never mix different hair dye products because of potentially harmful reactions.

Professional colorists can also lessen their client's exposure considerably.

"We have been using a more time-consuming process which places color as close to the scalp as possible," says Bob Geevar, owner of the celebrity-rich Transcend Salon in Los Angeles. "We come to within a toothpick width of the scalp without actually touching it."

Geevar began experimenting with the non-contact procedure when pregnant women asked for an alternative.

"Some people in our industry believe there is evidence that darker colors, which are more pigment-rich, may be more dangerous," says Geevar. "Then again, we have not noticed any decrease in business, and I'm not concerned — I color my black hair every other week."

Gago-Domiquez's study did not differentiate between dark and light hair colorings.

Blasi, who has run a couple of blonde streaks through her dark tresses, says her own concerns about the potentially carcinogenic effects of permanent hair dyes are a perfect illustration of the way women have to balance cultural expectations and the beauty standard with medical concerns.

"No doubt about it. I like the change. I just flat-out like the way it looks," admitted Blasi at a recent ceremony in which her show won the American Red Cross of Santa Monica Spirit Award. "I'm not sure about whether I'll keep a couple of blonde streak highlights or not."

And actors and actresses will more than likely continue to color their hair in order to apply their craft and earn a living. Blasi knows she'll probably face changing her hair color in the future.

The hope is that safer hair coloring products and chemicals can be developed to protect consumers from dangerous carcinogens.

"By the time I start going gray in a couple of decades, I think the issue should be well resolved and thoroughly defined. For all of us, I hope so."


17/33/35+ - Bangs at 15 inches - Type 2CMii (3B underneath layer) Somewhat fine, slightly wavy (with curls on the underneath layer), light brown with gold and red highlights. To see more pictures, click on the gallery link found here:
Just Fox...

You can also find me here: The Long Hair Loom

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Choose your words, for they become actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, they will become your character. Develop your character for it becomes your destiny." -John MacArthur

Products Used:
Aubrey Organics S&C
Vinegar/herbal rinses

Oils: Jojoba, Sweet Almond, Virgin Oil de Coco Creme, Monoi, Castor, Meadowfoam Seed & essential oils
Shea Butter (from which I make my own leave-in)
MP Popular Mix Brush
Wood and Horn combs
Vitamins/Minerals/Herbal supplements
Last edited by Fox on May 2nd, 2003, 5:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
Starting my growing journey all over again after health issues took a major toll on my hair.
17/25.5/35+ - Type 2C-3bMii Somewhat fine, wavy (with corkscrew curls on the underneath layer), natural color is light brown with gold and red highlights. Previously used henna for years, but had it highlighted out over a couple of years. Currently trying to decide what to do as far as continuing with that to keep up the roots or doing something different.

Products Used:
Aubrey Organics S&C - my most favorite, but currently using Neways Second Chance Shampoo, SheaMoisture's High Porosity Moisture-Seal Masque,
Sally Beauty Generic Value Product's version of Matrix Biolage conditioner (as a leave in, not rinsed out)
Aubrey Organics Chia Gel
Vinegar/herbal rinses
Oils: Jojoba, Castor, Coconut & essential oils
MP Popular Mix Brush
MP & Madora wide tooth combs
Vitamins/Minerals/Herbal supplements

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Choose your words, for they become actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, they will become your character. Develop your character for it becomes your destiny."