I've been going grey for the bast 5 years. At first it was just a few silver flecks on the side of my head, not really that noticeable- then the flecks started to multiply and the warm, rich medium brown hair that I once had turned an ashy dull brown.
I know I benefit from a sexist idea that men can go grey and be considered sexy and distinguished. But at 31 years old and not yet a silver fox, I'm starting to consider grabbing a bottle of hair dye to return to my former hair color. The only problem- I'm not sure there's a hair dye out there that's safe!
PPD the Toxic Key to Hair Dye
It's not surprising that hair dye contains some intense chemicals. Anyone familiar with dyeing their hair has probably felt the hot, itchy, and uncomfortable feeling of sitting in a salon or at home with dye seeping into your hair. Almost all hair dyes contain an ingredient called PPD or para-phenylenediamine. It's a compound most commonly found in darker hair dyes like browns and blacks. It's an allergen to most, causing throat irritation, bronchial asthma, and sensitization dermatitis. In fact it's the tenth most common allergen in patch tests.
Even if you're not allergic to PPD exposure, it is linked to several different cancers including bladder cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It's also classified as an environmental toxin and a 2001 study done by Linkoping University in Sweden found that it may be responsible for compromising the immune system, setting off rheumatoid arthritis.
It's simply bad for you and unfortunately crucial to making dark hair dye colors work.
PPD Free Doesn't Mean You're Safe
The good news is that there are PPD free hair dyes out there. The bad news is they often contain PTDS (para-toluenediamine sulfate) a chemical alternative that doesn't quite work as well as PPD and still has many of the harmful side effects. It doesn't mean that there aren't safer PPD and PTDS free dyes. There are several natural dyes that use plant powders and extracts to provide semi permanent coloring (3 to 30 washes depending on the color and brand). Just watch out for darker shades- even "natural" dark henna is likely to contain PPD.
The Future is PPD Free
As millennials start to age and wellness shifts to encompass what we do and what we eat as well as what we put on our bodies, the demand for non-toxic, safe, and clean hair dye has grown. Beauty science is constantly changing and there's been some progress in dye formulas like Hairprints' Color Restorer and salons are starting to offer PPD free coloring. The future of hair dye is looking bright, rather than dark.
In the meantine I think I'll just embrace my ashy brown hair and hope my silver fox status will come sooner than later.