The Truth About: Hair Color

August 09, 2017

The Truth About: Hair Color

For centuries we have been obsessed with beauty, and the challenge to defy the aging process. We cover grays, inject our fine lines and nip and tuck our bodies. It's important to note that cosmetics and hair colorants are nothing new -- but today their composition is very different to what it was 2000 years ago.

Back then we used berries, henna and plant extracts to enhance our natural beauties. Now we can barely pronounce the ingredients we deem safe to lather on our highly sensitive and functional bodies. What does this all mean?!

Have we bought into the biggest lie of all times?

Did you know, in the 19th century doctors would prescribe cigarettes for respiratory conditions? Insanity you say! No, it was common practice. And continued to be for a long time. But are we any smarter today than those patients of yester-year? Those that would readily start smoking to clear up a hacking cough?

Doctor, why aren't these ciggies helping my cough?

I suggest we are not. I submit we are gullible victims of cleverly disguised messaging in corporate marketing campaigns, designed to exploit our insecurities on a bad day, or sell us dreams on a good day. So what is this message we're so susceptible to?


Ironically, we do our best to avoid this inevitable truth by smearing 'sickness in a tube' on ourselves, consequently speeding up the process whilst lessening the quality of life we have left. According to a 2008 study (source), Clairol found that 75% of American women dye their hair -- a sharp spike from the 1950's where only 7% of American women dyed their hair. This same survey revealed that 88 percent of women feel their hair has an effect on their confidence.

"Today there are parts of Manhattan and LA where there are no grey-haired women at all.” -- The Guardian

125+ years of PPD

PPD is a harsh chemical found in nearly all professional and supermarket permanent and semi-permanent hair color. For 125 years, the oxidative reaction of PPD has been the extent of hair-dye technology.

David Lewis, an emeritus professor at the University of Leeds in the U.K., thinks that this is crazy. “Now, I know a lot about dyes and dye stuffs in the textile industry. We would never dream of using this on textiles,” he says. “Primitive, archaic, all these things come to mind. Why do they persist on putting it on human heads?” (source)

Did you know?

  • The darker the color the greater the PPD content
  • PPD or Paraphenylenediamine is common in black henna temporary skin tattoos
  • PPD is derived from coal tar
  • PPD is an incredibly potent cause of allergic contact dermatitis
  • PPD was banned for use in hair color in the 20th century by Germany France and Sweden but current EU legislation allows PPD to comprise up to 6% of hair color
But its only hair you say -- hair is dead. Why shouldn't I dye it and shape it around my every desire? You're quite right in your defense, however, your skin is not dead. Our skin is a very complex organ, the biggest organ in our body, and it makes up for 15% of our body weight. It's also incredibly functional.

These main functions are:
  • Sensation
  • Heat regulation
  • Absorption
  • Protection
  • Excretion
  • Storage and synthesis
Our skin is the gate-way for both good and bad elements and WE are the gate-keepers. Our skin will absorb moisture, Vitamin D, B and A and just as equally, absorb toxins such as nasty chemicals found in hair color. These include but are not limited to:
  • PPD
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Ammonia
  • DMDM Hydantoin
  • Parabens
  • Lead acetate
  • Resorcinol

These man-made chemicals are really harmful! They can cause dermatitis of the eyes, ears, scalp and face which can include a rash, extreme swelling and severe burning sensations on the scalp. The most severe reactions are cross-sensitization and in rare cases death.

Cross-sensitization means that it not only makes you sensitive to PPD, but you become reactive to all of its chemical cousins. This includes most textile dyes, pen ink, gasoline, oil, food dyes, medication dyes, preservatives (Parabens) and even perfume.

So what's normal?

Have you ever heard 'tingling and redness is normal' from your hairdresser? Well It's not. Tingling and redness are the beginning of an allergic reaction that can potentially be fatal. A lot of people who have these reactions have been coloring their hair for years, yet reach a tipping point with the toxicity in their system and have a reaction.

In 1979 the FDA tried to insist that hair-dye manufacturers place the following label on their products: “Warning: Contains an ingredient that can penetrate your skin and has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.” The ingredient referred to is 4-MMPD, 4-methoxy-m-phenylenediamine, a dye with a structure very similar to PPD that, according to the FDA, showed sufficient scientific evidence of being carcinogenic.

Manufacturers disagreed and threatened to sue the FDA if they pressed for the label. The FDA backed down. A few years later, manufacturers removed the carcinogenic compound from their formulas, while maintaining that 4-MMPD was safe.

Today, all manufacturers need to do is display this disclaimer on the tiny slip found in color tubes:

'Caution - This product contains 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. (FD&C Act, 601(a))'.
How many of you visit the salon 24-48 hours before your color appointment to receive your 'preliminary skin or patch test'? The test where you pop a little color onto a sensitive part of your body, like the soft middle arm or behind the ear. We'd be so bold as to say less than 1% of you. 

The silver lining

The good news is there are companies out there that are doing their best to produce PPD free colorants! When choosing a natural hair dye, be sure to do some research beforehand; Just because the name of a product may sound ‘green and clean’ doesn’t mean it is. But we've done some research and found some of interest!

We take huge comfort in natural beauty and the natural beauty movement growing globally, as it pushes for better regulations and safer products. And so should you! Slowly, we are waking up to the toxic beauty lie. Here at Inverse we strive for natural hair alternatives, that's why we've created our patented Ice Core Technology -- healthy hair without the nasties. What's more natural than ice!

But more importantly we need to fall back in love with our natural selves. We need to shun the false perceptions of beauty thrust upon us by self-serving multi-nationals. Embrace your grey hair, be comfortable with your natural self, find a style that you can own. And most importantly, love you for you. Because we do.

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