April 25, 2011 5:18 am Published by

A long while back, when I was on my journey to becoming a brunette (my natural color), I blogged about my??Hair Color Controversy that was going on in my life??(“controversy” because of the email I reference in the post). As I wrote in the post, I love my natural color for many reasons:

  • Hardly any upkeep but a trim from time to time.
  • Healthy and shiny hair that is not porous, dry, or Swiss-cheese like.
  • I can keep it really long and still have it look healthy.
  • No more disappointment leaving the salon because my hairdresser wasn’t able to achieve the perfect color of blond I want.
  • Less maintenance = less money to maintain (I’ll redirect that money to raw foods, superfoods, organic stuff, and appliances – yeah baby!).
  • And, the obvious… it’s healthy both for ME and the ENVIRONMENT.

Those are all super great reasons!

… I’ll be honest though.

I’m a gal who loves change. And, I can’t help but miss my blond hair at times when I see former pictures of me. Or when I see makeup ads on TV with Gwen Stefani looking all glammed out with shockingly platinum hair. I miss that kind of wowy zowy fun. But the wistfulness doesn’t last long. I remember the breakage and flyaway hairs that annoyed the crap out of me. I remember the time spent with the hair dryer to attempt to make it look soft and shiny. I remember a lot of things that I wasn’t crazy about and then I’m grateful again for having my natural color finally grown out and long (even if it is thin from the post partum shedding which is now done and growing back, thank heavens!). And, then I see Kim and Kourtney Kardashian all sexy with their smoldering dark tresses. Yeah, blond is not always where it’s at! ;)

Anyway… after one of my signature bitch-on-a-mission mini-quests, I found an eco-friendly salon a couple of months back and went to get my hair trimmed. (For those of you in the Phoenix area, it’s puresalon.) I asked them a lot of questions — um, maybe even interrogated them a bit (sheepish grin)… inquiring at length about their products and the current state of things in the green salon world, especially with regard to hair coloring… wondering if maybe things have changed during the past few years since I last looked into it. After all, if there were truly non-toxic options then I could play with different colors to satisfy my need for change — provided they didn’t disrupt any of the soft silky benefits in my bullet list above. I mean, hey, when new information presents itself, it’s time to reevaluate.

The salon owner spoke at length and gave me lots of information, but honestly — not a chemist here — when it veered into the more technical aspects, my mental buffer started to overflow and I wasn’t taking notes. Suffice it to say, she answered my questions, but after some processing of what she had said, I still didn’t feel like I had my answers.

So I emailed her later and asked for the brands that they use, along with a list of ingredients so I could do some research at one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE Web sites: The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database site. (This site just had a face lift. Have you checked your products on it? I rely on this site to get the low down on ingredients and how they could affect my bod. There is some scary shit in products and it takes due diligence to stay on top of it! EWG is an amazing non-profit that, in my opinion, is on a heroic mission to actually do what the EPA should be doing: using science and information to protect people… rather than politically balancing people’s interests with corporate interests. If you can spare a few dollars, please donate to EWG if you find their site helpful… they are looking out for all of us.)

After emailing the salon with my questions, here is their response:

Kristen, puresalon has chosen to use mastey tienture colorant because of the following reasons: gentle, mineral pigments, non-toxic, no resorcinol, zero ammonia, 100% ppd free (pheylenediamine)?? zero dea lauryl sulfate, inhibits uv induced cell toxicity, vegan and no animal testing. It provides 100% grey coverage and is a permanent haircolor with no irritation, burning or itching. Please refer to www.mastey.net/web/ingredients.php. for complete information for haircolor ingredients. We also offer a clean air salon, with no toxic smells, organic products (when possible). Kristen, if you go directly to that web page it will give you all the ingredients.

Seems compelling, huh? I mean, the salon owner said the products are non-toxic and used some big words up there. Sounds like she knows her stuff and surely she knows if a product is toxic or not. However, I didn’t want to take any chances. I’m starting to learn that what one company (or person) thinks is non-toxic might not be non-toxic in my book (or in EWG’s book either, my cosmetic safety bible).

So I went to Mastey’s ingredients page and cut-n-pasted each and every ingredient (about 20) into EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. After the first few, my pulse started to quicken with excitement… the ingredients were coming up with decent ratings of “low hazard,” which in the ordinarily petrochemical toxic sludgepit world of hair coloring is the purity equivalent of unicorn tears. Could I really have playful Gwen Stefani hair again?!?!.. I started to imagine myself as all kinds of colors: Blonde, brunette with blond highlights, red hair, etc. Dreaming away, I continued working my way down the ingredient list, checking them one at a time in EWG’s database.

And then things took a turn for the worse.

Some of the ingredients started coming up as “moderate hazard.” Now, this rating isn’t atrocious — and are certainly better than typical hair coloring chemicals — but they were higher than I normally allow in my beauty products or anything that touches my skin. I started to rationalize… I mean, hey, maybe it’s just a small amount, right? And, if I only get my hair done every few months, then in the scheme of things that isn’t so bad, right?

Then the bomb hit. Working my way down the list, I came upon some ingredients that were red flagged as “high hazard.” Fragrance was the biggest offender, as well as p-aminophenol. The latter is a coloring agent, and to be fair, I don’t know which color uses this. Perhaps it’s for darker shades? ??Or perhaps it’s in all of them in varying amounts. Also, I really want to emphasize that, overall, most of the ingredients were low to moderate hazard. (And not every ingredient was available on EWGs database.) But still. My Stefani dreams started to evaporate.

I wrote back to the salon owner and inquired a bit more, trying to see if the blond colorings in particular were really bad or maybe not as bad. Here was her response:

Kristen,
We also use another color line –
Organic Color Systems.??We can lighten with color no need for bleach. We have a lightener called Naturlite. Keep in mind that no permanent color can be completely chemical free we have chosen the safest of the lot. Henna is no longer natural they have added metallic salts.??Our peroxide is not industrial grade which is standard.??Hope this helps don’t hesitate to keep in contact.

Okay… for starters, I had no idea about the henna comment. Back to researching! It takes time, but it’s worth it.

I contacted Anthony Morrocco of Morrocco Method International and inquired about his henna. Here is what he had to say:

There are a lot of cheap henna’s being sold in so called health food stores and other stores and tattoo parlors. Henna that most certainly contain metallic salts, but its not at all High Grade Henna: all high Grade Henna does not contain Metallic salts (actually they are added to enhance the color in cheap henna’s), and there are very few hairdressers and salons who know about (or understand) Henna at all like very few in the whole of the USA??????.

For Certain MM Henna does NOT contain any metallic salts whatsoever. Again, hairdressers and salon’s from my 35 years of experience in henna do not like Henna and mostly give it a bad rap as it is not easy to work with as chemical colors are. All of my clients do the Henna color themselves and are more then satisfied 99.9% and MM Henna is 100% truly Natural.

Then I went back to the drawing board and started looking up all of the ingredients on Organic Color Systems’ website. Interesting… ??”4-Chlororesorcinol” and Organic Color Systems’ website says it’s NON-TOXIC. But, on EWG’s website, it’s listed with a “moderate hazard” score of 5 on a 0-10 scale. Maybe it’s just me, but I wouldn’t claim something that’s a moderate hazard as “non-toxic.” I see they have parfum as well, getting a rating of high hazard, but they say it’s from banana. So, what am I supposed to do with that? Maybe there are different levels of parfum and they shouldn’t all be classified as high hazard? I am going to email them to inquire (I’ll report back when I get some answers). As for the rest of the ingredients… there was another high hazard, some low hazard scores and some with moderate hazard scores.

My conclusion: I’m leery of a product with some moderate and high hazard ratings with EWG but I’m excited about the industry’s direction and progress toward developing less toxic coloring products. There are options that simply didn’t exist before; I never used products like these when I colored my hair, it was always the full on toxic stuff. For now, I’m sticking with my natural color, but when I’m ready for a change, I’ll try Morrocco Method’s henna (I have some under my sink that I already bought).

I think the owner of puresalon says it all when she wrote “Keep in mind that no permanent color can be completely chemical free we have chosen the safest of the lot.” I believe she probably has chosen the safest with respect to that type of coloring. I’m also happy that she has chosen vegan hair coloring products. When it comes to toxins, frequency and accumulation are key, in particular, the cumulative effects of toxicity from all different sources in our environment: food, water, air, household chemicals, etc. There’s enough toxic garbage that I can’t control, so for the stuff I can control, it’s worth taking extra steps to be vigilant.

UPDATE: I spoke with someone at Organic Color Systems about the fragrance. She said it’s a blended fragrance of natural banana extract and synthetic material. They have to use synthetic elements (that means it’s manufactured, not grown) because the pH of the coloring product is too high to use all natural. She directed me to the main company’s website (Herb UK) if I wanted to try and find more info.

Chime in with your thoughts… What do you think? Do you color your hair? Have you gone natural after coloring? How do you feel about hair coloring products?

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This post was written by Kristen Suzanne

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