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Pretty is Painful: How Toxic Hair Dyes Affect Salon

Beauty comes at a price — and it’s more than what a salon worker charges for their services.

Hair dyes have long been a popular choice for transforming appearances or covering up graying locks. But beneath the surface of these vibrant hues lies a less glamorous truth — toxic chemicals that pose risks not only to those getting colored but also to the very hands that apply them. With daily exposure to hair dye chemicals, salon workers are also paying the vanity tax and face serious health consequences from long-term exposure.

Understanding these dangers is crucial for creating safer working conditions and promoting awareness about the hidden perils lurking within our beauty routines.

Hair Dye Exposes You to Toxic Chemicals

Remember Brittany Murphy? Her cause of death was sus, but medical reports showed a high level of heavy metals that very likely contributed to her death. Unfortunately, this isn’t unique to Brittany. (RIP QUEEN)

Repeat exposure to hair dye is high. Just imagine the exposure of a salon worker who does multiple dye jobs every day full-time.

Some of the most common offenders found in hair dyes include ammonia, peroxide, and paraphenylenediamine (PPD), among others.

There’s a supposed “method to the madness” in using these toxins. For instance, ammonia helps open up the hair cuticle to allow color pigment to penetrate deeply. The trade-off is that ammonia can cause skin and eye irritation, and prolonged exposure may lead to respiratory problems because of its strong smell.

Between pouring and mixing chemicals, applications, rinsing, and cleanup, salon workers use these chemicals throughout their workday. Masks, goggles, and gloves can help, sure, but they’re not perfect solutions and can leave workers vulnerable.

What the Research Says About Hair Dye and Health

There’s plenty of research to show how unhealthy and unsafe traditional hair dyes can be. For instance, this study shows that hair dye poisoning is one of the leading forms of “intentional self-harm” and can directly cause “rhabdomyolysis, laryngeal edema, severe metabolic acidosis, and acute renal failure.”

Lead acetate, formaldehyde, resorcinol, and countless others can irritate the eyes, skin, and lungs, and even stay in the air for ongoing exposure. Many of these are known carcinogens, meaning they cause the Big C.

Beauty companies have made little or no effort to hide what’s in these dyes; they’re just hoping you don’t think to ask.

Next Steps: A Healthy Stylist is a Happy Stylist

If you’re a stylist, the single best thing you can do is to advocate for safer hair and beauty products in your salon. By all means, mask up, glove up, and do what you gotta do, but the only surefire way to protect your health is to choose hair dyes that love you back.

And if you’re an avid hair dye user, think twice about the salons you frequent. It’s okay to ask what’s in the hair dye the salon uses. It’s also okay to say No and make a statement on health and safety — you and your beloved stylist depend on it.


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