Q: I'm thinking of dying my hair. Are there any good chemical-free alternatives that won't ruin my mane?
A: Ahh, the age-old question: to dye or not to dye. A shot of colour can really liven up your locks, and it seems like everyone and their uncle (yes, more and more men like to transform their tufts, too) heads to the nearest drug store or hair salon to do just that. But what is the eco-conscious colour-craver to do? Of course, you should love what Mother Nature gave you, but if you're looking for a little enhancement, there are several earth- and body-friendly alternatives out there.
But before we get to that, if any of you are tinting your tresses with mainstream dyes, you might consider making the switch. These dyes, made up of a sordid stew of chemicals that definitely don't do the planet much good, get washed down the drain on a regular basis by over a third of North American women and one in 10 men.
Besides all the well-known allergens like ammonia and peroxide, ingredients like PPD (p-phenylenediamine) or diaminobenzene are definitely toxic to the chemically sensitive, and even people who've been dying for years can suddenly develop reactions to them. And then there's the whole cancer link. Sure, many of the carcinogens have been removed from some mainstream formulas since the 80s, but in 1994, the National Cancer Institute declared that deep-coloured dyes (like dark brown or black) may increase the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple melanomas when used over a prolonged period of time. (And you thought bleaching was bad!) Regardless of colour, if you dye your hair regularly you're more than twice as likely to develop bladder cancer. Not good.
So what of the alternatives? Know that all permanent dyes, even health food store brands, contain PPD - it's the only way they can get the colour to stick to your hair shaft. And those that say they don't? Well, they're either using one of its derivative names (like benzenediamine dihydrochloride or aminoaniline dihydrochloride) or toxic metals like lead or mercury instead. Herbatint (available at Noah's, Whole Foods and the Big Carrot from $13.99-$18.99) is a biodegradeable, ammonia- and cruelty-free herbal hair colour gel that has very low concentrations of PPD and peroxide. Its semi-permanent line, as with most vegetable-based semi-permanents, is PPD-free. It comes in 30 different shades.
Naturcolor ($18.99 at Whole Foods, the Big Carrot) is another ammonia- and cruelty-free, plant-based option that contains therapeutic herbs like rosemary and lavender.
If you're looking for an entirely natural, PPD- and peroxide-free dye, you can always turn to the colourant preferred by Cleopatra. And that, of course, is henna. You can't lighten with it, but it's great for brown and some grey hair. The old sun-baked lemon juice technique could help you with highlights.
If you're eyeing up drugstore brands, just beware of green-washing terms like "natural," "herbal" or "organic" (as in "a truly organic experience") which don't mean the product is chem-free. Ditto for brands that advertise the presence of one or two herbs. Now for all of you who'd rather have a pro do it. To be honest, both of the 100 per cent chemical-free organic salons we knew of have gone out of business. But Aveda Concept Salons , like Civello on Yonge or Queen West or Hair by Nature on Queen East, will jazz up your mane with Aveda's line of 97-99 per cent plant-based ingredients. They're gentler on the earth and your body than the products used in mainstream salons, which are nearly 100 per cent synthetic and petroleum-based. Body and Soul on Scollard (off Bay) offers a holistic approach to hair care. They analyse your hair, advise on diet and supplements and use Japanese vegetable-based dyes. They also carry a hemp-and-beeswax-based "locker"called Knotty Boy for anyone wanting dreadlocks. And as we said for DIY dyes, just because a salon has words like "natural" in its name doesn't mean it actually is, so ask before entering.
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