Is Your Hair Dye Killing You?

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Permanent and semi-permanent hair dyes contain dangerous chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems — including cancer.

As a matter of fact, the European Commission on Health recently labeled 22 hair dye chemicals as dangerous to humans and banned them for good.

So, if you’re a hair dye enthusiast, you might want to take a closer look at your favorite brand.

Hair Dyes and Bladder Cancer

The most dangerous hair dye chemicals are Arylamines. They can be absorbed through your scalp or even inhaled during application of the hair dye. Arylamines have been established as risk factors for bladder cancer by several clinical studies, including one conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.1

Arylamines are used because they allow for hair dyes to resist fading during washing. However, hair dyes really don’t need them and natural-based companies are producing Arylamine-free dyes.

Your DNA Doesn’t Like Hair Dyes

Artificial colors — like Red 73 and Orange 24 — are the other dangerous chemicals found in hair dyes. And there’s no way around it … these are nasty chemicals. They absorb through your scalp and into your bloodstream where they can attack healthy cells and tissues. Artificial colors directly damage your cell’s DNA and significantly increase your risk for many types of cancer.2

I suggest using vegetable-based dyes. These work by coating the hair shaft with botanical extracts such as annatto, blackberry, boysenberry, saffron, paprika, red sorrel, black walnut and other natural colors.

These substances do not penetrate the hair shaft or your scalp, plus some women claim that they actually give the hair more shine. The coating action of natural pigments can also aid in protecting the hair from environmental toxins, salts, chlorine and assorted pollutants.

And here’s the best news of all: Safety tests have found that these vegetable-based, natural dyes are completely safe and effective for dyeing hair.

Help, I’ve Been Dyeing my Hair for Years!

Have you’ve been dyeing your hair for years and now you’re worried about the harm that’s already been done? Well, here’s what I suggest. Increase your dietary intake of cruciferous vegetables — you know, veggies like broccoli and kale. They contain a known cancer fighter called sulforaphane, which protects cellular DNA and promotes healthy cell growth throughout your body.3

I would also consider supplementing your diet with an extract containing a blend of cruciferous vegetables. This way you can maximize the cancer-protective benefits of sulforaphanes.

So if you’ve been “dyeing” to know if hair dyes are dangerous … they are! Switch to Arylamine-free, vegetable-based products and supplement with cancer fighters like cruciferous vegetables.

This approach should help keep you looking good and feeling good for many years to come!


  1. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004; 96(19): 1425-1431. doi:10.1093/jnci/djh274
  2. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Oct; 118 (10):A428.
  3. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2012 May 2. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:22583415


Anonymous said...

Please post a list or a link where someone can pick up the bottle of dye they use and look for the dangerous chemicals. Is my product safe or not ?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr Smith, Please can you post some brand names of vegetable based dyes, that you believe are alright to use? Thanks, Sue

Astral Moon said...

Hi All. Great post, very informative. Just to help people there are several brands of vegetable based dyes over here on sale in the U.K. Also some of them are on sale in the U.S. and are even manufactured there. I'll give you a list of the brand and the dye name. They are all semi permanent vegetable based dyes and are suitable for Vegans. Manic Panic hair dye made by Manic Panic. Directions made by Lariche. Adore made by Creative Image Systems. Crazy Colour made by Professional Beauty Systems ( used to be Renbow ). Stargazer made by Stargazer Products.

Life Extension said...

Astral Moon - Thanks for the info! We appreciate it.

organic hair colouring said...

Nice hair dye information is given in the post. I like the quality and the way in which the post is written

Life Extension said...

organic hair colouring - Thanks for the kind words and reading our blog!

karysmar said...

this is a nice post. i would also recommend a professional hair dye removal kit. it will help at least.

LifeExtension said...

karysmar - We appreciate the feedback. Thank you!

Astral Moon said...

Hi Karysmar. The one that gets the best job done from our customers feedback is a product called Colour B4. It was invented by a Guy called Scott Cornwall and is now made by a company called Medichem. It works by shattering the colour molecules which then allows them to come out of the hair as they are then small enough to pass through the pores or follicles. It really does seem to work fine. website is here. Copy and paste into your browser. It's available in most countries at local chain beauty stores. Hope this helps Guys and Girls

Julie Daniluk R.H.N. said...

Light Mountain is a fantastic natural product that really works.

Anonymous said...

Henna is wonderful and give extra body and shine to hair. I wish I started with henna instead of dye several years ago.

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - Henna is a great choice! Thanks for pointing that out. :-)

Anonymous said...

what is the alternative to these harmful and dangerous dyes

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - Consider vegetable based hair dyes (you'll find them in natural health food stores or online) or henna. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hair dye on scalp is toxic, and can
inevitably induce the worst health risks.

Patch rests are not reliable.

Anonymous said...

Using a cap to color hair gives more youthful
look, less root show, and is glamorous over the
solid color look. Also less mess and risk!

Anonymous said...

Dupont the manufacturer of phenylenediamine in
hairdye prohibits skin contact in their MSD-sheet, yet
hairdye companys only include gloves and not the cap.

Somerset wedding gal said...

Oh dear, this is some very thought provoking stuff indeed! At least there are alternatives ay?

Doug MacTavish said...

Dupont, the chemical manufacturer of phenylenediamine in most hair dye prohibits
skin contact and requires full protection. Hair dye companies only include gloves but not the cap allowing hair to be colored softer blended contrasting melded tones.

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