hair dyeI spend a lot of time and money coloring my hair. That means going to a salon every four to six weeks to make my white crown look “naturally” ash brown with a few gray highlights.

It takes 30 to 40 minutes for the low lights, 30 or so minutes under heat and then 15 more minutes to shampoo, condition and comb out.  That adds up to many hundreds of dollars each year and about 1½ hours each month. For that kind of investment, one would expect a decent return.

But the last time I got my hair colored, I left with black – as in jet black – hair, with some thick white stripes left in for contrast.  Harsh and over-dyed, it looked awful -not at all what I wanted or paid for.

No question, it was time for a change. Time to find a new salon and new colorist. Turns out, she not only fixed the problem – she told me something we all need to know.

Apparently, salons typically use only one color line, because they are offered a deep discount to do so. This is because the manufacturers of those color lines want them to carry their products (exclusively).

But each color line on the market has a different effect, depending on your head of hair, or the color you’re looking for. In my case, the low end (dark) of the line that I’d used before, had to be almost black in order to cover my white hair. That’s not true for all color lines. When a different line was used, it looked much more like my “natural” color.

The problem is that salons don’t always carry multiple color lines. In some cases, they can’t afford to. So, if they’re using something that doesn’t work on your hair, you’re out of luck. (They’ll just keep using it.) And if you don’t know, or don’t ask, you may end up like I did.

But that’s not the end of the story. Hair color may get us the look we want, but what’s in it isn’t always a pretty picture.

A soup of chemicals, toxins and dye including ammonia, lead, mercury, ethanolamine, peroxide and the coal-tar derived PPD among others, the long- term health effects are inconclusive. The range goes from skin irritation, headaches, neurological disorders and respiratory problems to certain kinds of cancer. You can read more about these issues at this FDA site or Livestrong.

But there’s no need to panic. There are some great resources that rank the hazard and safety of cosmetics including Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep – a database of more than 75,000 cosmetics and other products including hair color. You can also check out the Good Guide which rates products based on how healthy, green or socially responsible they are.

And there are “natural” alternatives as well. You can find some options at Green Your though it’s probably a good idea to ask your colorist how they might work on your hair.

Then of course, there is another option. The elephant in the room. You can let it all go gray. Maybe. Some day.


What You Don’t Know About Your Hair Color was last modified: by

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