Hair Dyes are Linked to Cancer

Are hair dyes really giving barbers, hairdressers, and you cancer?

If you’re like most people, you might live a natural lifestyle; yet, dying your hair is acceptable because you don’t think that synthetic colorants are harmful. In fact, your argument might be that people have been dying their hair forever so what’s the big deal?

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, a panel review of the evidence has found a “small but consistent risk of bladder cancer in male barbers and hairdressers.” So if you are not a hairdresser or barber, you’re safe-Right? Not so fast.

While we might think that our minimal exposure, i.e. dying our hair every six weeks might be insignificant, we should really think again because any exposure to toxins-even one time-can increase your risk of developing a chronic illness such as cancer.
The Environmental Working Group has ranked 456 hair colors in their Skin Deep cosmetics database. Of that 456, at least 400 of them are considered to be a hazard because they contain toxins linked to the following health risks:
• Cancer
• Development and reproductive toxicity-i.e. birth defects and infertility
• Allergies
• Neurotoxicity-i.e. symptoms can range from fogginess, to more severe brain impairment like cancer.
• Immunotoxicity and organ toxicity-this means diseases like lupus and liver or kidney
• Irritation of the skin, eyes or lungs

If you are using some of the darker dyes like “chestnut brown” or some of the lighter shades like “ash blond” on your hair or in the salons, you can possibly find the following toxins in your product:

Coal tar-this is known to be carcinogenic and has been found in 71% of hair colorants
Formaldehyde-which is also the ingredient that gave the Brazilian Blow Out a bad
name, is a preservative that has been linked to cancer and birth defects
Eugenol-A fragrance ingredient that has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity,
allergies, and immunotoxicity.
Para-phenylenediamine and tetrahydro-6-nitroquinoxaline, both of which have been
shown to cause damage to genetic DNA; as well as, cause cancer in animals.
DMDM Hydantoin, which is another perservative that has been restricted in Japan
because it is causes immunotoxcity.

While this study doesn’t confirm 100% that dying your hair can lead to bladder cancer other studies have strongly linked dyes to cancer. So you should proceed with the following caution:

If you are going to color your hair, you should use a non-permanent dye because it is less toxic than permanent colorants. One study of about 900 people found that women who used permanent hair dyes at least once per month, were two times as likely to develop bladder cancer. The risks of developing bladder cancer increased as the amount of years of using hair dyes increased. Please note that women who have been using hair dyes for at least 20 years, will risk doubling their chances of getting rheumatoid arthritis.

Perhaps, it time for us really take a closer look at everything that we are using on our bodies to examine whether or not it’s worth the risk. We should not be harming ourselves or our children-both born and unborn- for beauty. So the next time you want to get rid of that grey-you might be better off getting rid of the source who thinks it’s unflattering instead; i.e. your ego.


IARC Monographs, Volume 99. Retrieved on January 7, 2011 from


Laurance, J. (March 2008). Hair Dyes Found to Increase Cancer Risk. Retrieved on January 7, 2011 from