According to the American Hair Loss Association, two thirds of American men will suffer hair loss by the age of 35 and 85% of men will have male pattern baldness by the age of 50. Hair loss can be a cause of distress, particularly for young men who may start to have thinning hair in their 20s, and for women suffering from alopecia.

A good way to disguise hair loss and thinning hair is by using hair dye to make the remaining hair look bulkier and more noticeable. However, the National Cancer Institute has issued warnings about the risk of hair dye causing cancer.  We look at the facts to help you decide whether dying your hair to disguise hair loss is worth the risk.

Hair Dye and Cancer

Hair dye products use over 5,000 different chemicals to produce their hair enhancing dyes and stains and some of these are known carcinogens. Permanent hair dye works by mixing colorless aromatic amines and dye couplers with hydrogen peroxide. It produces a chemical reaction that forms pigment that is used to stain hair. Darker colors generally need higher levels of chemicals, and some of these have been found to cause cancer in lab tests on animals.

Newer techniques have switched to allegedly safer chemicals but there is still some concern that there is a correlation between hair dye and the higher risk of cancer in hairdressers and barbers. In particular, this profession has a higher-than-normal rate of bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia. A study at the Leibniz Research Center in Germany ruled out a connection between bladder cancer risk and oxidative hair dyes. However, scientists admit that exposure could be latent in hairdressers for at least 20 years, explaining why hairdressers working with hair dyes prior to the 1980s display a higher incidence of bladder cancer today.

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Tips for Safer Hair Dye

When it comes to cancer risk, it is always better to be safe than sorry. If you choose to dye your hair, either to hide the telltale signs of gray or to disguise hair loss, there are some ways to lower your exposure to these chemicals.

  • Limit the time your head is in contact with the hair dye chemicals to the minimum time possible, then rinse off thoroughly
  • Wear gloves when applying the dye so that your hands do not increase your contact with the chemicals
  • Drink lots of water before, during and after treatment to flush through any absorbed toxins
  • Take a green supplement along with milk thistle liver supplement to regularly cleanse and detox your system

By following these safeguards, you can still dye your hair for hair loss or vanity while sensibly limiting the health risk.