MANILA, September 3, 2003  (STAR) CONSUMERLINE By Ching M. Alano  - It’s do or dye for the aging, graying baby boomers who are desperately combing store shelves in search of eternal youth that comes in a bottle of hair dye. All over the world, women – and men, too – are spending millions on hair coloring products. But as sales of dyes continue to rise, a concerned public has started raising safety issues.

Today’s hair-raising question is: Are these dyes safe? Will these dyes make us die?

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD discovered that rodents fed with the compounds (please take note) 4-methoxy-m-phenylenediamine (4MMPD) or 4-methoxy-m-phenylenediamine sulfate (4MMPD sulfate), found in hair coloring made from coal-tar, were more likely to develop cancer than those not fed with the substances.

Having a bad hair day? Here’s more bad hair news: Recent studies suggest that women who used hair dyes had increased risks of getting lymphoma and multiple mycioma while men who dyed were twice as likely to get certain types of cancer than men who didn’t.

Findings show that a small amount of hair dye is absorbed from the scalp and passed into the bloodstream where it is free to travel to other organs and tissues and cause changes in the genetic material of the cells, leading to cancer of the lymph nodes, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia or cancer of the bone marrow cells.

Supposedly after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required a warning about these two ingredients (like cigarette labels), manufacturers stopped using these cancer-causing chemicals in their hair dyes. But then again, the hairific truth is, these carcinogenic compounds were simply replaced by similarly structured chemicals and scientists have reason to believe they’ve got the same cancer-causing potential.

Unlike other cosmetic color additives, most hair dyes do not go through pre-market testing for safety before they’re put on the market. Consumers must use their own judgment when deciding which hair dye to use (even as they’re about to lose their heads). "Consumers will need to consider the lack of demonstrated safety when they choose to use hair dyes," says chemist John Bailey, FDA director of colors and cosmetics program. "Few studies have looked at the long-term use of hair dyes (longer than 20 years). The findings so far are inconclusive."

To know your risks, read on. There are different ways to dye:

• Temporary hair color is simply applied on the surface of the hair and is washed out with one or two shampooing.

• Semi-permanent dye penetrates into the hair shaft and can be rinsed off after about five to 10 shampoos.

• Permanent dye not only penetrates deeply into the hair shaft, it also gets locked in; it doesn’t wash out with shampooing. It contains hydrogen peroxide to cover gray hair more effectively than other dyes.

• Gradual or progressive dye can be used daily until one achieves just the right dark shade.

Which ones are not to dye for? The suspected cancer-causing compounds are found hiding in temporary, semi-permanent and permanent dyes. Bye-bye to these dyes then?

Authorities are also particularly concerned about dark hair colors – brown, black and red – which remain in the hair until it grows out. If women must dye, they should stick with lighter hues, so researchers say, as well as temporary colors that you can wash out the next day or colors that touch only the hair shaft, not the scalp, like frosting or streaking.

Your best bet, they say, is a natural dye like henna, which comes from the extracts of vegetables, nuts and other plant parts. Natural foods store Healthy Options, which carries a wide assortment of personal and body care products, suggests Herbatint by Herbavita, available at HO outlets nationwide – it’s a natural alternative hair coloring gel that’s free of harsh chemicals and ammonia. It’s got proteins, botanicals and natural vegetal extracts that give hair a vibrant healthy color. Facing A Hair Dye Dilemma?

In her article on hair dye dilemmas (shared with us by Healthy Options), Margie Patlak gives these tips to people who are not afraid to dye:

• Be sure to do a patch test for allergic reactions before applying the dye to your hair. (Simply put a dab of hair dye behind your ear and leave it on for two days. Watch out for signs of allergic reaction at this test site.)

• Don’t leave the dye on your head any longer than necessary.

• Rinse your scalp thoroughly with water after use.

• Wear gloves when applying hair dye.

• Carefully follow the directions in the hair dye package.

• Never mix different hair dye products as you can induce potentially harmful reactions (if not an unappealing hair color).

The less hair dye used over a lifetime, the better, says FDA’s John Bailey. "My personal recommendation is that consumers use good judgment and exercise moderation. You may reduce the risk of cancer by exposing yourself to less hair dye – you probably shouldn’t change your hair color every week, for example. People can also reduce their risk by delaying dyeing their hair until later in life when it starts to turn gray."

Also, never ever dye your eyebrows or eyelashes – it could harm the eye and even cause blindness. FDA people also won’t vouch for the safety of eyeliner tattoos, which might permanently damage the eyes and eyelids.

Have a great (and safe) hair day!

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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