Is Hair Color Harmful For You? Here’s to making an educated choice…

I am just about to turn 50 years old, and last week I decided to stop coloring my hair with even the so-called healthy brands. 

I have made this decision because of the unhealthy effects of the chemicals found, even in “healthy” hair colors, on our brain and overall health. I will bring you all of the details in this article to make an educated choice for yourself.

Although I had continuously colored my hair with natural hair color since it went partly grey when I was diagnosed with cancer (because the functioning of the thyroid gland affects hair color), last week, I made a different choice.

The decision began about one month ago, when, for the first time, I decided to go to a hair salon to color my hair instead of coloring it myself at home with the “natural, healthy” hair coloring I was using. My daughters encouraged me because it was the beginning of the high holiday season here in Israel, where I live now, so I agreed. 

I told the hairdresser to use hair color without ammonia, and he did. But after sitting with the color on my hair for about half an hour, which I never do at home (I usually take the color off after 15 minutes), I started to have a severe headache. Since the saloon was full of women, they could not wash the color from my hair on time, and the headache got worse. 

Finally, after the hair color was out of my hair, I decided to research and find out what had triggered this severe headache since the hairdresser used so-called natural coloring on my hair.

I found that it was the hydrogen peroxide in the hair color and the long list of other chemicals found in so-called “natural” hair colors. These chemicals were being absorbed through my scalp directly into my brain tissue resulting in an extreme headache. 

Since dementia and Alzheimer’sAlzheimer’s run high in my family, I do not wish to go down that path. 

Using natural hair color with many nutrients and herbs, I thought I was doing something good for my hair, but I was wrong. I fell for the very effective advertising stating that it is free of:

  • ammonia – (a respiratory and asthma irritant)
  • resorcinol (an endocrine system disrupter, organ system toxicant, immune system toxicant, an allergen and linked to hypothyroidism)
  • parabens (endocrine disrupters and carcinogens)
  • Cocamide DEA – an allergen and listed as a cancer-causing agent by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
  • Heavy metals
  • Mineral oils
  • SLS

Yet rich in healthy plant-based ingredients

But I forgot to examine the ingredients found on the bottom of the packaging and in the smallest wring. I used a magnifying glass to see what was inside.

I found out that the companies I bout healthy coloring from still have chemical ingredients like:

  • PPD – p-Phenylenediamine, an allergen, cell toxin, and carcinogenic, meaning it is cancer-causing.
  • PTD – an allergen and irritant that may cause inflammation
  • And hydrogen peroxide 

Hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) is a stable, uncharged, and freely diffusible free radical. The generation of H(2)O(2) happens all the time in the brain because of the high oxygen consumption in the brain tissue. 

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the appearance of amyloid-beta (Abeta)-containing plaques and hyperphosphorylated tau-containing neurofibrillary tangles. The pathology of Alzheimer’s disease is also associated with oxidative stress, and H(2)O(2) is implicated in this and the neurotoxicity of the Abeta peptide. H(2)O(2) leads to alteration of proteins, fats, and the DNA, all of which affect the Alzheimer’s diseased brain and may contribute to the loss of synaptic function, which is characteristic of the disease. The ability for Abeta to generate a lot of H(2)O(2) and interactions of H(2)O(2) with iron and copper to generate highly toxic free radicals may provide a mechanism for the oxidative stress associated with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Heavy metals and Alzheimer’sAlzheimer’s disease pathology may also be linked to the H(2)O(2) molecule. 

Antioxidants prevent oxidative stress. Therefore, they can be considered therapeutic for treating the oxidative stress associated with Alzheimer’s disease. I speak about this in my article on the Alzheimer’s disease here.

However, Alzheimer’s disease is not the only disease associated with hair coloring.

The National Cancer Institute states that there are more than 5,000 different chemicals in hair colors. Many of these chemicals are not safe and are considered allergens, endocrine disruptors, toxins to cells, and carcinogenic, meaning they cause cancer.

We all want to be free and not slaves. We are the only ones who can decide for ourselves what to do with our lives and what is more important for us. My choice is health. I spent 15 years being a slave to addictions, and I decided not to allow my hair coloring to become new slavery.

Let’s begin by talking about what grey hair is, and once the hair turns grey, what do you need to do to care for it.

Grey hair lacks melanin; therefore, you need protection from the sun’s UV rays using a hat to care for it and your scalp.

By 50 years old, all people have at least 50 % of their hair turned grey, and if there are nutrient deficiencies, especially of zinc, the B vitamins, and iron, you may have even more than 50% of your hair grey.

The new fashion is to go grey. It looks pretty good, in my opinion, but I am not ready to go all grey at this stage in my life. So I decided to search for different, absolutely natural alternatives, and I found them. 

Below are some organic DIY alternatives to commercial hair colors that you can prepare and color at home. Although these may not be as effective as commercial hair colors, and they can get messy, but they will provide you the youthful look you desire without the harmful effects:


For those looking to go darker while covering greys. Brew some coffee such as espresso, let it cool, and mix one cup with a bit of conditioner and two tbs of coffee grounds. You may use the coffee grounds left in a coffee machine or the finely-ground coffee beans left in the pods after they have been through the machine. 

Apply onto your hair and allow to marinate for about an hour. For significant results, you will have to do this more than once.


Just as with coffee, tea can help color your hair naturally and cover the grey. 

*Chamomile tea is good for blond hair. Yellow sunflower petals are also great.

*Black, nettle, and sage teas are great for darker color hair 

*Rooibos otherwise known as red bush tea, rosehip, and hibiscus teas are great for red hair color. 

Use about five tea bags or five teaspoons to soak in hot water for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely and apply to your hair.

Beets and Carrot Juice

Just as with tea and coffee, these vegetables are great for redheads. Juice the vegetables and add the juice to any hair color mentioned above to add a tint of red.

Lemon Juice

If you want to add highlights or lighten your color, squeeze a lemon directly onto your hair and sit outside in the sun. It would be best if you repeated this technique a few times to have a visual effect.


This is my favorite and the alternative that I have decided to use currently. Henna is made from leaves from the henna plant or the Lawsonia inermis plant made into powder. The powder is green, and it colors the hair into a red-brown tint.

This natural mixture has an effective coloring pigment that has been used for thousands of years to dye hair, nails, and skin. Henna is best for redheads and brunettes. However, by mixing other plants with it, it will make a browner color. 

I have the henna mixed with other leaves that make it browner to match my natural color. To make the henna browner and less red/orange, you can add powdered Indigofera Tinctoria leaves and Bacopa Monniera leaves.

Warning: Some Hennas are produced relatively cheaply with metallic ingredients. These react with the color and are pretty toxic. There may be companies that do not disclose all ingredients. But, if the henna stains your skin in less than ½ an hour, it has PPD (p-Phenylenediamine) in it, which is commonly used in most hair colors, yet, as I mentioned, is quite toxic. Some may also have Barium Peroxide in them. Scientists historically used Barium Peroxide to make hydrogen peroxide.

These two ingredients are common among unnatural hennas and should be avoided. Henna may be unsafe for people who suffer from glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD deficiency), which is most common in Middle-eastern men and only affects 0.05 of the global population.

You can mix 1 cup of henna powder with 2 cups lemon juice and warm water, or just warm water, which is how I did it. Allow sitting for about 2 hours until it thickens. Apply to hair and afterward quickly wash your hands. Lastly, you may wrap plastic around your hair and allow it to sit for 2-3 hours before rinsing. It covers all grey.

Here is one company selling brown henna mixture on Amazon:

And light brown

Feel free to comment below and let me know what you liked best about this article.

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Thank You, 🙂

Dr. Galit Goldfarb


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