12 Terrible Side Effects of Hair Dye or Coloring

Updated on March 16th, 2020
hair dye problem

Dyeing your hair may seem like a wise or even a fashionable and trendy option, but it should be done cautiously. Coloring your hair too much can cause over-processing, which impacts not just your crowning glory, but your health as well.

So, even if you think of dyeing your hair temporarily for a party or complementing a new dress, it pays to be careful and tread cautiously. Remember these critical points, and you’ll stay safe easily.

Types of Hair Dyes

1. Permanent Hair Dye

Permanent dyes or coloring agents contain the most potent chemicals found in hair dyes. Such a hair dye also has a massive and, in fact, the highest concentration of peroxide. The hair shaft can be opened to get the color deeper into your tresses. But this type of hair dye, which typically lasts for eight to ten weeks, can cause severe hair damage.

2. Semi-Permanent Hair Dye

Such semi-permanent hair dyes last for a lesser period, around six weeks. While this hair colorant does not change the natural hair shade, it can cause damage. The reason for this is because such hair dyes are temporary and must be reapplied regularly.

They are a far better option, as against permanent hair dyes. They dye the hair without impacting hair shaft opening. The color is deposited on hair shaft cuticles. Such dyes also contain less peroxide, as against permanent hair dyes.

3. Temporary Hair Dye

For experimenting with different hair colors, the best option is the temporary hair dye. This color forms on the surface of the hair and fades away with the next washing.

4. Bleaching

side effects of hair dye

Bleaching is excellent for natural hair color lightening. It removes the darker shades from the hair by oxidizing the strands. However, excessive bleaching can cause hair to appear yellow.

5. Ammonia-Free Hair Dye

These hair dyes are less damaging because they contain monoethanolamine, instead of ammonia. However, excessive use of all these hair dyes can have the following side effects.

12 Side Effects of Hair Dyes

1. Over-Processing and Overexposure

Permanent stains are peroxide and ammonia packed. While peroxide strips the natural hair color, it also exposes the strands to chemicals that cause dullness, hair thinning, and hair fall.

2. Allergies

Dyes have allergens like paraphenylenediamine(1). Those with dermatitis can even have a severe reaction to hair coloring agents. Psoriasis and eczema patients should not opt for hair dyes. Hair dye further causes itching, redness, swelling, and skin irritation.

3. Pregnancy Complications

Coloring hair is deadly for unborn infants of pregnant women, for it can trigger malignant growths in the child during fetal development.

4. Asthma


Hair dyes also aggravate asthma because they contain persulfate. Continuous chemical inhalation in such cases causes swelling in the lungs, coughing, and asthma attacks.

[Read: Natural Remedies for Asthma]

5. Brittle Hair

If the hair is often colored, it can be over-processed due to the dyes in the chemicals. These chemicals strip moisture from the strands, separating cuticle scales and drying the hair. Your tresses become brittle, dull, and lifeless. Your hair loses its shine.

6. Skin Irritability

Hair dye or coloring can also trigger skin reactions. Common symptoms include burning sensations, flaky, red skin, and itching or discomfort. Perform a patch test within 2 days before the hair is colored.

At the time of this test, suspected allergens can be applied, and the skin examined post two days to ensure no allergic reactions ensue. Do not use hair color if there is any allergic reaction or itching.

7. Cancer

Lab experiments have demonstrated that hair dye chemicals can lead to human DNA damage, causing disease. Whether the small amounts of PPD found in dyes cause damage has not yet been revealed. But the American Cancer Society holds that hair dyes could be cancerous.

Besides, resorcinol is another chemical in hair dyes that can trigger breast cancer by causing hormonal imbalance. Other types of cancer, like Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and leukemia or bladder cancer, can be the result of too much hair dye.

8. Rashes

scalp problems

Individuals allergic to hair dyes may report red scalp rashes. These rashes may appear where the color is applied.

9. Conjunctivitis

If there is difficulty in dying the hair, and you let dye get close to the eye, you could end up infecting the eye. Exposure to dyeing can cause conjunctivitis as chemicals in the hair dye are strong. This causes conjunctivitis(2), also known as pinkeye when the eye becomes contagious, inflamed, and itchy. It also becomes red, and there is severe pain.

10. Skin Discoloration

Skin and nails are the same kinds as hair when it comes to keratin protein. Any slips during the dyeing process cause patches of skin discoloration, especially along the hairline. This occurs when people have dry, dark, or absorbent skin. To avert this, apply a Vaseline layer or any oil on the hairline before coloring. Wear latex or nitrile gloves, while coloring your hair.

11. Impacting Hair Quality

Damaged Hair 

Semi-permanent dye works easier than permanent dye when used repeatedly. But it can also cause damage. Regular usage of hair dyes, especially the continuous type, can raise acidity levels of the hair and open up cuticles’ scales, so molecules enter the cortex, which is the next layer.

Through a chain of chemical reactions, color pigments join and settle on the cortical brain regions, while the hydrogen peroxide bleaches the hair. Raising cuticles lets the moisture artificially escape.

Hydrogen peroxide also bleaches the hair and dries it out further. For more hydrogen peroxide, leaving the color on results in more significant damage and free radical damage. Ammonia-free products could be gentler on the hair, especially when hydrogen peroxide volumes are less than 40.

[Read: Treatments for Hair Loss]

12. Infertility

Hair dye causes fertility issues in men and women. Hairdressers are even regularly exposed to hair product chemicals and are likely to have a reproductive disorder. A compound held responsible for this effect is lead acetate. Found in progressive or gradual hair dyes, it requires multiple applications.

Remedies/Alternatives to Hair Dye

1. Henna

It serves to give hair a red or burgundy hue. Henna colors the hair to make it softer. With regular henna use, hair color is permanent. Apply henna with water as a paste to your hair. Let it dry before washing it off after a couple of hours for fantastic outcomes.

[Read: DIY Henna Mask for Healthy Hair ]

2. Coffee

Coffee Benefits

Another great option to make the hair appear dark is coffee. Pour brewed coffee or try coffee beans for a final rinse through the strands before letting it air dry. The color washes out when you wash your hair.

3. Lemon and Honey

To lighten hair color, try lemon and honey. Mix lemon juice and raw, unflavored honey in the ratio 1:1 and apply this to the hair. Blow-dry the hair before washing it. Repeat this 2-3 times to get visible results.

4. Beet and Carrot Juice

This treatment adds a reddish tone to the hair. Mix beet and carrot juice in the ratio 3:1. Use the mixture on your hair. Let it dry and remain for an hour before rinsing it off with shampoo.

5. Black Walnuts

Another easy way to darken and enrich the hair and hide the grey hair is black walnuts. Boil these in water, reduce the heat and let the nuts in water mixture simmer for 20 minutes. After it cools, add an oil like coconut or olive to it and apply the mixture to your hair. Rinse the hair after 30 minutes for naturally dyed hair.

6. Tea

Another great option is tea. Let your hair soak in tea leaves with hot water before washing it and letting it dry. Be sure to air dry the tea-soaked hair before rinsing it. This remedy is an excellent dye for coloring your hair; however, do note the shampoo will cause hair color to disappear.

Don’t be scared of hair dye, but do be cautious. After all, while using natural or chemical hair dye, be careful because it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you follow hair dye rules with care, you’ll have no problems at all. Always opt for ammonia-free or even better, 100% natural hair dyes for the best remedies for your greying or whitening hair.

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