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Many changes come along with biological aging, with one of the biggest being gray hair. It starts with finding just a few strands and before you know it, they slowly take over your entire head. There are two types of people in the aging population: those who embrace the gray and those who fear the gray. If you’re reading this, you likely fall into the latter category and that’s okay! Turns out coconut oil may be able to help you prevent and delay this dreaded graying process without the use of toxic dyes.

Many American men and women use hair dye to mask their grays. While hair dye might temporarily cover up the silvery strands, on a molecular level they are doing more harm than good. [1]

Chemical exposure through the ingredients in hair dye has become a severe concern. Our skin absorbs toxins quickly, especially through the scalp. Once these toxic ingredients enter our bodies, they bypass the liver completely and are passed through the bloodstream. In several studies, hair dyes have been linked to causing cancer in animals, and it’s no surprise—these products are loaded with chemicals. [1]

Different Types of Dyes

There are three types of dyes on the market that vary in chemical content:

  • Temporary dye
  • Semi-permanent dye
  • Permanent (also called oxidative) dye

While all three contain harmful toxins, the two that pose the most concern are semi-permanent and permanent dyes. These two types of dyes remain on hair for weeks, months, or until you strip off the color. The dye penetrates into the hair shaft and causes long-term chemical changes in the strands. [2]

Permanent dyes—any dye that penetrates the hair shaft and inflicts change on hair’s chemical make-up—have a much higher health risk. [2]

How Bad Are They Really?

There are numerous chemicals found in hair dyes that have been linked to a range of cancers in animals and increased rates of bladder cancer among hairdressers. [3] When allergies come into play, the use of dyes can be severe for those unknowingly allergic to the dye’s chemical ingredients.

The most common—and one of the most dangerous—chemical used in hair dyes is PPD, or p-Phenylenediamine, which has been linked to skin sensitization and kidney disorders. [4]

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Aside from PPDs, dyes also contain the following chemicals (among many others):

Resorcinol

A toxic eye and skin irritant that can also disrupt your hormonal function, leading to hypothyroidism. [5]

Ammonia

Another toxic irritant to the eyes, skin and also respiratory system. [6]

Hydrogen Peroxide

If you’ve gone blonde, this was the bleaching agent used. With exposure to only low doses, studies have shown dermal contact in result in burns, blisters and irritation. Hydrogen peroxide can also affect the respiratory system – leading to chronic irritation of the respiratory tract. [7]

Lead acetate

Lead acetate is a possible carcinogenic for humans and is known to cause severe reproductive toxicity in humans. [8]

4-ABP

This amine is a known human carcinogen and has been proven to cause cancer. [9]

So Why Are People Still Using Them?

The answer is simple: convenience.

Consumers use what’s easiest and cheapest to attain. Natural dyes are also a lot less effective. They cost about 40% more than regular dyes, yet last about as long as a semi-permanent chemical dye would (about 8-10 washes).

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This means using natural dyes will end up costing a lot more money in the long run. However, the biggest flaw with hair coloring products – natural and otherwise – is that they do not correct the problem of graying, they simply mask it temporarily.

Though the FDA currently regulates the safety of beauty products like hair dye, not every chemical has to be approved. Several toxins are legally able to remain in these products, putting consumers’ health at risk.

Why is My Hair Turning Gray, Anyway?

Yes, graying can most certainly be due to genetic factors, but if you’re experiencing premature graying, it’s most likely due to some kind of deficiency. Hair color is regulated by a pigment called melanin. Gray hair is the product of insufficient pigment present in the hair follicles, while white hair is caused by the absence of melanin altogether. [10]

A few strands of gray hair is actually pretty normal by the age of ten, but generally if 50% of your head is gray before you hit 40, this is referred to as premature gray hair. In these cases, gray hair is due to health conditions like thyroid problems, B12 deficiencies, anemia and even stress. [10]

How Coconut Oil Reverses the Graying Process

Till date, the success of coconut oil being able to prevent graying and slow down the process has been anecdotal, however given the multitude of benefits associated with coconut oil, it’s definitely worth a try! 

Kay from California writes (12):

I used to dye my hair with henna, but when I ran out I decided not to buy anymore. It’s expensive and time-consuming. Henna is a natural conditioner as well as a dye, so while I used it, my hair looked wonderful: shiny and soft with stunning color.

Fast-forward two months and all that henna was finally cut off, but my natural gray, almost white, hair is dry, dull and a little brittle. My hairdresser recommended coconut oil. I did my first treatment a couple of weeks ago and it worked — sort of. Problem is, gray hair is also porous, so the results of the coconut oil treatment didn’t last very long. Maybe I didn’t use enough or didn’t leave it on long enough.

After reading about using it as a leave-in treatment instead of rinsing it out, it occurred to me that might be the answer.

Cathy also writes (12):

My hair is at the least 60% grey, maybe more, I can’t see all of it but my hairdresser says I’m very grey. I also color my hair. I’ve been struggling with it for the last 3 years by trying different styling products. I melt and eat virgin, organic, cold pressed coconut oil daily along with using it on my face and body. I started using it on my hair and LOVE it. I tried applying it on the ends of my hair but it seemed to weigh it down. I read that you shouldn’t put products on the ends but at the root for lift and volume. So I started washing my hair and apply a small amount of coconut oil to the root area of my hair. It made all the difference. TRY IT, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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Cherallyne tried it on her eyebrows (13):

My brows have recently developed coarse, wiry gray hairs which were very resistant to dye. (I used a regular dye since there is no contact with my eyes.) I started massaging a little coconut oil into them each night for moisture because they also looked looked dry and faded. I have noticed that I have no new gray hairs develop and (honestly) the old gray ones look dark again.

Coconut oil is loaded with carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that are great for your hair and scalp. In addition, it contains hair-strengthening properties that protect against hair loss and even balding. For those whose hair has become brittle and damaged from hair dye, this incredible oil will help revive it safely and effectively. [11]

Regularly applying coconut oil will ensure enough of it penetrates through to the shafts of hair. All you need to do is massage it into your scalp and hair each night before bed and wash it out the next morning. You’ll not only notice the difference in your hair’s overall health, but you may also notice a difference in color. 

Please note that the image featured is a demonstration of a possible result. The article contains case studies of real people and their experience with this remedy.

Sources

[1] Hair Dyes and Cancer Risk. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths/hair-dyes-fact-sheet#q3

[2] Hair Dyes. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/hair-dyes.html

[3] Harling, M., Schablon, A., Schedlbauer, G., Dulon, M., & Nienhaus, A. (2010, May). Bladder cancer among hairdressers: A meta-analysis. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20447989

[4] P-PHENYLENEDIAMINE. (2014, July 01). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ipcsneng/neng0805.html

[5] Resorcinol. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/resorcinol/

[6] AMMONIA (ANHYDROUS). (2014, July 01). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ipcsneng/neng0414.html

[7] Toxic Substances Portal – Hydrogen Peroxide. (2014, October 21). Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/MMG/MMG.asp?id=304&tid=55

[8] LEAD ACETATE. (2014, July 01). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ipcsneng/neng0910.html

[9] National Center for Health Research – Do hair dyes cause cancer? (2016, March 08). Retrieved from http://center4research.org/healthy-living-prevention/products-with-health-risks/do-hair-dyes-cause-cancer/

[10] Premature Graying: Reasons, Options. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/abcs-premature-graying#1

[11] 13 Wonderful Benefits of Coconut Oil for Hair. (2017, March 08). Retrieved from https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/oils/coconut-oil-for-hair.html

[12] http://www.healthy-oil-planet.com/using-coconut-oil-for-gray-almost-white-hair.html

[13] http://www.essentialdayspa.com/forum/viewthread.php?tid=53380

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