Hair loss can affect the scalp or the whole body and can be a permanent or temporary condition. It may be a result of medical conditions, medications, stress, or even excessive hairstyling. In this article, we will explore if there is a link between coloring hair with hair dye and hair loss.
Written by Michelle Casey
Is Hair Dye Bad For Your Hair?
A lot of people use hair dyes regularly but they may be unaware of the damage they’re inflicting.
Hair dyes contain a cocktail of chemicals which can include ammonia, para-phenylenediamine (PPD), and coal tar to name just a few.
To set permanently, hair dye has to break through barriers in the hair. To get into the hair shaft, it has to get through the cuticle which protects the hair.
According to Valerie George, a senior hair color chemist, the cuticle is actually the hair’s first line of defense.
The ammonia contained in the hair dye lifts the cuticle so that the molecules of dye can penetrate the shaft.
Repeated use of ammonia can damage the hair follicles which allows moisture to escape. This results in dry, brittle, and frizzy hair.
With the cuticle now broken, you can color your hair the shade you want. To do this, peroxide is used.
This removes your natural hair color and makes room for new pigment. Most permanent hair color needs peroxide to activate it.
These come in different volumes for example 10,20,30,40 volume which refers to the percentage of peroxide in the activator. The higher the volume, the quicker it’s going to get to work to open up the hair cuticle.
According to George, while hydrogen peroxide’s primary aim is to interact with the melanin in the hair to affect the color, it will also interact with keratin, which is the main protein that makes up the hair’s fiber. This process can lead to fragile brittle hair which is susceptible to damage.
Does Hair Dye Cause Hair Loss?
There is no actual evidence to suggest that using hair color to dye hair can cause hair loss. However, the frequent use of hair dye can lead to hair damage, hair breakage, and shedding.
First, the hair shafts are manipulated as part of the rubbing and combing motions associated with the dyeing process which can loosen hairs and cause increased shedding.
In essence, dyeing hair weakens it. Hair dyes, both permanent and semi-permanent, can contain ammonia and hydrogen peroxide.
The ammonia swells to open up the hair cuticle and this allows the dye to penetrate it and cause a color change.
The swelling and closing of the hair cuticle cause the integral structure of the hair to change. This can result in hair changing from low to high porosity which tends to be weaker.
As a result, colored hair is more susceptible to breakage which means hair shedding.
Some products market themselves as having no ammonia however as a consumer you should be aware that these products often contain an ammonia-like ingredient which is just as harmful as regular ammonia.
It is easy to be deceived as these products may not contain the pungent odor of ammonia but can still damage the hair.
What About Bleach?
Hair dyes that lighten hair from its natural state wreak the most havoc as they contain high volumes of hydrogen peroxide.
The role of the peroxide is to remove pigments from the hair shaft and replace these with blonde colors. Those who go from dark to light will often notice their hair appears shorter.
This is a result of breakage at the far tips of the hair shafts. These parts are older and have been through the most disruption. This process is known as weathering.
So, to re-iterate, hair loss from hair dyeing is in fact caused by hair breakage and not actually from permanent hair loss. That being said, if you repeatedly use bleach on your scalp and not just your hair, hair loss is possible.
In rare and extreme cases, reactions to the ingredient paraphenylenediamine (PPD) contained in many hair dyes can result in hair loss. According to a study, 33.6% of participants experienced this adverse reaction to hair dye.
How To Best Protect Your Hair When Coloring
Despite the potential damage it can do to your hair, you may still be determined to dye it. That is understandable.
Our hair color is often a huge part of who we are; it gives us confidence and makes us feel good. And there is nothing wrong with that! Read the tips below for how to minimize potential damage when coloring your hair using hair dye:
- Follow the instructions on the packaging carefully.
- Always do a ‘patch’ test on a small area of skin to check if you are sensitive to any of the ingredients in the hair dye.
- If possible, opt for darker colors rather than lightening your hair as products that lighten your hair contain high levels of peroxide.
- Try to minimize treatments to every eight weeks.
- Use semi-permanent hair dyes if possible as these are gentler on your hair. Try to find ones that contain nourishing ingredients such as jojoba oil or aloe vera.
- Use a conditioning hair mask the day before the day you plan to dye your hair.
Coloring After Care
The advice for coloring aftercare centers around prolonging the color in order to avoid having to re-do it too soon after. The less you have to color your hair, the less damage there will be to your hair.
Try to avoid washing your hair for 48 hours after dyeing your hair. This gives the cuticles time to close, locking in the color.
Avoid Heat Styling
Avoid using curling tongs or straightening irons for 48 hours after your hair has been colored. Excessive heat can remove color from the hair.
Use Sulfate-free Products
Sulfates are a fairly robust cleansing ingredient found in shampoos and conditioners. They can strip color from your hair. They also remove the natural oils in your hair causing dry hair and scalp which is why many women with natural hair prefer sulfate-free products. Look for hair products formulated for colored hair.
Bond Building Product
Consider using one of the bond-building products for hair on the market. These repair hair and are good for hair health.
Potential Reasons For Hair Loss
So there you have it. There’s no substantial evidence that hair dyes cause hair loss. However, if you’re experiencing significant changes and you’re worried about hair breakage and lack of hair growth, then you should consult a doctor.
Lower levels of hormones can cause hair shedding, hair thinning, and prevent hair growth. This is often experienced in menopause. Post-pregnancy or sudden weight loss can also trigger hair loss or thinning.
Telogen effluvium is a condition whereby prolonged periods of stress cause someone to experience hair loss through thinning or excessive hair shedding.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that leads to hair loss resulting in bald patches of varying sizes. In this case, it is best to seek advice from a medical professional.
There’s no avoiding the aging process-it catches up with all of us! As we get older some follicles stop producing hair which results in hair thinning and hair loss.
Hereditary-pattern baldness is a common cause of hair loss. It is a natural condition caused by a combination of genetics, hormones, and the process of aging.
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