So, how bad is hair dye? Just like evolution has taught us that terribly bitter tastes may indicate a poisonous food, it’s my thought that the smell of hair dye should have us warned accordingly. How can something that smells so toxic be all right? As you may know, the FDA has no authority to require that cosmetics be tested for safety before they are sold, unlike drugs and food additives. An industry-funded panel, not a government health agency, reviews the safety of cosmetic ingredients in the U.S. Research undertaken by Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows that this largely self-regulated industry routinely fails to adhere to their own safety panel’s advice or to heed the health warnings inherent in cosmetic safety standards set in other countries.
In an investigation of the ingredients in more than 23,000 products, EWG found that nearly one of every 30 products sold in the U.S. fails to meet one or more industry or governmental cosmetics safety standards. They found nearly 400 products sold in the U.S. containing chemicals that are prohibited for use in cosmetics in other countries, and over 400 products containing ingredients that cosmetic industry safety panels have found unsafe when used as directed on product labels, including the U.S.-based Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) and the International Fragrance Association.
One way, as a consumer, that you can pull up the slack where the FDA is lagging is to familiarize yourself with ingredients banned by the European Commission, and check the label of products you use or are considering. Here is list of hair-dye substances banned in Europe, as listed in the Official Journal of the European Union:
Solvent Red 1 (CI 12150)
Acid Orange 24 (CI 20170
Acid Red 73 (CI 27290)
By Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor, Healthy & Green Living