Ah, the price of beauty. And the moral conundrum of the cosmetics industry. Few sectors have taken more heat for exposing us to toxins and chemicals than the cosmetics industry has–but what about your gorgeous tresses? Is dying your hair bad? And in the grand scheme of things, is it harmful to your health?

Ambient Air Quality

What exactly are ambient air quality standards, and how are they affected by your hair dye? Ambient air quality standards measure the amount of pollution in the air in a given place–and even the national government pays mind to ambient air quality, as these standards are directly related to the Clean Air Act of 1990. Air quality is generally determined based upon the levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate pollution, sulfur dioxide, lead and other contaminants in the air.

Hair Dyes

So, does dying your hair contribute to air pollution within your own home? Evidence suggests that it does. Various chemicals, such as ammonia, sodium hydroxide, hydrogen peroxide, Phenylenediamine and even carcinogenic formaldehyde, are present in a host of hair products–and exist in high concentrations in hair dyes. Hairdressers working with these chemicals regularly have a significantly higher risk of developing certain cancers than the general population. Pregnant women are encouraged to steer clear of hair dyes, so it should come as no surprise that the chemicals in these products are bad for us.

The toxic components of hair dyes are scary, to say the least. Dying your hair in your apartment could lead to lower ambient air quality standards–and the World Health Organization estimates that about 1.6 million people die worldwide from complications of indoor air pollution.


Want gorgeous tresses without the worry of indoor air pollution? No worries! There are lots of healthier alternatives to harsh dies and toxic chemicals. Henna has been used to dye hair for thousands of years, and is hugely en vogue in hip, urban communities. Henna hair dyes are safe for pregnant women to use–and are usually 100 percent natural. These dyes tend to be less permanent than toxic dyes, though, so you should expect to purchase them more regularly if you’re looking to maintain your color. If you’re looking to go lighter, treat your hair with lemon juice or honey for a gradual lightening and brightening. Wine, tea and vegetable juices are other great, natural alternatives that are good for the environment and your lovely locks.