May 28, 2020 – Cleaning Up Your Act: Hair Care & Dye

Hello team. As we prepare to venture back into the world (which looks different for all of us based on our health as well as our geographic location) I thought this might be the right time to post my long-planned entry on Clean HAIR CARE.

As a piece of my journey to eliminate known carcinogens from my family’s life, I also tackled hair care last winter. This included my entire family’s daily use products as well as my bi-monthly trip to the salon.

Now, if something is discouraged during pregnancy for reasons of toxicity, that’s probably a good indicator that it’s a great place to start when you embark on your own clean journey!! If dye is something you desire during pregnancy, most doctors advise mothers-to-be to wait until around the beginning of the second trimester. The first 12 weeks are a time of major development for your baby: why take the chance of damaging this fragile time with toxic chemicals? Using this same logic, I dug a little deeper. Is it possible to have beautiful hair without toxic chemicals as a lifestyle choice, to protect yourself from repeated exposure over a lifetime?

Organic Salon

Through friends, I discovered a well-loved organic hairstylist on the Northshore. Her name is Ency and her salon is in Highland Park.

The first time I went to Ency I was a little nervous. If you know me, you know that I love my hair. I am actually more likely to style my hair than apply makeup on a non-eventful weekday. (I am NOT talking my skin care, that always comes first, this girl wants to age gracefully!!) I digress, my point is, I care about my color. I already had a colorist I loved nearby, so this was a BIG stretch for me.

If you are wondering how this story ends I will fast forward- I could NOT tell the difference between the color I achieved going to my “normal” colorist and my “organic” colorist. And the price was equal. This is a huge WIN, I could achieve my color with or without the known toxic chemicals. So, why not choose CLEAN?

The Dirt on Dye

So what makes traditional hair dye toxic?

As we already know, the FDA does not regulate beauty products. I’m not going to go into this again, because if you follow me, you have read my rant about the lack of legislation around the topic. But if you are curious, link HERE. Well, The FDA does not require “For Professional Use Only” products, which include some dyes sold directly to stylists, to list the ingredients on packaging. This means your stylist might not even know themselves what ingredients are in your salon hair color.

To achieve a permanent color, many hair dyes work using ammonia (or ethanolamines in the case of some ammonia-free products), hydrogen peroxide, and p-phenylenediamine. The ammonia pulls apart layers of the hair’s proteins, so that the dye can access the hair shaft. Next, hydrogen peroxide bleaches the hair and helps p-phenylenediamine, one of the primary coloring agents, to become trapped in the hair. Got it? Ok.

These common dye chemicals are associated with negative health effects. You can google more on this if you are interested, but in a nutshell- Ammonia is an endocrine disruptor, P-phenylenediamine is associated with birth defects (and it is restricted for use in the EU.) P-phenylenediamine is one of many coal-tar colors and some coal-tars have a very rocky history. Still, to this day, coal-tar dyes do NOT need approval from the FDA. Many dyes can also contain my nemesis: fragrance (the word that is protected as a “trade secret”, allowing hundreds of chemicals to be added and not disclosed.)

One study of over 25,000 women found that the use of hair dye was associated with increased breast cancer. Noted in this study: “the lack of external safety assessment within the cosmetics industry is of major concern.” That’s exactly why it is up to us to be EDUCATED and careful, protecting ourselves.

Ency Organic Salon in Highland Park

If you don’t live on the Northshore, I can’t help you find a clean salon. (But, if you know of one near you, message me and I will add it here for others!) I linked to Ency above, she reopens for business this weekend and she is a one woman show (so less people = less germs.)

A little bit about Ency…

Ency decided to go clean two years ago. This began as a journey for nontoxic & organic products. She said it took a long time to test products and experiment before she got it just right.

Ency went to Aveda for school and was voted “best in school”. This is where she was first exposed to organic (though it needs to be noted, organic and clean are not necessarily the same thing.) Her journey also took her to Elizabeth Arden where she completed more training. It was around this time that she realized that, while some brands are “organic”, they are not clean. (btw, a product can be labeled “organic” if it has 1 organic ingredient.) Many companies put some natural ingredients in but still use the toxic chemicals for performance. But by mixing it with botanicals, it is labeled “organic”. You have seen me write about this phenomenon in other skin care products and companies.

Ency has 100% retention of clients who “try” clean… and then never go back, just like me!

Clean Shampoo and Conditioner

At the time I switched hair salons, I also switched over my hair care products. This includes my shampoo, conditioner, and hairspray. I can tell you it’s NOT easy to find clean hair products (just like it’s not easy to find clean skin care products.)

My CEO, Gregg, explained this really well on a call I had with her the other day. The question was posed- if all of these companies know that they are using toxic ingredients, shouldn’t they just take them out?

The answer is, you can’t “take them out”. It’s like turning the Titanic around and it will take years. Beautycounter spends millions of dollars to bring a product to market, it’s extremely difficult to formulate “clean”. Many companies use these known carcinogens because it’s cheaper and easier, and it’s simply what’s expected. An example- you can’t make Coke good for you. People expect Coke to taste a certain way, have that exact fizz… you can’t just make it healthy. So for a company to go clean, they essentially have to start from scratch.

But, there are a few companies formulating this way, and my company, Beautycounter, is actually the LEADER in this movement. You know this is how I found this company, and why I advocate so strongly for them. I will include the two clean shampoos and conditioners I use, below.


Oway Color Protection Hair Bath

$35. Ency has this imported, so if you go to her salon, purchase it from her. I also found it on Amazon (of course), linked above.

Beautycounter Daily Shampoo

$26. Gentle, the same natural citrus mimosa scent as the body lotion and hand lotion. This shampoo is sulfate free, using milder ingredients derived from coconut oil.


Oway Smoothing Hair Conditioner

$37. This clean conditioner softens and detangles, Again, you can pick this up from Ency or Amazon.

Beautycounter Daily Conditioner

$26. A basic conditioner that is free of preservatives, using grapefruit oil and marula oil for great shine and strong hair.

Kid’s Products

My daughters were the first to switch to clean products in my household. This is what we do as mothers, protect our young first. I purchase this set every three months. (Each product can also be bought a la carte!) It smells good (this matters) and it is not irritating to Claire’s eczema because it is allergen and toxin free.

Beautycounter Kid’s Bath Collection Set including:

Nice Do Shampoo $18

Not a Knot Kid’s Conditioner $19

Super-Duper Clean Kid’s Body Wash $19

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