Does coloring your hair cause cancer?

Whether you’re heading to the salon for a subtle seasonal highlight or a dramatic all-over color, dying your hair can be a fun way to change your look.

Of course, if you choose to cover up your grays as you get older, that occasional trip to the salon for a splash of color may become more regular.

That’s why, it’s a good idea to consider how your hair dye habits affect your health…

If you’ve ever dyed your hair, you know how hair dye smells and feels on your head — that strong chemical smell and burning sensation on your scalp are the first warning signs that hair dye probably isn’t great for you.

But just how bad is it?

Well, bad enough. It may be tied to an increased risk of breast cancer. And it’s been tied to an increased risk of a few other cancers as well.

Considering one-third of women over the age of 18 regularly use some type of hair dye, this hair dye- cancer connection deserves further examination….

Coloring your way to cancer

Over the years, more than a few studies have linked the use of hair dyes to an increased risk of cancer. In fact, one study published earlier this year linked hair dye use to a 23 percent higher breast cancer risk. And previous studies have linked regular use of hair dyes to an increased risk of bladder cancer, brain cancer and leukemia.

Now, the latest study from researchers at Rutgers University finds a cancer-hair dye connection yet again…

These researchers studied the effect of various hair treatments on 4,285 white and black women, and determined that a number of popular hair treatments, including hair dye, have a negative impact on breast cancer risk.

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For black women, breast cancer risk rose most for those who used brown or black hair dyes. Black women who used these darker hair dyes had a whopping 51 percent greater chance of developing breast cancer.

For white women, breast cancer risk rose most for those who use chemical relaxers and straighteners (like those used for the popular Brazilian Blowout). White women who used these chemical methods to straighten their hair had an astounding 74 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer.

The overall message here is that putting chemicals on your scalp to change your hair color or texture doesn’t bode well for your breast cancer risk…

Don’t die for your dye…

Dying your hair is fun, but is it really worth dying for? Now, I know that’s a bit dramatic. Dying your hair is just one risk factor for cancer. And most cancers aren’t tied to one risk factor but to many risk factors combined.

So if you have an appointment to get your hair colored tomorrow, don’t panic. Just know that years and years of slathering hair dye on your head could eventually take its toll.

Of course, if you’d rather play it safe and decrease your exposure to potential carcinogens as much as possible, canceling your monthly appointment with your colorist isn’t a bad idea. Let your hair go au naturel and see how you like it.

If you miss having a new or creative hair color or aren’t ready to embrace your grays, you could also try natural hair dyes. They’re available at most natural grocery stores, and they contain less (or in some cases none) of the dangerous chemicals found in conventional hair dyes, like PPDs (p-Phenylenediamine) and ammonia.

There are even salons that use less toxic hair dyes. These dyes tend to be ammonia-free and low-PPD. But, don’t be fooled — many natural hair dyes in salons or grocery stores still contain some chemicals. Anything that is completely chemical free is usually semi-permanent because plant-based dyes don’t last as long.

If you truly can’t live without your monthly trip to the salon for a color touch-up, do your best to avoid cancer risk factors in other areas of your life. Exercise, eat a healthy diet, avoid alcohol and buy natural personal care and household products to decrease your overall risk.

Editor’s note: Discover how to live a cancer prevention lifestyle — using foods, vitamins, minerals and herbs — as well as little-known therapies allowed in other countries but denied to you by American mainstream medicine. Click here to discover Surviving Cancer! A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Causes, Treatments and Big Business Behind Medicine’s Most Frightening Diagnosis!

  1. Could certain hair dyes, relaxers raise breast cancer risk? — MedicalXpress. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
  2. Hair dyes and contraception used by millions of women are linked to chemicals that can cause breast cancer. — Daily Mail. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
  3. Finding Safe Organic Hair Dye Products. — Good Housekeeping. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
  4. 12 of the Best Natural Hair Dyes. — Eluxe Magazine. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and