Sensitivity to Hair-Coloring = Toxic you

Just today, a client came into the salon only to be diagnosed, by me, to be too sensitive for the same procedure that she has been having done for years—having her hair colored. Not that it is of much importance to this article, but I usually highlight her dark brown hair which is just starting to gray. And then I “bump” the base, which means that I color the root area not highlighted in foil packets—this is the relevant part: hair coloring product touches her scalp.
In my 30 plus years in the business, I have not heard of hair-coloring or hair tinting ever killing or permanently hurting someone. Oh yes, I’ve seen the rare burn marks and patches on scalps from pasted relaxers or lifting or bleaching or highlighting products. (Not done by me, of course.) But hair-coloring products are mostly milder that those that I just listed and have been very safe for putting on the skin.
But wait—times have changed. I have been coloring a long time and, along with every other stylist in the business; we are all seeing a trend. We are noticing our women clients become more sensitive to hair coloring at a younger and younger age than ever before. Sensitivity means that the body or skin can react in any number of ways; by tingling, burning, itching or aching. One could develop a racing pulse, or have shortness of breath and, I’m sure more or less severe symptoms. My client’s scalp had become sensitive to hair coloring and her skin tingled and then she felt burning. So I knew we could no longer use the same hair coloring products on her scalp that had been perfectly fine for many years prior.
This sensitivity to hair coloring phenomenon is now becoming more common. We colorists have all begun experimenting with new coloring systems. Some without PPD’s (paraphenylenediamine) in them or some with ammonia-free agents. We have learned to use buffers and oils to calm the skin. We recommend shampoos without sulfates or too many chemicals in them and the list is getting longer and longer for the extremes that we will go to keep our livelihood and our clients happy and safe. And, ultimately, all we are doing is trying to keep those “witchy” grays from aging our brunette clients, or keeping our formerly beach-bleached blonde girls light, or keeping redheads from fading into orange mediocrity.
About now, if you are women reading this and you are also someone who is not about to stop coloring your hair, you are looking for that one product, or that one suggestion, that you will glean from this article so that you can tell your stylist to use it just so that you will be able to color your hair till you’re ready to be buried in your favorite black cocktail dress.
But there will be no more chemical jargon in this article. And there is no miracle product to add to the ones I know could be causing sensitivity problems for today’s coloring client. In fact, I know that hair tints and dyes and anything that we use on the skin in this industry is now more safe for your skin and hair that at any other time in my career. Not that I trust the FDA, but the “stuff” they have in professional products is just better. And yet it is not good enough or non-toxic enough if your body is saying, “I am being exposed to too many chemicals—and I want that to stop.” You see, if you are alive today, your body has been bombarded with more toxins from the likes of treated beds and pillows, more poisons from gardening products, more DNA disruptors from paints and water bottles, and more radiation from tech equipment than any generations before. AND you are constantly putting duress-stress on you “mind-body-system” by daily taking in 400 times more information than your grandparents did from: your television and TV monitors everywhere, 3G phones, computers, KIDS, and the whole list of crap you do every day just to get by. Add that up and your body is going to start to react. It’s going to tell you something: Stop. Slow down. Treat me right. Get these built-up toxin out of me!
And how is your body going to tell you all that? By getting tired. By upset stomachs. By sensitivity to products and foods that you never had a problem with before. I know you want a miracle product to patch you up so you can keep doing what you are doing. A pill that you can take so that you can address your toxin intake or stress intake on your own time schedule. But yeah, no. The time is now. Do it before your body breaks down or your stylists tells you that he/she cannot color your grays (gasp!). Or worse, before you spend thousands on hospital bills and doctors–like I have.
Back to the story of my client. Along with her sensitivity to hair coloring she had also begun to have skin and stomach problems. One thing that I’ve notice with people who have sensitive skin, it’s that it started out with a sensitive stomach. Her doctor even suggested she could be Celiac which mean she will have to go on a Glutton-free diet for the rest of her life. (I’m close to succumbing to this realization for myself.) Now, when I suggested that she start using “anti-inflammatory foods” (Google that!), she seemed a little interested. But when I also recommended meditation, her mind put the brakes on.
Whoh,” she said, “all this sound like a lot of time. I’m in sales and I’m on the road all the time. I don’t have time to meditate or wade through the menus at restaurant just to find things that I can eat.”
I did not explain to her that it did not matter if she would take the time or not. She needs to reverse some of reasons her body is sensitive such as the accumulation of toxin and stress on her body. She may not know it now, but her body will tell her when it has had enough. Years ago, I had a few emergency trips to the hospital myself—stomach problems…, then relaxing problems…, then skin problems…, then: bam! I now meditate, exercise and I eat a lot of anti-inflammatory foods, and I avoid toxins where I can. I also read up on what could be my next step to even better health.
By the end of my client’s appointment, I promised her that I would have a coloring product to cover her grays by the next time she came in. I could still use the highlighter because that does not touch her skin. She seemed put at ease but I knew that the hair was not the most important thing. Her health was.

Here are my suggestions to help you make sure that you are healthy. This is my “miracle product” that I think could help all of us. It’s a path. I just hope I can make the path a little less daunting for you by illuminating the way.

Start to take personal action: Don’t change everything all at once. You can slowly tackle toxin purging by getting rid or your garden poisons or toxic cleaners, little by little, or as they run out. They didn’t come into your life over night and you’ve got a few months to get used to the idea of getting rid of them, slowly but surely.
Green Cleaner news: read my green cleaner blog or go to: http://www.ecomaids.com/

Eat Better: http://nutrition.about.com/od/changeyourdiet/qt/inflamguide.htm
For Babys: http://www.earthbaby-organics.com/

Learn a little more: Read about a mom’s journey to a healthy life for her sons through a divorce!: http://ecoactionplan.wordpress.com/
You’re welcome: http://storyofstuff.com/ This one’s a good start for anyone.
A must: http://www.squidgonegreen.com/
Best articles: http://www.icountformyearth.com/ My personal Fav.
Best of Chicago: http://www.mindfulmetropolis.com/
Go to the Green section of MafiaHairdresser.com. Follow my Green Twitter list @mafiahairdreser on Twitter. And, for heaven’s sake, subscribe to this blog!

Empower yourself: Once you start feeling more health and energy, you’ll get worked up about more health and you’ll see how chemicals and toxins need not be in our foods and environment and then you’ll start taking bigger actions.
Sign a petition each week. http://care2.org/
Pass on some information on twitter. http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/
You can’t save the whole world but you can donate a few dollars a month or join one online organization. http://worldwildlife.org/.

Know that it is enough and stop worrying: Please know that what you are doing is enough–for today. For your health. For your family.
And you’ve got to trust that everyone is going to start walking this healthy path one day as well. Each of us is going to wake up on our own time (you did!) and care for ourselves and then the environment by taking actions. If we all do a little bit, on our own pace—all will be well. If you worry about other people not doing their part, you might have to medicate or meditate and exercise more!….
Exercise: You will suck at it for the first 30 days but do yoga ten to twenty minutes a day. Lock the kids in a closet if you have to but just start doing something. Buy a matt and a DVD and get started. Walk!
If you are healthy or ill: HUG A TREE! One of my client’s doctor’s actually told her to start hugging trees. This woman was diagnosed and treated for lung cancer and was told she would die in two years even after surgery. That was 15 years ago. And she attributes her health to getting outside and getting back in touch with nature and the healing (and free!) vibrations of trees.
Stop, look and listen to your body: If you think that you are stressing out your mind and body, turn off the TV, computer, cell phone… And then start looking into the foods, water and chemicals around you and begin your health journey today. MEDITATE. Think about it, if you do not get healthy, I might be out of a job in few years.

Mwah!
Please order your copy of Mafia Hairdresser, the novel about my life as a hairdresser to a mob couple in the 80’s, and subscribe to this blog!

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