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Better Organic Choice: Dyeing for a Different Look

by Karim Orange

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Welcome to Better Organic Choice (BOC), a column focusing on makeup, skincare and beauty tips, tricks and product advice for the holistically hip. We cover the best in green glam, behind the scenes and in your face (not your traditional crunchy granola here). We are here to help you explore all the beauty treatments you adore! Do you often worry if your beauty products are dangerous to your health? Are you dizzy from analyzing ingredients? Guiding you is my pleasure.

Many women anticipate the spring season to change up their look. Hair is usually the main change in any beauty makeover. It could be a new cut, a few highlights or a completely different color. I always loved dyeing my hair to achieve that special ‘brand new me’ kind of feeling–until I discovered the toxicity of hair dye. I tend to wear my hair incredibly short, so when I was coloring it, I had to do it very often. I never thought about all the chemicals seeping into my scalp.

The average hair dye contains a host of seriously toxic chemicals. The main culprits are:

Phenylenediamine (PPD) is present in over two-thirds of chemical hair dyes, and is known to be toxic to the immune, skin, nervous, and respiratory systems. It can also damage the liver and kidneys. It is the most toxic chemical in hair dyes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists PPD as a contact allergen. Exposure to PPD can cause throat irritation, asthma, and sensitization dermatitis. PPD has been banned in Germany, France and Sweden. But PPD is still used in hair dyes in Japan and the United States. Small amounts are even found in many of the do-it-yourself ‘natural’ hair dyes in places like Whole Foods. PPD can also be found in black henna and tattoo dyes.

Inhalation of ammonia in the air or applied topically can cause nose and throat irritation. It can also produce skin or eye irritation. Ammonia is considered to be a carcinogen by the World Health Organization and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Long-term exposure to ammonia fumes can cause obesity, depression, and social anxiety disorder. Daily exposure to ammonia will cause high blood pressure, pulmonary edema, and bronchitis. Continued contact with ammonia hydroxide will dry the skin and damage skin cells, and eventually cause serious skin complications. Exposure to ammonia fumes will damage eyes, liver, kidneys, and lungs. Even brief exposure to ammonia fumes can be an asthma trigger and irritate or amplify allergies.

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting Simply Hair Salon, based in New York City. Simply Hair prides itself on offering nontoxic alternatives to traditional salon services. The salon was incredibly clean and smelled amazing, not like a typical chemical-laden salon.

The owner of Simply Hair, Ruth Brooks, graduated from beauty school in 1997 and did an apprenticeship at Vidal Sassoon, where she fell in love with color. She went on to work for Beth Minardi, who trained her as a colorist, and has also worked at John Barrett Salon in the penthouse of Bergdorf Goodman.

Ruth became interested in non-toxic green alternatives when President Obama was running for office. Obama talked about how European countries are light years ahead of us in terms of sustainable solutions. After doing some research, Ruth found many alternatives to traditional hair products that helped the planet and were better for us. In 2010, Simply Hair Salon was born. This green salon features products with certified organic ingredients, protein keratin treatments, botanical treatments, perms, natural relaxers and take-home products.

For permanent color, Simply Hair Salon uses Organic Color Systems (OCS). Its unique oil-delivery system replaces the need for highly toxic substances, such as ammonia. Instead, soya oil softens the cuticle, allowing for gentle heat to open it; color is then delivered into the hair shaft, creating a permanent result. Although the allergy-causing ingredient p-phenylenediamine (PPD) is necessary for the darker ranges of permanent color, Organic Color System uses the lowest amount possible in their formulation. The company has minimized the use of harmful ingredients, making it the most natural permanent color line available worldwide, with 89 percent organically-derived ingredients and ten percent certified organic ingredients–and it’s 100 percent ammonia-free. OCS believes in full disclosure; ingredients are listed on their website and on the color bottles.

Organic Color System announced last year that they are removing propylene glycol (PG) from their professional salon products and replacing it with propanediol, a certified organic ingredient derived from the sugars found in corn kernels. Organic Color System also offers a line called No Limits in bright fashion colors! It’s 100 percent PPD and PTD-free.

During my visit to Simply Hair, I consulted with Ruth and we opted to make my hair a natural ash blonde. Ruth lightened my hair using pharmaceutical-grade hydrogen peroxide, completely purified and demineralised water, certified organic plant extracts, amino acids and antioxidants. For the first time while getting my hair dyed, my eyes didn’t burn and my scalp didn’t sting.

The entire crew at Simply Hair was extremely knowledgeable, and treated me like a queen. While I was under the dryer, Erin, who has been a manicurist for 27 years, hooked up my nails using Zoya natural nail polish. This woman knows nails! She can even tell when a client is on certain medications based on the health of their nails. All in all, I am extremely happy with my new look. I left feeling beautiful.

Until next time, Love & Lipstick.

Karim Orange is a nationally known natural cosmetics expert, celebrity personal care products artist and two-time Emmy Award nominee whose work graces the faces of countless stars in television, music, movies and the theater. If you have specific questions about non toxic beauty products and routines that you would like to see answered in this column, please email me at karim@betterorganicchoice.com. If you would like me to green your beauty routine please visit  www.betterorganicchoice.com.

Have you used Organic Color System? Tweet us about your new spring look @OrganicSpaMag #newspringlook

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