To Colour or to Grow Old Gracefully? A Look at Hair Colour Use in Society and its Impact on Health and the Environment

Why do people colour their hair? What impact does it have on society and the environment? When I was younger I coloured my hair out of boredom – to differentiate myself from the crowd while having a fun look. As I aged, and life became more complicated, the reasons for change changed. If I had the blues, was stuck in a rut, or ended a period of my life (career or relationship breakup, etc.), change was required and the fastest way to get it was a ‘look overhaul’! It was like magic – new hair, new you! But then as I hit my 30s, the colour of my hair did not matter. As people around me complained of their roots coming in, I said that when my white hairs started growing in I would embrace it, leave it white and grow old gracefully!  White hair would signify the end to another major period of life – youth and young adulthood were over, and I would have that symbol of respect denoting the forty plus years I put in to acquire this stamp of a life lived fast and furious! But, tragedy ensued, a life altering experience ignited my entry into this stage of life and my hair started whitening. But, literally, we are talking about a handful initially, then a dozen and probably not much more than two dozen now, but it completely changed my “grow old gracefully” epithet. I could no longer deal with the ten years of virgin hair I had – I required change and fast! I eagerly plunged into the salon chair where one undergoes change, like the lifecycle of a butterfly: at the beginning you are a caterpillar, happy with your life, not knowing anything is wrong; you are accepting to the colours you were hatched into. Then you experience a lull in your life – colourless and just hanging around full of inner struggles, like a pupa. Finally, feeling restless and knowing change is inevitable, you undergo a vast transformation and break out of your pupa like the vibrant, shining butterfly you are!

Men, women, children, teens – everyone wants change, or as they get older, want to cling on to their youth via maintaining their natural hair colour. In our modern age our “look” is a reflection upon who we are. This past year my hair was pink, pink and yellow, pink brown and yellow, shades of red and copper, and blonde, and briefly in between it was its natural dark brown. I felt boring and old in that in between natural state, thus, it did not stay that way for long, and now I am a vivacious, vibrant redhead!

But changing our external appearance may be all good and well, but are there any repercussions we should be aware of? When colouring our hair, who and what are we considering? Is there greater risk to colouring hair than just the psychology of people’s desire to cosmetically change themselves? Are people aware of other considerations, like the ingredients they are putting on their heads – are they toxic or harmful? Is it destructive to the environment?

As society’s awareness of wellness and environmentalism progresses, choosing to use more natural, organic and sustainable materials for many of our consumables, people are now considering other factors than just their wants. As technology continues to improve, so does our awareness of chemicals in foods and products we use – we are more knowledgeable as we can conduct more research into how people and the environment are affected by certain chemicals. Thus, industry has been forced to change to meet the needs of its clients and the world in which they live.

At HBS Spa Life, we value health, wellness and our planet, thus we only use high quality, naturally derived products like our hair colours and hair product lines, which are safe, toxin free, and contain natural ingredients. Among the ethical companies we use, Davines is an Italian company of beauty products including hair colour for salon use. They implement a philosophical strategy by which they run their business – Carta Etica (translated as Code of Conduct or Ethical Chart) – “Davines is aiming to be the most beautiful and ethical company in the world, thanks to everyone’s commitment” (Davines, 2006). We also use Eufora, a Californian company that believes in ecology and uses a base of certified organic aloe in its products. We also carry Seaflora Skincare (100% Canadian, organic and natural), and Zoya Nail Care which is approved by the Canadian Cancer Society since it does not contain toxic ingredients like toluene, camphor, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and DBP (dibutyl phthalate).

It is important to note which companies are still using toxins in their products, and which ones are offering more natural, safe alternatives, like Eufora and Davines do. You can be rest assured that at HBS we would never use unsafe ingredients on our esteemed clients, as we ourselves are in contact with these ingredients on a daily basis – we want what’s best for us and our families, and as you know, we consider you our family as well! That is why it is important to us to choose companies whose philosophies reflect our own.

Nadia Capetola, creator of HBS Spa Life, and Artist Director, has been in the hair care industry for 30 years. Nadia has a great deal of experiences with hair products, from the least expensive, most irritant, bulk products that were being used a few decades ago, to the more natural, high quality products available today. Because of her earlier experiences, she is more mindful of what she uses on her clients and herself, and only wants the best, allergen and toxin free products – which is why the team at HBS Spa Life regularly attend training for product knowledge, and choose sustainable materials for use in our salon.

Some ingredients used by Eufora include sunflower seed extract for colour protection, chamomile, horsetail, nettle and essential oils, which take into consideration scalp and hair health. Davines not only uses healthy ingredients like acai, bamboo, coconut, and almonds in their products, but they market themselves to be sustainable and ethical – they are committed to minimizing their impact on the environment, creating safe products for their customers, using 100% renewable energy sources like the Sun, wind, water and soil, to produce their plants and supply their offices. It is also interesting to note that when listing product information on their website, they do not just state the product is “PPD and parabens free”, but they also include: “Emissions from *product* packaging production are compensated by participating in reforestation projects. The packaging is made of FSC recycled paper and is compostable”. This is really an attestable indication of how far the beauty industry has come from the days of using carcinogens (before the 1980s) and conducting animal testing (which also, more and more companies are getting away from).

This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Sandra, Davines’ Regional Master Trainer, on their hair colour philosophy. Sandra spoke to me about how Davines uses high-end sustainable ingredients, and when creating their products, they are cautious of CO2 emissions (which is the primary gas emitted by human activities). Davines uses natural products which have several “key benefits” to them, such as the New Colours we use at HBS – they either contain no or lower amounts of ammonia content, and some are vegan, which increases the brightness and longevity of your hair colour. Sandra also mentioned how Davines is always upgrading, thus they will continue to bring you quality hair colours!

This information is great to know, as the David Suzuki Foundation also asks consumers to use more eco-friendly hair colours, without PPD, sulphates and ammonia [for those of you not familiar with David Suzuki, his Foundation believes in “conserving our environment and find(ing) solutions that will create a sustainable Canada through science-based research, education and policy work” (David Suzuki Foundation, 2016)].

Speaking with our valued hair colour clients, Christine L. says her hair looks “marvellous and shiny and healthy!” In hearing about the ethical, sustainable nature of Davines, Christine states, “It’s more important than anything because whatever we put in and on our body used to be true to nature, (so going more natural again) helps us to function more efficiently and naturally.” Maria G., another of our long time colour clients, is health and wellness conscious and she thinks Davines’ ethical policies is “amazing and outstanding!” – she will continue to trust Nadia, owner and Artist Director, for all her future hair care needs.

Jessica B., our newest hairstylist has worked with many other colour brands in the past, but her experiences with Davines have really changed her outlook. She states that it is “unlike anything I have ever used before, because it does not have harsh smells. It is easy to work with, with its smooth texture and beautiful lively colours!” Jessica is happy to be working with great products like Davines and Eufora, and to be contributing to the preservation of our Earth.

The main thing to note is that science and technology have made positive strides to ensure a longer sustainable, healthy society and environment. Because there are so many consumers of hair colour, scientists conduct considerable research to determine whether exposure to the chemicals in hair colour is associated with increased health risks, as well as whether it is harmful to the environment. For example, the scientists at Eufora experimented with more natural ingredients to create a propellant in aerosol cans, instead of using the more typical chemicals like butane and propane found in other aerosol hairstyling products. This is both better for individuals as well as minimizes added pollutants into the environment.

You may speak with your colour technician or any members of the HBS team to get more information about the safe, quality ingredients in the awesome products we use! As for me, I am proud to not just be a part of the HBS team for the past two years, but also a client for 20 years! I am enjoying the different looks HBS’s colour technicians help me acquire by a simple hair colour change (see pictures – like a chameleon!), however, learning about the potential dangers in colouring my hair, I will ensure I continue to choose quality, natural based products… or grow old gracefully!

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