Why Using a Hair Dye Can Contribute to Adrenal Fatigue

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At some point, you may have thought about doing something new to your hair. Instead of just trimming it or having it curled, you may have also thought about giving it a little pop of color. It’s a growing trend after all. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 1.15 million Americans used hair dye at least 14 times or more back in 2017.

What you may not realize, however, is that adding color to your hair may be bad for your overall health. In fact, it can even contribute to adrenal exhaustion. And in case you are already suffering from adrenal fatigue, it may disrupt adrenal recovery.

Understanding Hair Dye and Its Common Types

Hair dye refer to a hair product that is specifically used to change the color of one’s hair. Usually, people turn to hair dyes when they want to color the gray hairs that have appeared on their head over time.

On the other hand, there are also some who turn to dyeing their hair in order to achieve a new look. This is perhaps why hair dyes come in all sorts of color nowadays. While you can still buy hair dye packs in black, brown, blonde, and red, other colors like gray, purple, and blue are also available.

Typically, hair dyes come in three types. These are

Temporary Hair Dyes

Temporary hair dyes are only meant to stay on for one to two washings. Moreover, this type of hair color never penetrates into the hair shaft. Instead, the dye only affects the hair’s surface.

Semi-permanent Hair Dyes

Semi-permanent hair dyes tend to penetrate into the hair shaft, making its coloring effect relatively longer lasting. In fact, it can stay on for 5 to 10 washings.

Permanent or Oxidative Hair Dyes

Permanent or oxidative hair dyes tend to be made with stronger formulas than temporary and semi-permanent hair dyes. Because of this, it can stay on the hair until the hair it was applied to gets replaced by new growth.

Regardless of the type of hair dye that you choose, it should be noted that all these contain several ingredients that can pose serious threats to your overall health. This is especially true for your adrenal glands.

Toxic Hair Dye Ingredients and Your Adrenal Glands

The main problem with hair dyes is that they contain a number of ingredients which can compromise your health, especially your adrenal function.

That said, some of these toxic hair dye ingredients include

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is known to be a significantly strong chemical oxidizing agent. It is commonly added in hair coloring products to strip away the hair’s natural color before the dye color is added. Doing so, however, can result in significant changes in the hair structure and even make the hair brittle.

In addition, a study conducted by the University of Colorado School of Medicine found that using hair products formulated with hydrogen peroxide can result in significant changes in one’s cortisol levels. This is especially true when application of the hair product is done frequently.

Hydrogen peroxide is actually naturally produced in your body’s immune system. T cells use this to destroy bacteria. While not inherently a bad chemical, if used incorrectly it can affect your body and adrenals.


Para-phenylenediamine (PPD) is typically used in formulating hair dyes with darker color shades. PPD is typically made from coal tar. Aside from being used in hair coloring products, this chemical is also commonly used as a wood preservative.

Studies have shown that exposure to PPD can prove to be dangerous for one’s health. One research published in the Journal of Environmental and Analytical Toxicology has pointed out that exposure to PPD has increased the incidence of adrenal gland tumors. In addition, combining PPD with hydrogen peroxide is said to increase one’s risk for cancer.

Lead Acetate

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, lead acetate is commonly used in various progressive hair dye products. Typically, this type of hair product would be applied over a certain period of time to produce a gradual coloring effect.

The problem with lead acetate is that it can readily cause adrenal problems. In fact, one laboratory study has revealed that lead acetate in one’s diet can result in adrenal gland tumors. Meanwhile, another study found that exposure to lead acetate can also result in a significant increase in the adrenal hormone norepinephrine.


Resorcinol is said to be a white crystalline compound that can turn red when exposed to air and light. Aside from being used in hair dyes, it is also used in the production of rubber products, resins, resin adhesives, and even explosives.

This substance has been known to cause itching, redness, dermatitis, and edema. Moreover, exposure to resorcinol has also been found to affect the adrenals. Animal studies by the World Health Organization showed that resorcinol caused effects on the central nervous system, thyroid malfunction, and alterations in the adrenals.

How Hair Coloring Can Stress Your Body from Within

As you may have realized, hair dyes tend to contain a great deal of ingredients which prove to be toxic for the body. Aside from disrupting adrenal function, these harmful chemicals can also put the body under a severe state of stress.

Whenever your body absorbs toxins from hair products, food, or the environment, it is up to the liver to deal with them in the safest manner possible. It often acts as an in-line filter that works on the removal of various wastes and foreign substances. The liver is responsible for clearing out various chemical toxins by reducing them into compounds that the body can readily get rid of. Thanks to the liver, your body can safely expel harmful toxins in the form of sweat, air, feces, or urine.

The problem with toxins that are commonly found in hair dyes is that they can cause the liver to become congested and overworked, essentially putting significant stress on its function. And as you continue to use harmful hair coloring products, the liver can fall into a state of chronic stress.

Once the liver becomes stressed, it poses a significant problem for the adrenal glands since both of these organs play an important role in the body’s NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response system. The liver and the adrenals have always worked closely together, which may explain why a study conducted at the Army Hospital in India found a strong link between adrenal insufficiency and liver disease.

When liver function is overloaded, your body’s ability to flush out hair coloring toxins from the body is severely compromised. Because of this, your adrenal glands are also forced to work harder. If this internal stress continues, your adrenal glands’ ability to produce the stress hormone cortisol may soon be affected. In the long run, this can cause significant hormonal imbalance which in turn, can trigger adrenal fatigue.

Exploring Hair Dye Alternatives

Natural hair dye solutions

To avoid triggering adrenal fatigue, it is recommended to avoid commercial hair coloring products altogether. Instead of dyes, you can use a hair rinse that is made using a combination of various herbs and other natural ingredients. Just make sure that you don’t have intolerance or allergy to any ingredient before using them. That said, the kind of ingredients you use for your hair rinse depends on what hair color or shade you prefer.

For a more brunette shade, you can use black coffee, black tea, sage, and rosemary. Meanwhile, for blond shades, you can turn to saffron, turmeric, and licorice root. And for red shades, you can use red hibiscus and rose hips.

To make a natural hair rinse, just pour boiled water over your choice of ingredients. Let the mixture cool before straining out all the solids. Pour over your hair and leave it on.

As you can see, applying regular hair coloring products on your hair may not be a good idea considering what it would do to your adrenal health. Instead, it helps to keep your hair healthy in more natural ways. Keep in mind too that stress can significantly compromise your hair health. Hence, by lessening stress in your life, you are able to keep your adrenals healthy and your hair shiny.

© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.