This past new year , I decided to do something “wild and crazy”, for me, anyway. I decided to dye my dark brown hair blonde. Well, after two attempts with a box of blonde, and my test strand coming out a weird shade of red, I decided against it. That was not the end of it. Researching online, I found out about a hair dye made from henna.
Since I have been going gray since I was 14, I decided if I could not go blonde, I would at least cover my gray that has been becoming more and more noticeable all the time. Strangers had made comments about it, like the lady cashier, “I know you’re too young to have gray hair!” Or the older man on the street, “You look too young to have gray hair, but it’s beautiful, though!” And proceeds to offer me his phone number…
Getting tired of the comments, I decided to opt for “Black” henna. A supposed mix of regular red henna and indigo, something natural and safe, an answer to my prayers! The first time I used the dye, my hair was super black, shiny, and looked amazing, just like I’d hoped for! When the gray started growing in, I’d dye it again, always leaving it in for a long time, thinking since it was natural, there was no reason to worry about washing it out fast.
Things were going great until this past April, when I dyed my hair, and woke the next day with conjunctivitis. I had a TV shoot that very morning, and I was going to be a featured belly dancer!
I rushed to an urgent care clinic because my eyes were SO red, and itching. The nurse practitioner on duty saw me for just a few minutes, and said something about the possibility of “herpes of the eyes”, something I’d never heard of! He said I needed to go to the emergency room right away; I said I had a shoot in just a few hours, and asked if it could wait until after. His response was that I should not put it off. I was pretty scared by then, and I was thinking my eyes were going to fall out of my head soon.
Turns out, of course, it was just conjunctivitis, which I had never had before. I ended up thinking I’d probably gotten it from having my makeup applied on set a week or so before. Now I feel pretty bad that I had, in my mind, blamed a makeup artist for not being sanitary.
I was able to make it to the shoot, but I was thirty minutes late; luckily the director was understanding, and they had not started yet.
Weeks pass by, and the night before another shoot, I decided to dye my hair again, to make sure I looked my very best. I woke the next morning with my eyes red, itching, and scratchy. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me again, but this time I knew it was no coincidence. It was the dye! At the shoot, my lips started to swell and looked like I had a bad lip job. Bumps started to appear on them, and when I sucked on my lips, it felt like fluid was coming out of them. It was pretty scary! My head was also itching and burning like crazy, and felt really dry. It took at least a week before it stopped feeling like it was burning. I am not sure if the director noticed anything was wrong, but I know one of my eyes looked a little pink.
The second time, it went away with no treatment, and I didn’t have to go to the doctor. The first trip to the clinic and E.R. ended up costing me hundreds; thank God I have insurance, or it would have been thousands – all for a stupid mistake and hair dye! Of course, upon further inspection of the box that said Henna, there was a tiny sticker on the bottom that listed P.P.D. as one of the ingredients. P.P.D. stands for Paraphenylenediamine , which is known to cause an allergic reaction in some people. After researching it online, I read all kinds of horror stories about other people that had been injured from using dyes containing P.P.D. Some had been permanently scarred, and others even died! Some studies have also shown a link to exposure to P.P.D and certain cancers.
I felt angry and betrayed that I trusted a product that listed its contents as “Henna” on the front, and left the dangerous chemicals listed on a thumbnail-sized tag on the bottom of the box. I also felt lucky that I had not died, or lost my eyesight, or suffered some other horrible injury from the ordeal.
It’s been months since I stopped using that dye, or flat ironing my hair, but it looks nothing like it used to. The gray has come back, more than ever, and it seems like I’m stuck with it. I’m pretty certain the damage came from the same chemical that caused my allergic reaction.
I’d read so many great things about true, natural henna, but after my experience, I’ve been afraid to trust any company that claims their product is 100 percent pure.
Finally, I have gotten the courage to try again and I’ve ordered henna from a company based in Texas. I am excited to see the results, and looking forward to not having to spend my youth and the rest of my life with gray hair. I’d spent the day looking up home recipes for dying hair, including coffee, tea, sage, etc. But none of these seem to be easy to work with, or provide much coverage for gray.
Out of desperation, I used a black marker to cover my roots, and it works great…except that I read it will most likely cause your hair to fall out… That’s when I decided to buy the real thing, and take the leap!
I know a lot of you out there dye your hair, including my mother who’s been dying her hair since the 60’s, but I hope that you will take the facts into consideration, and do your own research before you hit the bottle, so to speak. If I’d flipped the box over, or done a simple internet search of the product name, I could have saved myself hundreds of dollars, pain, and damage to my hair.