My First Experience at an Organic/Non-Toxic Hair Salon + What’s Really in Hair Products?
- Published on: 19 February, 2014
- Last update: 14 January, 2016
Ok… so, I try to be transparent, honest, open, and 100% with you guys. I tell you about my slip-ups and my personal struggles with issues I’ve been through, both physical and mental. For the last 6 months I’ve been switching all of my personal care products to organic, non-toxic, and all natural alternatives (my name IS “organic olivia” and all, haha) and yet, I was still dying my hair with HARSH chemicals.
For many women, this is often the last step to let go of. I first dyed my hair blonde in high school after I lost a lot of weight. My body was changing, I was gaining confidence through exercise and learning about nutrition, and it was my senior year. I felt on top of the world! My new blonde locks symbolized the shedding of the old me. It made my features pop when I wore make up, gave me a dramatic look, and to be honest I got a lot more attention! This put me into the mindset that “blondes have more fun” and if I went back to brown hair or even my natural color (which I hadn’t seen in years) I would be “boring” and gain weight again. I didn’t want to go back to “the old me”… I had already said goodbye to that girl when I adopted my new blonde identity!
And yet, I realized (almost too late) that my new identity came with ends that felt like straw, and monthly visits to douse my roots with bleach and ammonia. How could I truly be “Organic Olivia” if I kept blinding myself to the ingredients in conventional hair products? I do a lot of posts on makeup, soaps, shampoos, and am 100% educated on the dangers of toxic products in those categories. But for some reason, I just kept putting off researching hair dye. I didn’t want to find out what I already knew – that it was probably worse than the products I already ban in my home.
As you can see in this photo, my roots were SERIOUS! I had made the decision NOT to re-dye my blonde and to wait for a better solution. I’m glad I did (even if I had to suffer through months of roots) because here’s what you can find in regular hair dye:
- Phenylenediamines: The dye para-phenylenediamine (PPD) is in almost all permanent and semi-permanent hair dyes, even many labeled as “natural”. It has been linked to breast cancer once it has been oxidized with hydrogen peroxide (the next process in hair coloring that makes the dye work). PPD belongs to a class of chemicals known as arylamines, which are a known risk factor for bladder cancer and have caused cancer in animal studies. Phenylenediamines (the family that dye belongs to) as a whole are implicated in cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, allergies/immunotoxicity, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), ecotoxicology, and irritation of skin, eyes, or lungs. The more times you are exposed to PPD, the more you may become “cross-sensitized” and now allergic to PPD’s relatives such as clothing dyes, pen ink, parabens, sulfur, sulfa drugs, food dyes, oil, and gasoline.
- Persulfates: Can cause asthma and lung damage
- Resorcinol: This is an endocrine disruptor! It can cause hypothyroidism and miscarriage! The EU has declared resorcinol to be a HARMFUL CHEMICAL that damages the environment and causes severe skin and eye irritation! It is also linked to allergies/immunotoxicity, and organ system toxicity (non-reproductive).
- Ammonia: Potent skin irritant, causes respiratory difficulties and swollen/red eyes. Mixing ammonia with hydrogen peroxide (which is what you need to do to make it work) causes carcinogenic chemicals to form that were not present in each ingredient alone.
- Aminophenols: Linked to cancer, allergies/immunotoxicity, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), and ecotoxicology.
- Parabens: linked to birth defects, sterility, cancer, and organic toxicity. Completely throws off your hormones!
- Ethanolamine: Linked to allergies/immunotoxicity, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), and irritation of skin, eyes, or lungs.
Yeah. As you can see, I was NOT testing my luck with using regular hair dye to go back to my natural color, even if it was this “one last time.” You don’t realize how toxic products are until you research, and even then it’s hard to believe. We are taught it’s “normal” to dye your hair every few weeks and since there are tons of commercials and everyone does it, it “must be safe.” Or at least that’s what I thought! Here is where Mauricio swooped in and saved the day!
This is Mauricio. He owns Mauricio Hair Studio Privato in NYC. You can visit his website here, but first I’ll tell you more about him. The way I found him was pure chance – I typed in “#organichairsalon” as a hashtag on instagram, and suddenly saw this GORGEOUS brown ombré. It was the first picture that caught my eye, and so I clicked to see more. Sure enough, the next hashtag was #NYC. I KNEW this was fate – what are the chances the first organic salon I find is right next door in the city? I poked around on Yelp and found some 5 star reviews, so I listened to my intuition and booked my appointment.
Let me tell you – this man knows what he’s doing. Usually stylists will look at my hair, feel around, play with it for a minute or so, then simply do what I ask. Mauricio went above and beyond. He examined my hair for a good full ten minutes. He looked under every lock to see where the color stopped and started. He thoroughly mapped out a vision in his head. I could see his eyes squinting as he calculated my transformation. And he did this all in pure silence and concentration – I was watching a true artist at work!
About the Salon
We had an excellent conversation about the toxicity of hair products. Mauricio alluded to me that he only uses European products. Remember above when I mentioned that the EU classifies one of the ingredients in regular hair dye as toxic? They have FAR stricter rules than America on what can be put into hair and skin products. America has only about 7 ingredients banned while the EU has far over 20. He only uses products that have been approved by Europe’s standards. He reads every ingredient and actually cares about the health of not only his clients but his fellow stylists that deal with these products daily.
He actually told me that he started his hair studio because he was shocked that there were no other non-toxic salons in the area. Safe, organic products are his number one priority and his dream has always been to open an eco-friendly salon. He never would have gone into this field if he wasn’t able to protect and nourish all of his clients – it’s just not an option. Although people were hesitant at first (organic hair care doesn’t always SOUND effective, people picture hippies and ineffective natural remedies), as the health movement took off clients began realizing that getting their hair done with REAL products instead of chemicals is not only more effective but a much more pleasant process!
His charming and intimate salon on the 11th floor offers haircuts (women $100–$175, men $90–$125), blowouts ($55–$75) and color treatments ($75–$350). All of the services I mentioned use certified organic, ammonia- and formaldehyde-free products (such as Original&Mineral, Rahua, Alterna, Intelligent Nutrients and Organic Salon Systems). The space is gorgeous, immaculate, and feels like a getaway!
You know when you have hair dye on and it tingles and stings? You start to feel inflammation in your body, your face gets a little swollen along with your hands? That is always my experience when I get my hair done. I used to call it a necessary evil. When I would get shampooed, I immediately would break out in acne along my hairline and my forehead would get bright red. I used to wear extra makeup to hair appointments JUST to cover this up because I was embarrassed.
While getting dye applied at Mauricio’s I braced for the tingling. Yet… nothing happened. He was putting the dye on my head and I looked at him in shock, asking “why don’t I smell anything?” He literally put the dye brush right up to my nose, and I still smelled nothing. To my ladies out there – you KNOW hair dye when it’s within 50 feet of you. This is nothing like that. And yet it worked better than most hair dye brands I’ve ever tried.
The shampoo didn’t bother my skin either! It felt silky smooth and natural, not abrasive and over-lathering like sulfate-filled shampoos. He used Original&Mineral brand shampoo and conditioner, which are free of phthalates, sulfates, propylene glycol, M.I.T., parabens, and triclosan. Everything about this appointment was different from what I’m used to. Nothing hurt, everything was easy and worked, and the final product was an ashy dirty blonde/brown mixture that I couldn’t have even dreamed up myself. The lovely assistant Wendy who was working at the front desk said, “I want that color next!!” This man is a genius. I had my consultation, dye, wash, glaze, cut, AND blowout in under two hours. And I have a LOT of hair.
Moral of the story: take the plunge and go for your NATURAL color. You don’t need to hide behind hair dye to feel beautiful. The locks that grow from your amazing and powerful body were meant to be the color they are – to highlight your eyes, smile, face structure, and NATURAL beauty. If you ARE going to color your hair, or need to get it dyed to get back to your “roots” so to speak, DO NOT put harsh chemicals on your head. The chemicals in our products reach our organs in 26 seconds. Opt for organic, non-toxic hair dye and products. Visit a salon that is experienced in FIXING damage from abrasive products, such as Mauricio’s studio. To book an appointment with Mauricio in NYC, call 212.532.3030. He truly gave me the best hair experience of my life and I’ll never settle for unsafe styling again.