Does coloring my hair make my Endometriosis worse?

vintage drawing of girl holding up Acme Hair Dye sign

My title is misleading.  I don’t color my hair…but it got you here! Do you color yours?

Why are we talking about hair dye on our Endo blog today?  Because it came up at one of our support group meetings.  While we were hurling out ideas and things we’ve heard can be toxic to our illness, someone asked about hair dye.  I mean, sure, it makes us look great, but it’s right up there close to the brain, but what does it do to our bodies?  It sure ain’t natural: full of chemicals!  Chemicals that could seep into your skin and…do what?

That’s what we’re here to find out.

Typical Chemicals in Hair Dye

There’s a whole slew of chemicals that make up hair dye and color products.  These few here stood out in my mind as the most relevant to our topic today.

Resorcinol may disrupt hormones and cause skin irritation.  It’s used in dyes, photography, tanning, glues, antiseptics, disinfectants, and skin creams (used to treat acne, eczema, psoriasis, and dandruff).  Some concerns people have regarding resorcinol in their hair dyes are it’s highly flammable; if inhaled may cause nausea, abdominal pain, or loss of consciousness; and may cause inflammation and pain when it comes in contact with skin.  It’s been shown to alter thyroid glands in rats.  In humans who have had high exposure to the chemical due to continued use of products containing it, it can affect the central nervous system, alter the thyroid glands, cause skin irritation, and cause chemical sensitivities.  The MAK Collective for Occupational Health and Safety does state; however, that “there are no data available from studies of reproductive and developmental toxicity, genotoxicity or carcinogenicity of resorcinol in man.”  There have been studies that show small amounts of resorcinol is absorbed into your scalp when you dye your hair, as well as some remains on the scalp to be absorbed later, but is excreted by the body in about 30 hours.

Phenylenediamine is one of the chemicals found in hair dye that may lead to an increased cancer risk.  You may also hear it referred to as PPDs.  It is found in hair dye, cosmetics, photographic developers, rubber, oils, and gasoline.  Some people have complained of dermatitis, redness, and swelling due to contact PPDs while dying their hair.  If someone has a severe sensitivity to PPDs, it can be life threatening.

Petroleum is considered a xenoestrogen and may increase estrogen levels.  Again, we all know Endometriosis loooooves estrogen.  A 2010 study showed that it may disrupt hormone receptors and estrogen levels.  Also, petroleum exposure may cause cancer.

Hormones & Hair Dye

A 2015 study of Japanese women found that long-term use (10 or more years) of hair dyes may increase testosterone levels, as much as 14% higher than women who didn’t dye their hair.   Past studies have linked an increased amount of testosterone to an increased risk of developing breast cancer; although the authors of the study suggest that the increase associated with hair dye is too minimal to affect the risk of breast cancer.

Vintage drawing of men with goiters

Although many hair dyes contain petroleum, I’m not sure how much of it is in hair dye and how much exposure is needed to increase estrogen levels.  But, if you’re conscientious about estrogen increases, it may be something you want to look into and avoid. 

A 2016 study found a “significant association” that women who used hair dyes were more susceptible to goiters.  A goiter is an indication that something is abnormal with your growth of your thyroid; it is producing too much, too little, or just the right amount of hormones.  Again, a 2012 study of rats proved that resorcinol exposure altered their thyroid glands, too.  Why does this interest me?  Because I’ve once read that 50% of women with Endometriosis suffer from a thyroid disorder, mostly hypothyroidism.  Hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder.  And many people consider Endometriosis to be an autoimmune disorder.  Connection?  Coincidence? Who knows…but interesting, nonetheless.

The Dreaded C-Word

Cancer.  If you live in California, you’re used to seeing the signs and labels on everything that everything causes cancer.  It sort of desensitizes you to the C-Word…until someone you know and love announces they have it…Ugh.

Some studies have shown that repeated and long-term exposure to the chemicals found in hair dye may lead to a higher risk of developing non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system, or Leukemia.  These results were more prominent in women who dyed their hair at least 8 times a year, for at least 25 years, using permanent dyes versus non-permanent dyes, and chose darker colors.  Yale’s study found that most of the results were because women dyed their hair prior to 1980, when a lot of carcinogens were found in hair dye.  Changes in the industry and health standards since 1980 have supposedly lowered that risk.  However, the authors note that these results may have been better simply because “recent users are still in their induction and latent period” and the effects haven’t yet surfaced.  But of course, a 2015 study found no true increased risk of developing cancer, but did find an increased risk of developing malignant melanoma.  And, not to be outshone, a subsequent 2015 study found that the hair dye is cytotoxic (toxic to living cells) to humans.

But if hair dyes have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, why is it still allowed to be sold on the shelves?  Is the hooplah and hype really all that bad?  The National Cancer Institute stepped up and put together a nice little webpage on hair dye and the risk of cancer.  The studies are conflicting, yes it causes cancer, no it doesn’t – the International Agency for Research on Cancer deemed it “not classifiable as to it’s carcinogenicity to humans.”  It’s indeterminate.  Insufficient evidence.  The choice, and any potential risks, are yours.


Still want to dye your hair but get way from all the chemicals?  You can try henna dye for reds, browns, and blacks.  Or you can look into organic hair dyes, to which there are plenty available online.

My Two Cents

I couldn’t find anything that jumped out at me and screamed dying hair is horrible for Endometriosis.  It just comes down to our own personal choice : the potential for toxic exposure and increased estrogen.    To color, or not to color…that is the question.

Happy dyeing…and no dying allowed!

(Updated March 27, 2019)


American Thyroid Association

AnnaMarie Gianni Ingredient Watch List: Resorcinol, the Hormone-Disrupting Chemical in Hair Dyes

ANW Health NewsletterDangers of Hair Dye

Beauty Editor5 Scary Reasons to Avoid Petroleum and Mineral Oil in your Skincare Products

DermNet NZAllergy to Paraphenylenediamine

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety – (Abstract; Oct. 2015) Anaylsis of cytotoxicity and genotoxicity on E. Coli, human blood cells, and Allium cepa Suggests a Greater Toxic Potential of Hair Dye

Environmental International – (Abstract; April 2016) The Use of Personal Hair Dye and Its Implications for Human Health

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry – (Abstract; July 2010) Specific In Vitro Toxicity of Crude and Refined Petroleum Products: II. Estrogen (a and B) and Androgen Receptor-Mediated Responses in Yeast Assays

International Journal of Nursing Education and Research – (Article; 2016) A Case Control Study on Exposure to Hair Dye and the Goiter Among Women Attending Thryo Care Clinic, Karur District, Tamilnadu

National Cancer InstituteHair Dyes and Cancer Risk

Natural Progesterone Advisory Network – Chemicals in our Environment that Mimic Estrogen

OpEdNewsSave the Males and Females from Estrogen Overload

PLOS – (Article; Aug. 2015) Does Hair Dye Use Increase the Risk of Breast Cancer? A Population-Based Case-Control Study of Finnish Women

Serenity Organics – What are xenoestrogens? – Organic Hair Dyes and Organic Hair Colors, Best Brands and Products

The European Journal of Public Health – (Abstract; March 2015) Association of Hair Dye Use with Circulating Levels of Sex Hormones in Premenopausal Japanese Women

The MAK Collection of Occupational Health and Safety – (Article; 2012) Resorcinol

US Food & Drug AdministrationHair Dyes

YaleNews – (Article; Jan. 2004) Hair Dye Use Increases Risk of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma

YumYuckyMineral Oil: A Toxic Evil Lurking in Your Beauty Products

Please let me know if you’re interesting in reading any full versions of the abstracts.

~ Again, I am a layman.  I do not hold any college degrees, nor mastery of knowledge.  Please take what I say with a grain of salt.  If curious, do your own research Validate my writings.  Or challenge them.  And ALWAYS feel free to consult with your physician. Always.  Yours ~ Lisa

One thought on “Does coloring my hair make my Endometriosis worse?

  1. I can’t imagine giving up the bottle… The hair dye bottle! I only have my hair colored every 3 – 4 months using semipermanent color. I’ve thought about the connection with dye chemicals and endo in the past, but decided the risk is nominal I can’t live in a protective bubble after all, ’cause for whatever one thing I give up (like hair dye), there’s 100 other unavoidable chemically things out there that could be just as scary or more.

    Liked by 1 person

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