Metallic hair dyes are used in progressive hair coloring which is another form of hair coloring treatment, that is most popular among men. Its mechanism of action and effects are quite different. While there are many pros, there are also many problems associated with this dye. Let’s discuss.
What are metallic hair dyes?
Metallic hair dyes use heavy metal salts to create pigments on hair. In the past, salts of several metals including lead, silver, bismuth, cobalt, copper, iron, and mercury have been used for dyeing hair. Among these metallic dyes, lead dyes are the most efficient & popular ones. Lead dyes contain lead acetate and react with the cysteine of hair to presumably form lead-sulfur complexes in the cuticle layers. The gradual oxidation of the lead from the oxygen in air causes the darkening: thus the term progressive.
Advantages of metallic hair dyes
- It has a straightforward application. No mixing required and no extreme pH conditions in order to perform.
- It creates a natural transitional look so that the change is not obvious right away. Many people, especially men, prefer this dye to oxidative coloring because of the subtle change.
- It covers gray hair reasonable well, although it is not as efficient if you have over 50% gray hair.
- The color deepens with every application. You can thus control when to stop the application when you’ve hit the shade of your liking.
- Fading can be resolved quickly with another application.
Problems associated with metallic hair dyes
The major issues:
- Those systems still using lead acetate are resilient dyes. While the hair fades over time, the lead doesn’t leave the hair completely. Unfortunately, there are no known ways to remove the residual pigments without severely damaging the hair. The lead can react with ammonia and cause a violent reaction, frying your hair. Therefore recoloring with a regular oxidative dye or perming on top of a progressive hair color is an absolute disaster! The only safe way to remove the dye is to let the hair grow out.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of lead acetate in cosmetics in small amounts of 0.6% or less. They believe that at these concentrations the amount is so small it cannot pose a health risk. However, Lead is a major health hazard if it enters the bloodstream through ingestion or open wounds. The other heavy metals (although to a lesser degree than lead) are also problematic: heavy metal poisoning can occur if too much enters the bloodstream. Wash your hands and other used items/work areas carefully to avoid the possibility of cross contamination, especially if you are around kids or pregnant women.
- Limited shades available
- The color requires regular upkeep in order to prevent fading from shampooing.
- It can lose its intensity in sunlight
- It is not permanent
- It does cover all gray
Where to find progressive metallic hair dyes
- Grecian Formula is probably the best known product that has been helping men and women to cover their gray for some 70 years now. However, it uses lead acetate which has been recently banned from cosmetics products in many countries. Unfortunately, replacing the lead acetate with either silver or copper acetates or bismuth citrate has not brought the same coverage as the good old formula. Hence, depending on which country you live in, you will have different experiences with this product. It costs about $7.
- Grayban contains Bismuth citrate. It comes as a conditioning spray and costs about $18 on Amazon.
- Restoria is an australian brand that contains lead acetate and comes as a cream and lotion. It costs about $25.
- Youthair contains lead acetate, and comes as a creme. It costs about $7.
- Schwarzkopf’s grey hair colorant Re-Nature. It is not readily available in U.S. but popular in Europe.
Read here for coloring options (especially for men) without any lead or other heavy metals.