You're at that time in your life - wise and with the evidence to prove it. We have invented technology that takes us to Mars but we are still struggling to come up with a solution for gray hair. Unless it's the Grecian Formula or Restoria Discreet. I had never heard of these products until someone I know mentioned that he was using Restoria and really liked how his hair was - stayed in place and made his grays look cool. Of course I was intrigued and immediately looked up the ingredients:
Restoria Discreet color restoring cream: Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Sulphur, Lead Acetate, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Lauramide DEA, Fragrance (Parfum), Denatonium Benzoate
Lead acetate is is the key ingredient here:
How does it work? This is how Grecian Formula describes: "Grecian works with the hair's natural chemistry to produce a similar-acting pigment where the melanin used to be. It combines with the hair's protein inside the hair to gradually "reverse" the graying process and bring back natural looking color. Grecian works for any color hair because you control the process so you determine when you regain your right color. You can even keep a little gray around the sides if you like."
Here's how it actually works: lead reacts with oxygen in the air and sulfur in hair protein (keratin) to form oxides and sulfides which are dark.
So how safe is this product?
1) The FDA considers lead acetate to be safe if appropriate warnings are posted on the product box: "The safety data submitted in support of this petition included results from trials on humans using the products. In the trials, people using the product under controlled conditions of use were monitored for the amount of lead in their bloodstream. No significant increase in blood levels of lead was seen in the trial subjects and the lead was not shown to be absorbed into the body through such use."
The ways of the FDA are mysterious - lead acetate is banned in Europe and Canada because of toxicity concerns. According to this review on lead toxicity, there is NO safe level of exposure to lead.
2) The concentration of lead acetate i hair products like Grecian Formula and Restoria is twenty times that found in lead paint:
Lead acetate is also very soluble in water. So imagine this: you apply the cream on your head, forget to wash your hands. You touch stuff, your child's toy that she will stick in her mouth, eat a bagel. Or you have dandruff, scratch your head and get a small lesion on your scalp - now a conduit for this poison to get into your body. Just not worth it. In fact, these products have so much lead you can't just throw them away - they need to be disposed as hazardous waste.
Other resources to enhance awareness on toxicity of everyday products, including hair dyes:
Where lead hides: http://hydra.usc.edu/scehsc/pdfs/D-1-3-2%20Where%20Lead%20Hides.pdf
So what can you do? Read the ingredients and get educated. Throw (or dispose appropriately) toxic products. For your grays? Embrace them.
In the next post we'll look at some research on using natural ingredients to slow graying and prevent hair loss. Stay tuned!