Is Henna Safe?

Is Henna Safe?
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The risk of lead and PPD contamination of red and black henna.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“[T]he average adult uses nine personal care products each day, with 126 unique chemical ingredients.” Now, we used to think that anything applied to the skin would always just “remain on the surface,” and the only thing you had to worry about was like local skin irritation. But, over recent decades, we’ve started to recognize “that some topically applied substances can penetrate into or [even] through human skin” and end up circulating throughout our bodies.

Take the toxic heavy metal lead, for example. To see if lead could be absorbed through the skin into the body, researchers applied lead to someone’s left arm, and then they measured the level of lead in the sweat coming off their right arm over the next few days. And there was a big spike, proving, nearly 30 years ago, that “lead can be absorbed through [the] skin” and rapidly distributed throughout the body.

This has led public health authorities to “recommend that parents avoid using cosmetics [at least] on [their] children that could be contaminated.” Which cosmetics might those be? Lead has been found in a wide range of cosmetic products, because it’s a natural constituent of many color pigments. The FDA has set an upper limit for lead at 20 parts per million, and though only some samples of “henna” exceeded that, because henna is used for temporary tattoos, these quantities of lead can remain on the skin for a long time and may not be safe. This is because studies show that lead “may have no identifiable safe exposure level, with even the lowest levels shown to affect [the brains of developing] children.”

“Thus, the use of henna especially among children may constitute a public health risk.” So, “[i]ncreasing awareness of henna’s serious toxic implications [may help end, or at least reduce] the use of such hazardous material especially when children are involved.”

Now, traditionally, henna was just the dried powdered leaves of a plant. But, more recently, other ingredients have been added “to give it a stronger color”—added ingredients such as lead, “one of the most common and egregious additives in henna.” But, not as common as PPD (para-phenylene-diamine).

“The red paste traditionally used, known as ‘red henna,’ rarely produces adverse effects.” But, to “help achieve a darker pigment, known as ‘black henna’,” various additives may be used, including animal urine. But, better pee than PPD, a coal tar derivative that can cause nasty skin reactions such as blistering and scarring. PPD is added to speed up the process from as long as 12 hours down to less than two hours. So, while the “[u]se of black hennas may be tempting,” it has the potential for both short- and long-term side effects.

How common are these reactions? The best estimate is about 2.5%. So, one in 40 kids who get a black henna tattoo may have an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, this practice “has become fashionable” (thanks a lot, Spice Girls). There’s no such thing as “natural black henna.” So,
“[p]erhaps it is best to respect the traditional practice…lest a temporary tattoo [turn into] a permanent scar.”

The problem is that “PPD can be found in products labeled as ‘red henna,’ too.” So, just because it’s red doesn’t mean it’s not risky. Bad news for the $100 million industry.

Because henna of all colors is so often adulterated, under FDA guidelines, “henna should not be applied to the skin at all.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credits: tortugadatacorp via Pixabay and Michael Korcuska via flickr. Images have been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“[T]he average adult uses nine personal care products each day, with 126 unique chemical ingredients.” Now, we used to think that anything applied to the skin would always just “remain on the surface,” and the only thing you had to worry about was like local skin irritation. But, over recent decades, we’ve started to recognize “that some topically applied substances can penetrate into or [even] through human skin” and end up circulating throughout our bodies.

Take the toxic heavy metal lead, for example. To see if lead could be absorbed through the skin into the body, researchers applied lead to someone’s left arm, and then they measured the level of lead in the sweat coming off their right arm over the next few days. And there was a big spike, proving, nearly 30 years ago, that “lead can be absorbed through [the] skin” and rapidly distributed throughout the body.

This has led public health authorities to “recommend that parents avoid using cosmetics [at least] on [their] children that could be contaminated.” Which cosmetics might those be? Lead has been found in a wide range of cosmetic products, because it’s a natural constituent of many color pigments. The FDA has set an upper limit for lead at 20 parts per million, and though only some samples of “henna” exceeded that, because henna is used for temporary tattoos, these quantities of lead can remain on the skin for a long time and may not be safe. This is because studies show that lead “may have no identifiable safe exposure level, with even the lowest levels shown to affect [the brains of developing] children.”

“Thus, the use of henna especially among children may constitute a public health risk.” So, “[i]ncreasing awareness of henna’s serious toxic implications [may help end, or at least reduce] the use of such hazardous material especially when children are involved.”

Now, traditionally, henna was just the dried powdered leaves of a plant. But, more recently, other ingredients have been added “to give it a stronger color”—added ingredients such as lead, “one of the most common and egregious additives in henna.” But, not as common as PPD (para-phenylene-diamine).

“The red paste traditionally used, known as ‘red henna,’ rarely produces adverse effects.” But, to “help achieve a darker pigment, known as ‘black henna’,” various additives may be used, including animal urine. But, better pee than PPD, a coal tar derivative that can cause nasty skin reactions such as blistering and scarring. PPD is added to speed up the process from as long as 12 hours down to less than two hours. So, while the “[u]se of black hennas may be tempting,” it has the potential for both short- and long-term side effects.

How common are these reactions? The best estimate is about 2.5%. So, one in 40 kids who get a black henna tattoo may have an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, this practice “has become fashionable” (thanks a lot, Spice Girls). There’s no such thing as “natural black henna.” So,
“[p]erhaps it is best to respect the traditional practice…lest a temporary tattoo [turn into] a permanent scar.”

The problem is that “PPD can be found in products labeled as ‘red henna,’ too.” So, just because it’s red doesn’t mean it’s not risky. Bad news for the $100 million industry.

Because henna of all colors is so often adulterated, under FDA guidelines, “henna should not be applied to the skin at all.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credits: tortugadatacorp via Pixabay and Michael Korcuska via flickr. Images have been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

103 responses to “Is Henna Safe?

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  1. I don’t know if this is anything Miss Piggy might say, but “If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.”

    I often get compliments on my, um, “natural” hair. :-) Avoid chemicals whenever possible.

    1. Me, too, YR: my hair is now gray, and I LOVE it! I get compliments on my natural hair — from young people, even. I’ve been learning that less is better: skip the make-up (that’s a no brainer), skip the hair dye (ditto), skip the nail polish (ditto), use fewer skin care products, and use only those with the fewest most natural ingredients possible. It makes life so much simpler and easier. More time to sit and surf online… ;-p

      1. “use fewer skin care products,”
        – – – – – – –

        The only thing I put on my face and body is either peanut oil or coconut oil. However, I still use eye liner, mascara and lipstick if I’m heading out somewhere (shameless hussy!). Never started in with the nail polish….can’t keep my nails long either, as I play the piano.

        Isn’t it great to get complimented by the “young people”? My hair turned white (inherited it from my dad), and for quite a while there I DID go the hair dye route (always did it myself). Then I got disgusted with the roots showing up so fast, and the whole damn procedure every 5-6 weeks. Whew! Been there, done that. We do move on in life and get wiser, don’t we! :-)

        1. If coconut oil stays on the skin long enough, I wonder if the high levels of sat fat will be absorbed into the blood stream? Curious.

          1. David, Dr. Greger addresses that concern in one of his past videos. We can’t absorb it into our skin, it’s safe, HOWEVER, babies are able to absorb it under a certain age. Their skin is much more vulnerable to things like that, and yet, so much crap is put on them.

          2. There is some evidence that lipid absorption through the skin occurs with babies

            https://www.indianpediatrics.net/oct2005/998.pdf

            However, this is not thought to occur with adults. There is a possibility that it may occur in the elderly whose skin function is less effective thn in younger adults. Olive oil (and othe oils high in monounstuarted fats)might be more effective in penetrating the skin than coconut oil.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796020/

            That said, chronic daily use of vegetable oils on the skin might have systemic effects – there are some old studies suggesting as much –
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/406855
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1266788

        2. I am the only one of my friends not dying their hair.

          I was just too lazy and cheap and hated the whole root thing enough to not want to micromanage my hair.

          The interesting part is that maybe because I didn’t dye it, mine is taking much longer to turn grey.

          I am thinking it might even take longer, now that I am eating foods, which reverse grey hair.

          https://www.livestrong.com/article/325982-fruit-vegetables-that-reverse-grey-hair/

          I have pondered this, but haven’t tried it. https://www.myhairprint.com/products/true-color-restorer-for-women

          I like trying food experiments better than buying products.

          To those of you who are grey, my favorite people growing up all had gorgeous white hair and they were so beautiful.

          I had one great aunt who dyed her hair for years because she had one son who came later in life and didn’t want everybody to say, “Is that your grandchild” but she eventually went white and it looked better on her than the dye ever did. She gets more compliments than anyone.

      2. Me three, Dr. J. & YR! I’ve never dyed my hair, I haven’t worn makeup in years, the last time I wore nail polish was in the last century, and the only skin care product I use is pure, unrefined shea butter. I just can’t be bothered with all that stuff. It’s such a big waste of time and money.

        1. And come to think of it, I just got complimented on my hair a couple of days ago from a 20 something year old. My light brown hair looks like it’s highlighted, but it’s actually the white hair coming in! Well, I guess it IS highlighted, but by nature instead of from a bottle!

        2. Nancy,

          Yes, me too. No make-up except minerals at weddings and lip balm in Winter. No hair dye. No perfume. Natural deodorant and I have tried essential oils as a scent on special occasions.

              1. I have used a mineral deodorant roll-on but gave up many years ago because it was a bit of a hassle.rather than because I was aware of the aluminium cntent. I have never used milk of magnesia.

                These things may be much more concering for women than men because many women shave under their arms (and elsewhere). This damages or removes the outer layer of skin which makes it easier for chemicals to enter the body. It’s why I don’t use after-shave or fancy shaving creams – just plain old laundry soap. Not that laundry soap itself doesn’t contain all sorts of chemicals and animal products too but there doesn’t seem to be a practical alternative other than plain water. Elecric razors cause ingrowing hairs in my caseand water only shaves are uncomfortable since there is no running hot water where I am at the moment.

                My wife just uses perfume which she sprays on to her clothes rather than her body. It doesn’t kill odour-causing bacteria, obviously, as deodorants do but it may be the safest approach. Eating a WFPB diet may make us less smelly anyway and Dr G has posted a number of videos and blog posts suggesting the same thing eg

                https://nutritionfacts.org/video/body-odor-diet-2/
                https://nutritionfacts.org/2014/08/19/how-eggs-can-impact-body-odor/
                https://nutritionfacts.org/video/eggs-and-choline-something-fishy/

                Of course, a WFPB diet high in garlic or vegetarian curries might be an exception.

                Lemon juice, orange juice or even coconut oil might be the safest deodorant choice byt thereis always the risk of thm staining clothes.

                1. Tom,

                  You have no hot running water?!

                  So do you boil some and fill a tub or is it more like a basin bath?

                  My elderly relatives grew up filling a tub and jumping into the river, which took their houses away in the Flood of 55 here. A whole family became homeless pretty much at once, but families tended to be big families in little houses and everybody pitched in. The Red Cross built homes, which sold for $1000 or something like that.

                  Pondering whether the Red Cross really raised a half billion dollars for Haiti and built 6 homes. If so, they changed from when the built a whole lot of homes back then. The houses were small houses and had small closets and no insulation, but the Red Cross genuinely built houses back then.

                  https://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-red-cross-raised-half-a-billion-dollars-for-haiti-and-built-6-homes

                  1. Okay, now I am curious.

                    Is it that the culture doesn’t have hot running water?

                    Or are you doing some romantic notion?

                    Or is it you live far away from everybody else?

                    Or is it wildly expensive?

                    You apparently have the internet.

                    Internet and no hot water is an interesting combination.

                    When my grandmother lived in the house which was taken by the flood, her neighbor refused electricity and refused hot running water. My grandmother always talked about the neighbor wrapping up in newspapers in the Winter. Tough elderly woman. She was still sitting on the floor when she was in her late 70’s. She moved here from another country and stole the heart of my grandmother and her siblings who shared a party-line telephone with her. I might have to thank that woman for my very existence because my father was related to that woman and he came to the country not speaking English as a child and one of the first things, which happened was that he met my mother for the first time when my mother was 5 years old.

                    As for romantic notions, I have a friend whose father was an engineer and went mid-life crazy and left his expensive house and his upper-class ivy league college wife and moved to a place where he built an outhouse and a cabin, which he heated with firewood and which he powered with a bicycle. He had sort of a Zen fantasy life. He ended up with just as complicated a life as everybody else, but it was worth a shot.

                    1. My friend’s father died from dementia or Alzheimer’s with his brain damage related to not being able to digest proteins is what they said. He was a vegan who came from weightlifting and lived many years on vegan protein drinks.

                      I thought it was homocysteine they were describing, but they never used that sentence.

                      I had wondered if he could do the same process I had, and maybe take some B-12, but he passed away, so he was one of the vegans who died fairly young related to cognitive problems.

                  1. Okay Tom,

                    I will try the lemon next weekend.

                    Seems like it would work.

                    I Googled it and people have tried it.

                    They said not to try other fruits, because they are sticky.

                    With lemon, you can become photosensitive if get it on your arm by accident.

                    1. Hi Deb

                      I am living in the Philippines at the moment (In a reasonably high-end apartment complex by local standards). However, because the temperature is about 28-32 C day-in day-out, cold water showers aren’t a hardship and hot water systems consequently aren’t standard fittings. It’s possible to buy those instant hot water systems though. Many foreigners here do but I haven’t got around to it.

                      Most people have an electric water dispenser which provides chilled, boiling and room temperature water for drinks. I also have a kettle. I usually just shave in cold water because of sheer idleness. If it was ever cold here I might boil the kettle to get a hot-water shave but it never is.

                    2. Now that you said that, I think I had asked you about it before.

                      Sorry if I had.

                      Sometimes I have to hear things a few times to commit it to memory.

                      Adventures in brain injury.

                2. My husband used to swear by Fels-Naptha bar soap for his hair and baking soda for his armpits. His hair always did look/feel soft, and he never really stunk, if I remember correctly. :-)

  2. A couple of months ago, the bbc ran a story about people who suffered a reaction from black henna. Henna tattoos are popular with vacationing tourists at the beach, but this article shows the scarring that can result from a bad reaction from the henna The article also mentions hair color… that an allergic reaction can occur suddenly after years of using the same product.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/575f1f1e-c08c-4403-8b7e-778db96cba22

    1. For hair, Rose Mountain Herbs sells pure henna and henna with natural herbal additives (named in ingredients) for color variations. I have used it in the past with no problems. Incidentally, amla will turn hair brown very nicely. That would be my one trusted source.

        1. Ariane, I red henna’d my hair back in the early 80s when I was in my 20s, and it made me look like an Irish Setter. It took months for it to wash out.
          If that’s your real picture, it looks much better on you than it did on me!

      1. Amla will turn hair brown?

        I have some lab-tested Amla left over from when I was sick of getting it stuck under my fingernails loading capsules for my dog.

        I am wondering if it does a dye type process and whether I would get stuck using Amla all the time if I tried it.

        I am seeing what happens to my hair color from eating my vegetables, which I like because it may keep me eating more vegetables, so I will just hold onto the Amla.

  3. My kids got henna tattoos on a Mexico vacation. My son suffered a major reaction and required medicated ointment to heal the chemical burns. Luckily there are no permanent scars but it was very uncomfortable and scary! I wish I could post a photo but there are lots of them online. I didn’t even know about the other risks until this article. Thank you for advising us!

  4. * Offtopic *

    I have been trying to substitute a sort of bread that is accaptable with the dalily dozen. It would be interesting to read your comments; do you still eat bread since switching to a wfpb diet?

    And if so, what kind of bread is it?

    I myself started ordering wholemeal bread without salt from a health shop. I always liked the taste of things without salt and bread is no different in this, for me it remains tasty. Because the bread is more expensive, I freeze it and only take slices when needed. I let it defrost by putting it in a toaster. Freezing and toasting also both lower the digestable carbohydrates and thus the calories per slice.

    But because I live in Belgium (EU), it is just a regular bread. And allthough the state requires wholemeal bread to be 100% whole grain by law, they are often more like a 50-50% combination with flour. Even if you have a real wholemeal it is still very finely grinted and I expect a similar insulin response that compares to white bread.

    I don’t know how they taste or if they are expensive, but I think the low sodium Eziekel breads sold in the US are fantastic. There you have both grains and legumes grind into coarse substances beneficial for normal glucose uptake. To bad they don’t sell outside the US.

    I did find a substitute for Eziekel breads in the EU (Benelux, Germany). Here it is called Essenen bread. These breads are also sprouted but only contain grain(s), no legumes. Some contain things like carrots. And they don’t contain any sodium or preservatives. Their grains are very dense and coarse. The sprouting makes the grain naturally sweet, I think that is amazing, no more need for jam because the sprouted wheat tastes sweet from germination. (Less so with spelt and rye).

    While they are moderatly expensive, I really like these sprouted breads. For me, it’s almost like eating a tiny cake, but it’s bread! You really need to try them sometime. Amazing.

    This week I am going to order some breads online (Mestenmacher) that are not sprouted but fermented. I suppose with fermenting they mean sourdough? This process makes them keep long without any preservatives. They are coarse wholemeal and can be toasted perfectly. Unfortunatly they do contain as much sodium as regular breads.

    1. “….but I think the low sodium Eziekel breads sold in the US are fantastic.”
      – – – – – –

      Eziekel is my go-to bread. As I don’t seem to have a sodium problem, I get either the regular or low sodium — hopefully, on sale. I have just one slice, toasted, at breakfast time. Back in the day, I used to bake my own whole-grain bread. Didn’t use a wimpy bread-maker machine either — just cranked it out the hard way. :-) It was always a big hit.

    2. Netgogate, I enjoy the mestemacher breads we can buy here. The ingredient list is simple, and the fit Dr Greger’s “rule of 5” – the grams of carbohydrates divided by grams if fiber = 5 … at least in the varieties i buy it does, and very low fat (they are Dr Esselstyn approved too). There are several brands of this type of dense european breads available here. They store for months so it’s a good choice to have on hand during winter. Wasa crisp breads are good to eat with soup and salad too.

      https://www.mestemacher-gmbh.com/product/organic-flax-seed-rye-bread/

    3. Netogate, all bread is fermented — “In a bread dough where the oxygen supply is limited, the yeast can only partially breakdown the sugar. Alcohol and carbon dioxide are produced in this process known as alcoholic fermentation.
      The carbon dioxide produced in these reactions causes the dough to rise (ferment or prove), and the alcohol produced mostly evaporates from the dough during the baking process.” https://www.bakeinfo.co.nz/Facts/Bread-making/Science-of-bread-making/Rising-fermentation-

      Sourdough is made from a culture of wild yeast and bacteria (anyone can start their own sourdough culture; I started mine almost 5 years ago); the yeast cause the bread dough to rise, and the bacteria release acids (mostly lactic acid) and other compounds which give sourdough bread it’s fantastic flavor.

      However, even yeasted breads can taste better if they undergo long, slow ferments. Bread is made from 4 ingredients: Flour, water, salt, and yeast/sourdough culture. Sugars and other additives are added to speed fermentation, condition the dough, add flavor (otherwise lacking due to rapid fermentation), delay spoilage, etc. Sourdough breads tend to last longer than yeasted breads, since the bacteria produce some anti-microbial compounds, but they don’t last forever. In my kitchen in the hot summer, sourdough loaves last about 5 days in the cupboard.

      oh, and I grind my own grains to make my own bread; it tends to be heavier and denser than bread made from white flour, but it tastes even better!

      If you ever want to try baking your own bread, the no-knead method with yeast and white flour is an easy, simple way to start. Any home-made bread tastes better than store bought. Here’s what got me started: https://www.nytimes.com/video/dining/1248069588694/no-knead-bread.html And a step up to whole wheat: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016272-fast-no-knead-whole-wheat-bread Have fun, and enjoy!

    4. Thank you for sharing what kind of breads you like! The Essener bread made me curious. I looked up what exactly it is and will definitely try to “bake” one myself. :-)

    5. I’m actually allergic to wheat so I have to avoid it. I always did good on spelt when I was little so I imagine that the more ancient forms of wheat are fine for me or other gluten-containing grains, but I can never find them without wheat in the ingredients. I really want to try authentic pure rye bread though! I love rye but haven’t eaten it in years. I wanted to try Ezekiel’s gluten free bread but alas, I am horribly allergic to psyllium husk! which so many of the more natural gluten free breads contain now. I don’t really care about gluten, but I can only ever find wheat free in gluten free things. I pretty much make everything myself though, and I need to add bread to that list. I don’t really eat it much but I love it, and I have some good whole grain, wheat free recipes saved that I’ve been meaning to try.

      I did make an amazing vegan wheat free pizza crust last year though, you wouldn’t have known it was gluten free. I used Pamela’s gluten free flour and I contacted their company and they were able to tell me where they get their rice and were well aware of the arsenic concerns, so that was cool. I got the recipe from Minimalist Baker but I can’t remember if it was already vegan or if I “veganized” it by replacing the egg with a flax “egg” which is super easy to do in baking. But more recently, I have tried and fell IN LOVE with Otto’s flour. It’s actually just a whole ground yuca root and omg… this stuff is amazing. So far I’ve only made the soft tortillas and flat bread… it tastes like traditional white bread except so much better and it actually stretches despite no gluten what with it being a root vegetable and all. So I was really excited to find that flour for more traditional flavors like “white” pizza crust, dinner rolls (a must on Thanksgiving), tortilla, etc.

      I make my own corn chips by buying frozen corn tortillas and slicing and baking them myself to avoid the salt and oil. Would be nice to be able to buy them that way… why must they put salt and oil in everything? So frustrating.

      1. I looked up the Mestemacher bread and saw their rye. Looks so good but I wish they didn’t add salt, 13% DV in 1 piece :( This is why I make my own stuff… I’m not salt free but I avoid it in sneaky places like baked good and only add to taste for certain things.

        Question about their bread though, it’s imported from Germany, so does this mean it’s automatically non-gmo? It’s been my understanding that in Europe, or at least parts of Europe, GMO’s are banned but I’m not sure how accurate this is. Thanks to anyone who can answer!

        1. The EU has the most stringent GMO regulations in the world, France and Germany are opponents and almost every other country in Europe have GMO’s banned, except perhabs for some marginal maize or corn production in Spain, you’re not going to find them in any foods.

  5. So this is just in the additives of henna mixes? Not the henna itself? Is 100% pure henna still okay? (I’ve been dyeing my hair with pure henna for a couple years now)

    1. Hi Marika,

      I am a volunteer for Dr. Greger. Thank you so much for your question!

      There is no evidence to suggest that 100 pure henna is harmful, except that a small percentage may be allergic to it and present dermatitis. If you do not have those symptoms (which I am guessing you don’t since you have used it for several years now), then no evidence suggests any type of safety concern.

      I hope this helps!

      1. Thank you for this response. Was also wondering about the henna, for hair issue. Will continue to use the Rainbow brand–label indicates that it’s dye and chemical free, 100% natural plant powder.

  6. Better pee than PPD

    I remember henna body art before the Spice Girls came around.

    It was what parents did to prevent permanent tattoos.

  7. I’ve used henna and indigo to deepen my hair to an auburn shade — and I knew about the PPD ad other color adulterants in commercial (drug store, even “health food store” or “alternative pharmacy store”) henna, because the only color henna has is red. Indigo is a blue color from dried ground plants, so together in the right proportions they will result in a darkened red or auburn color. But I did not know about the mineral contaminants. However, I used henna and indigo that I ordered online from mehandi from a woman in Ohio whom I called the PhD of henna; she had a lot of information about henna on her website. Her products also seem high quality; e.g. “We have tested all Ancient Sunrise® hennas through an independent certified laboratory to insure that they have NO lead, NO PPD, NO contaminants, adulterants or pesticide residue.” http://www.mehandi.com/Ancient-Sunrise-Rajasthani-Twilight-Henna-p/hen-twi_01.htm

    now I don’t color my hair at all, and I haven’t for years — so much easier.

    1. Most people have not heard of ‘Hairprint’ yet. It is a natural hair color that uses no PPD and no henna. It ONLY returns hair the natural color you were born with as it works with your hairs own chemistry.

      1. Yeah, that interests me. The fact it uses Amla makes me wonder if Amla itself works that way.

        Have you tried it or do you know someone who has?

        1. Nope, I was wrong. Their page confused me. The ingredients were for all of their products at the same time.

          https://www.myhairprint.com/pages/ingredients

          Here are the ones for the part, which changes the color of the hair. I was surprised to see Hydrogen Peroxide.

          Here is the list of Hairprint’s food-grade ingredients:

          1. Aqua (purified and deionized water).
          2. Bicarbonate of soda is what we use at home for baking and cleaning.
          3. Mucuna pruriens extract is made from velvet beans.
          4. Sodium carbonate is made from salt and limestone.
          5. Ferrous and manganese gluconate are both food supplements used in multi-vitamins.
          6. Hydrogen peroxide is made of oxygen and water and naturally occurs in the hair follicle.*
          7. Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring sedimentary rock made from ancient deposits of hard-shelled algae.
          8. Carbomer is an inert thickener used in shampoos and pharmaceutical products.

          Pretreatment Ingredients:Aqua, lauryl glucosides, sodium cocoamphoacetate, sodium carbonate, sodium citrate, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, phenethyl alcohol.

          *The concentrations of hydrogen peroxide we use are between 1% and 1.5%, a fraction of what one gets in drugstore peroxide. In conventional hair dyes, peroxide is used to break open the hair, and can be up to a 12-15% concentration. When Hairprint is applied to your hair, the peroxide is gone in two minutes.

      2. Jimbo,

        Thanks for interacting.

        I respect your role in this community. You are going to hold Dr Greger to a high standard of consistency and you are going to make sure he dots every “I” and crosses every “t” and that will help him, because he is juggling the views of doctors and lay people and people who are seriously confused and some have health problems.

        Anyway, I just wanted to say that it is nice that you interacted.

  8. OMG! I am deathly allergic to PPD- facial swelling etc. There is a hair color called Ellemen made by Goodwill that I can use, “safely”. I am aware that there is chemical absorption, but I am not ready to go grey while I hope my nearly full WFPBD helps me to deal with the toxicity.

    PPD is even in, “Natural” hair color in my health food store, so be careful! Read labels.

    A proud and healthy monthly supporter of Nutritionfacts.org :)

  9. It might have been around the time this (attached) video was filmed that I somehow contacted Mary.

    I asked her if she ever intended to let her hair go “natural.” She replied that dyeing her tresses (my word, not hers) was her only “weakness” in the staying-healthy-department. She felt that with a WFPB diet, she’d be protected somehow. Well, maybe.

    She didn’t specify whether she used L’Oreal and the like or whether it was henna.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BN2olpXEAYk

    1. I look at all of the young people dying their hair blue, then red, then purple, then like a rainbow.

      How do you even get back to natural after all the stripping and dyeing?

      I worry about their brains.

      Coming from someone who has gone through brain problems.

      Trying to figure out if the skull is protective enough.

      Mentally, the hair throws me off. It attaches to the head someplace.

      Yes, someday I need to take a science class to figure out if hair dye penetrates the scalp and reaches the brain or is the skull a type of an air brain barrier.

      Yes, an official airhead question.

      1. I am thinking it would reach the brain the long way through the blood brain barrier, except if something flew through the air and hit you in the head hard enough.

  10. Hey guys, I thought I would post my question here. I’m sorry it doesn’t relate to the video!

    Estrogen-based breast cancer runs in my family, So I obviously avoid anything that would spike or unnaturally alter my estrogen levels. I live preventatively, and eat a WFPB diet. My question is about Maca, a herb I have been taking for a year. I initially started taking it because I heard it was good for period problems. I just learned that maca can spike estrogen levels? Naturally, I’m devastated and I have no idea how to proceed. Should I stop taking it? It has helped me with menstrual and anxiety problems but is obviously not worth the risk. I’m so torn!

    1. Reese, breast cancer runs through my family, too and mine was highly estrogen sensitive. I wouldn’t take any supplements (except for vitamins B12 and D3), because they are completely unregulated, and as Dr. Greger has often pointed out, they may not have what they claim on the label — too little or too much — and they may be adulterated with drugs and/or contaminated with all kinds of stuff. Also, there is very little to no evidence that they work as claimed. So why take those risks?

      Have you seen the videos here about diet and breast cancer? Especially the ones about soy foods. As I recall, soy phytoestrogens are not only SERMs (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators), meaning that they are slight antagonists to estrogen binding in breast cells (alpha estrogen receptors), thus helping to damp down breast cancer cell growth which is stimulated by estrogen, but bind more strongly to estrogen receptors elsewhere (beta ERs, such as are found in the bones, thus helping to keep bones strong), but also act as aromatase inhibitors (since aromatase is involved in making estrogen, that means that less estrogen is made), potentially resulting in lower estrogen levels. Also, a high fiber diet appears to help eliminate excess circulating estrogen. You might find those helpful.

    2. Reese,

      There haven’t been human studies linking it directly to Cancer that I see.

      There have been animal studies linking it to increasing estrogen levels. I don’t know if it will be the same situation as soy, which raised estrogen in mice, but which was protective in humans, PubMed might have it, but I have a birthday party to go to today. Someone just turned 8.

      “That said, he also suggests women should err on the side of caution and approach the use of these herbs judiciously, particularly if they are at risk for any estrogen-related cancers.

      “If a woman is avoiding hormone replacement therapy because she is concerned about exposure to estrogen, then she should also avoid these herbs — at least until we can confirm or refute these findings in human studies,” Dillard says.

      The study was an animal experiment using rats that had their ovaries surgically removed. This, Eagon says, automatically deprived the rats of their natural estrogen supply.

      However, when these same rats were exposed to the various herbs in the study, Eagon reports, researchers could again document measurable levels of estrogenic activity. Specifically, the estrogen in the plants was able to bind to estrogen receptors in the rats, acting much like a true hormone.

      In one respect, the findings show these estrogenic botanicals may have strong clinical applications, such as the ability to reduce some menopause-related symptoms. However, “it might be wise to avoid these herbs in conditions where estrogen is contraindicated,” Eagon says.

      This would include women with a strong family history of breast or uterine cancer, or those who may have already had one or more bouts with either disease, she says.”

      I am going to add part of Dr. Greger’s soy transcript here because soy was in the same situation of raising estrogen in mice.

      “[S]oyfoods have become controversial in recent years,…even among health professionals,…exacerbated by misinformation found on the Internet.” Chief among the misconceptions is that soy foods promote breast cancer, because they contain a class of phytoestrogen compounds called isoflavones. Since estrogens can promote breast cancer growth, it’s natural to assume phytoestrogens might too.

      But, people don’t realize there are two types of estrogen receptors in the body—alpha and beta. And, unlike actual estrogen, soy phytoestrogens “preferentially bind to and activate [estrogen receptor beta]. This distinction is important, because the 2 [types of receptors] have different tissue distributions…and often function differently, and sometimes in opposite ways.” And, this appears to be the case in the breast, where beta activation has an anti-estrogenic effect, inhibiting the growth-promoting effects of actual estrogen—something we’ve known for more than ten years. There’s no excuse anymore.

      The effects of estradiol, the primary human estrogen, on breast cells are completely opposite to those of soy phytoestrogens, which have antiproliferative effects on breast cancer cells, even at the low concentrations one gets in one’s bloodstream eating just a few servings of soy—which makes sense, given that after eating a cup of soybeans, the levels in our blood cause significant beta receptor activation.

      So, where did this outdated notion that soy could increase breast cancer risk come from? The concern was “based largely on research that showed that [the main soy phytoestrogen] genistein stimulates the growth of mammary tumors in [a type of] mouse.” But, it turns out, we’re not actually mice. We metabolize soy isoflavones very differently from rodents. The same soy leads to 20 to 150 times higher levels in the bloodstream of rodents. The breast cancer mouse in question was 58 times higher. So, if you ate 58 cups of soybeans a day, you could get some significant alpha activation, too. But, thankfully, we’re not hairless athymic ovariectomized mice, and we don’t tend to eat 58 cups of soybeans a day.

      At just a few servings of soy a day, with the excess beta activation, we would assume soy would actively help prevent breast cancer. And, indeed, “[s]oy intake during childhood, adolescence, and adult life were each associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer.” Those women who ate the most soy in their youth appear to grow up to have less than half the risk.”

    3. Hi I’m a RN health support volunteer. thanks for your great question.
      In general, women with family history of estrogen receptive breast cancer are not advised to avoid things that raise estrogen levels like birth control pills. There is not evidence that estrogen causes these cancers but the cancer cells respond to estrogen and cause them to grow faster. Women who have or have had an estrogen receptive breast cancer are advised not to take birth control pills in case of recurrence. Has a doctor advised you not to use oral contraceptives?

      As far as Maca, I don’t see that studies have been done on Maca and breast cancer. It also seems a little undetermined whether Maca actually raises your estrogen level or just mimics it and if it raises it, it is unknown if it does this a significant amount:
      “This molecular docking study has revealed that almost all popular herbal supplements contain phytochemical components that may bind to the human estrogen receptor and exhibit selective estrogen receptor modulation. As such, these herbal supplements may cause unwanted side effects related to estrogenic activity.”
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25878948

      Supplements in general are not well studies or regulated, unfortunately so there is not much data available. There may be issues with Maca that we don’t know about.
      https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dangers-of-dietary-supplement-deregulation/

      I think the most important thing to avoid breast cancer is to eat a cancer preventing diet. Here is some more info Dr. Greger has on cancer.
      https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-not-to-die-from-cancer/
      https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-to-block-breast-cancers-estrogen-producing-enzymes/

      NurseKelly

  11. I use black walnut Hull powder to “dye” my hair, does anyone know of adverse side effects? It is a very useful way to transition to grey if you have been using regular dye and want to grow it out.

  12. Help! I’ve been using Light Mountain Natural Color the Gray Henna for years now as it was listed on the EWG website as a safe natural hair color. Does anyone know if it contains heavy metals?

    1. Peggy,

      You peaked my interest regarding their testing of the colorants. I’ll let you know what they say shortly as I’m curious if they do individual batch testing or have done a single batch approach and felt comfortable calling that the whole of their testing methods.

      Dr. Alan Kadish moderator for Dr. Greger http://www.Centerofhealth.com

      1. Apologies – I can’t help it, it’s some sort of compulsion – but it is ‘piqued’.

        Peak, peek and pique … it all gets a bit confusing.at times like to/too/two.and there/their/they’re

  13. Ok but what about those of us who go through the trouble of really making sure we’re getting an authentic, pure product? I have no idea how difficult this is in regards to henna as I’ve never purchased it before. Good to know that black henna is never natural, I’ve considered using it as an eyelash dye before, definitely will steer clear of that. But here is a question for Dr. Greger that I would be really interested in hearing his answer on… as far as henna hair dye and all that is concerned, do you think the MORE natural versions including unnatural henna are safer and superior than the completely unnatural products out there?

    Personally I don’t dye my hair and really don’t wear make up except on occasion eye liner and mascara and lipstick which I go out of my way to get all natural, 100 Percent Pure is a good brand for these things, they have completely plant pigmented lipsticks and the quality is amazing, I highly recommend.

    Really makes you wonder about what else is in products, so glad I started on the completely natural route. And now, my list of favorite products! Behold…

    For shampoo, face wash and conditioner, I use Sunfood (pricey but goes a very long way and for me ends up being cheaper for it) and use their body wash for face wash and do the double cleanse thing (works amazingly) with a little hemp oil. For body wash I use Buddha Butter bar soap (pure and does not dry out my skin!). I also keep Nutribiotic coconut castile soap around but castile I find is always drying to some degree. And all of the aforementioned products are palm oil free!
    For moisturizer I have found that all natural works best BUT authenticity is a must. I had to do some pretty serious digging and research to track down authentic oils. So for face moisturizer I use Saadia argan oil, this stuff is amazing, totally authentic, I adore this company and nothing works better for my face. It’s more expensive because it’s so high quality and actually authentic (most argan oil isn’t authentic or at least adulterated and I think this is the case for many oils), but you need like 2-3 drops and it lasts months, so it’s actually a lot cheaper than a halfway decent $10, $15, $20 “natural” moisturizer.
    Because there is some actual evidence on raspberry seed oil for natural sun protection, I had to incorporate it but first spent money on inauthentic crap and now use Berry Beautiful, they’re the actual manufacturers, awesome company; awesome oil. I use the raspberry seed oil blended in argan oil for the face on occasion.
    I make my own lotion with shea butter being the main ingredient, but quality with shea matters an incredible amount. Easy to get authentic shea, not as much to get high quality stuff. I am grateful to have found FairTale Ghana shea butter, they’re the manufacturers and the company is made up entirely of widowed African women so you help support all these people and get an amazing product at the same time, it’s awesome. No shea butter has ever moisturized and absorbed into my skin so well, it’s just the freshest and least refined stuff I’ve ever tried. So I blend it with an electric hand held mixer at room temperature and add red raspberry seed oil and some argan oil and store in glass jars and I like to refrigerate it, it actually solidifies into a butter and it stays really fresh and I just keep it in the fridge when I’m not using it. This mix it’s just brilliant, the stuff is magic. I was starting to think I needed pre-made lotion with sketchy ingredients even in the natural stuff to get the moisturizing I was so accustom to but I was patient and found the right products and for me, the perfect mix.

      1. Love to hear that, S!

        Me, too.

        It is what I am attracted to in products. In what I am attracted to in appearance. In personality.

        Looking at the women on this link it seems that many of us are “What you see is what you get.” and I just want to applaud all of you.

        Clap Clap Clap Clap.

        Not meaning to leave the men out when I say that. It just has been more women sharing.

      1. Same here, Deb! And same to you!

        No problem. I actually had a lot of hit and misses before I learned how to find authentic oils and what natural products actually worked the way I wanted them to, etc. I actually spoke with companies who explained the issues with oils getting transported down from distributor to distributor and all kinds of useful info… seems the supplement industry isn’t the only area where we may not be getting what we’re told we are. So I’m happy to share in case anyone else is searching as well.

        1. S,

          Other than essential oils, which my friend sells, you are the first person I have talked to who has looked into them.

          These companies lying about what is in their products is so disturbing.

          I don’t even understand if it is just going to get worse and worse because of the internet.

          Seems like it probably will.

          1. I so agree Deb, it really is disturbing. It’s sad because people are just wanting to switch to more natural products and they’re so often being sold adulterated products or fake products entirely. I’m not sure if it’s going to get worse or better… On one had, I can see where it’s been a downward spiral of things like this getting worse and I agree the internet makes it a lot easier for these companies to get away with it, but on the other, it gives me hope when I find companies that actually test other products and show their test reports and have actual transparency although they’re far and few between. But I’m hoping that the public becomes more and more aware and starts demanding more transparency, that’s the only way I see things improving – awareness then demand.

  14. Dr. Greger, I appreciate your work immensely, but I really have to ask: why instead of “wasting time” with henna, wouldn’t you focus on WATER? Tap water, bottled water, fluoride, chlorine and chloramines, pharmaceutical waste and traces, microbeads, and everything else it is found on it?!?

    1. Chloramine quite frankly pisses me off. I get chlorine, easy enough to filter out. But chloramine is much more difficult to filter and most filters don’t get rid of it. Not all cities use it, but no city should (it doesn’t do any better of a job than chlorine, it’s just less natural and more of a pain in the ass) and it baffles me that the public has no say as to what is put in their water.

  15. Very interesting video! I will tell my daughter to have another look at her make-up products.
    If some products penetrate through the skin into our bodies, as explained in this video, I wonder if those oral sprays (oral turmeric, oral iron, oral b12, transdermal magnesium etc) which have to be sprayed on the mucous membrane of the cheek or applied on the skin are effective. Not that I use them, it is of course better to eat whole foods with those minerals and vitamins included as dr Greger thought us!

    1. Well he recommends that we take B12. One thing that is really concerning about makeup is when they make the metals like titanium oxide nanoparticle-sized which allows things to be small enough to get into our bloodstream. A lot of makeup also uses talcum powder which is always at risk of containing asbestos. There are natural makeup companies out there, I don’t wear much or often but I get a few things from 100 Percent Pure.

      1. Thanks, I will have look in the body-care departement of the biological supermarkt in Rotterdam today for clean products!
        Question remains, is the vitamin B12 absorbed into the body when applied via a spray (from BetterYou) on the mucous membranes? Better or worse than via a pill? Can anybody shed som light on this?

        1. Hi, Dan II. There is research on the efficacy of hydroxycobalamin and cyanocobalamin nasal sprays that has shown benefit. I did not find any research specifically testing the type of product you mentioned, a methylcobalamin spray that is intended to be administered to the oral mucosa, or comparing it to a pill. This study found sublingual and oral cobalamin to be about equally effective: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14616423 Unless you have seriously impaired digestive function, I think a pill should be sufficient. I hope that helps!

          1. Thank you Christine for your reply and for the link to the study, Very interesting! If both ways of intake are just as effective, the only advantage of sublingual versus oral is for people with digestive problems as you mention. And for those who can’t swallow pills or rather don’t want to have vitamin injections. Sublingual appears also just as effective as injected:
            https://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/read-the-journal/all-issues/2010-2019/2016/vol-129-no-1436-10-june-2016/6920

            But there seem to be more advantages for sublingual? From Wikipedia:

            “When a chemical comes in contact with the mucous membrane beneath the tongue, it is absorbed. Because the connective tissue beneath the epithelium contains a profusion of capillaries, the substance then diffuses into them and enters the venous circulation. In contrast, substances absorbed in the intestines are subject to first-pass metabolism in the liver before entering the general circulation.
            Sublingual administration has certain advantages over oral administration. Being more direct, it is often faster,[quantify] and it ensures that the substance will risk degradation only by salivary enzymes before entering the bloodstream, whereas orally administered drugs must survive passage through the hostile environment of the gastrointestinal tract, which risks degrading them, by either stomach acid or bile, or by enzymes such as monoamine oxidase (MAO). Furthermore, after absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, such drugs must pass to the liver, where they may be extensively altered; this is known as the first pass effect of drug metabolism. Due to the digestive activity of the stomach and intestines, the oral route is unsuitable for certain substances, such as salvinorin A.”

            Would be interesting to know if the ingredients of turmeric from a turmeric oral spray are better absorbed into the body via the mucous membranes than via the digestive tract because it bypasses the latter. Let’s put it to the test!

  16. I have stopped using shampoo and conditioner on my hair. Instead I use a mixture of red henna, indigo and amla powder, and my hair is better than ever. It’s down below my waist and it’s strong and shiny. Also it gives me some color over the gray hairs (I’m naturally a brunette). I always buy natural, organic henna and hope this means no lead, as this works so well for me. I apply it for a few hours every 14 days, and I’m set. Wash, conditioner and color all in one go.

  17. I use Morrocco International Method’s henna to color my hair twice a month. Their henna is advertised as completely pure without anything added. After I watched this video I contacted Morrocco International Method about their henna and asked to see an analytical report. They promptly emailed it and showed lead with 25.3 ppm as well below the threshold of 40ppm (which was listed as “target” result).

    Is all henna the same? Is this a realistic target result? Is this still unhealthy?

  18. I’ve been a henna artist for over 20 years (and vegan for six).

    I only use natural unadulterated ground up henna leaves mixed with safe organic essential oil, lemon juice, and fructose. It is a beautiful and safe artform.

    Henna has a low allergenic potential. Allergic reactions to pure henna is extremely rare. However, anyone who is known to have G6PD deficiency shouldn’t be hennaed.

    Artists within our community have been working for a long time to educate the public about natural safe henna, verses ppd hair dye and adulterated unsafe products claiming to be henna.

    Great information about henna can be found on the following page. Content provided by Catherine Cartwright-jones, PhD…renown expert on the history, geography and science of the plant and art form. She completed her masters and doctoral dissertation on henna.
    http://Www.hennapage.com

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