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Ask Dr. Mike: Protecting Yourself from the Potential Dangers of Hair Dye

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans. Listen in because what you know helps ensure healthy choices you can live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

You mentioned that hair dye might be linked to cancer. This worries me, as I am a stylist and I use dyes everyday. How can I protect myself?

Recently, Dr. Mike did a segment on hair dyes and your potential risk for cancer. If you're someone who works in a salon and is constantly working with hair dye, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

You may want to consider eating cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage), taking a resveratrol supplement, and boosting your liver health with food supplements like B vitamins, milk thistle, and artichoke extract.

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call in, toll-free, to the LIVE radio show (1.877.711.5211) so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: March 3, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

You're listening to RadioMD. It's time to Ask Dr. Mike on Healthy Talk. Call or email to ask your questions now. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 877-711-5211. The lines are open.

Give me a call. That's 877-711-5211 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . My first question is a follow up to a question I answered a while back. So, I love when there are follow-ups. That means everybody's listening. Thank you.

"You mentioned on a past show that hair dye might be linked to cancer. This worries me as I am a stylist and I use dyes every day. How can I protect myself?"

Yes. So, I think in that original question, I focused more on the link. I should say "potential", "possible" link between hair dye and bladder cancer. That was the main cancer risk and it's not well-established. I think it's strong enough to call an association.

I don't know if we're listing hair dye as an absolute individual risk factor for bladder cancer yet, but there is an interesting connection, so I think this is a good question for any stylist--anybody who's dealing with hair dye--I would say on a regular basis. I mean, if you're using hair dye on occasion just on yourself or whatever, I don't think that's really a risk. It's with the stylists who are doing this all the time. You know, the whole entire salon is just covered in these kinds of chemicals that are coming from the hair dye. So, I think this is important for stylists.

So, how can you protect yourself? Again, if we just talk about cancer first. What is cancer? Cancer is, regardless of the type, right? Just cancer, in general, what is it? It is DNA mutations. So, when you take a healthy cell and you cause the DNA to be mutated, that is what cancer is. The hallmark--the underlying mechanism--of all cancers is DNA mutation. And, it's specifically a mutation that happens to some of these genes that control cell dividing cycles. Cell life cycle genes, okay? When you mutate those genes, for whatever reason, like chemicals and hair dye, those genes, are not able to regulate how the cell grows and divides and that can lead to unhealthy growth and division and, eventually, a cancer and there you go. So, that's the hallmark, or I should say, the underlying mechanism of all cancers.

So, the very first thing, then, if you're in any job where your risk is a little bit higher, any industry, any job that you're dealing with industrial chemicals and that's what hair dye falls into--that category—then you need to protect your DNA. Make sure it doesn't get mutated as best you can. So, cruciferous vegetables—I would eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cauliflower. Those are kind of the classic ones. Brussel sprouts.

Of course, everything I just named most people don't like to eat. I wish you would and if you are, that's great. Eat as much as you can of those important vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables have compounds in them. They're called phytonutrients or phytochemicals that can protect the DNA. Also, in some cases, there are compounds in cruciferous vegetables that help your body manage hormone production in your body. So, you're managing hormones better. That also helps down the line with cancers as well.

So, it's not even about DNA. It also has some hormonal effects. So, number one, begin with cruciferous vegetables both in your diet and, if you're not able to get two or three servings of cruciferous vegetables every day--and that's a lot--but I think that's what you need to do. If you can't do that, then you need to research for a supplement. That's where supplements come in. You know, try to at least get one serving of cruciferous vegetables every day and then take a capsule--a cruciferous vegetable extract. And, it's probably better to do one that's a nice blend of a lot of different cruciferous vegetables—cabbage is another good example. So, that's number one, protect your DNA.

There are other DNA protection nutrients. Resveratrol from the skin of the red grape which is also found in buckwheat, by the way. As a matter of fact, there is a whole class of nutrients called stilbenes, of which resveratrol is a part. Physetin is an example of a stilbene. Pterostilbene is a stilbene. All of these are kind of in the same class of phytochemicals that have been shown to protect the DNA, you know? So, yeah. Maybe a glass of red wine and a capsule of resveratrol. That's not so bad. That might be very beneficial for you.

The other thing is, so you're going to protect your DNA. So, do that. Now, the other side of that is, you need to be able to metabolize all of these toxins and it's probably not just hair dye. Trust me. You know, you go into a salon. You can just smell the chemicals. Lots of different chemicals are floating around in a salon. So, I think it's also important to help your body to detoxify. So, make sure you're doing liver support foods and supplements. B vitamins—a good B complex is extremely important to the liver. As a matter of fact, when the liver brings in a toxin to detoxify it, B vitamins are required to run, to manage, a lot of those detoxification steps. So, if you're deficient in B vitamins, your liver is not detoxifying the chemicals as well as it could be.

So, help your liver out. Take a good B complex. B vitamins are pretty much found all over the place when it comes to food, but, your leafy, green, deep dark colored fruits and vegetables are loaded with the B vitamins, but, again, if you're not getting those multiple servings of those types of foods every day, a good B complex might be important for you. Now, B complexes come in different sizes, there's B50, B100, B150. That's just the dosing system. I would probably do the higher potency B complex if I was a stylist. Like a B100 or B150. What's also important for the liver is an herb called milk thistle. It's wonderful for just supporting liver function. It's safe to take every day. It's kind of like a mild daily liver detox because the liver needs to detox from all that gunk. So, milk thistle. I mean, you want to make sure that the milk thistle you want to take is standardized to something called silibinin. That's the key compound.

Then, artichoke. Eat artichokes and probably take an artichoke extract. The reason is this, when you're working in a salon exposed to these chemicals all day long, the liver is so bombarded with all this that the liver needs to decongest. I mean, there's so much gunk that's being filtered into the liver, the liver becomes gorged with blood and liver inflammation can go up. As a matter of fact, the liver can start to develop little fat globules. It's called non-alcoholic fatty liver. Artichoke extract. Well, the food artichoke and then artichoke extract is wonderful for helping the liver to detoxify. So, that would be my approach.

If I was a stylist working with these types of chemicals, number one, I would want to protect my DNA. Cruciferous vegetables and the stilbenes. Right? That would be the first place I would start and then I would help my liver. B vitamins, milk thistle, artichoke. By the way, there are other liver support products. I'm just kind of giving you a few to work with and I think that's the best thing you can do unless you're going to change careers, but I don't think you need to do that. I just think there are ways to protect yourself from the chemicals that you're exposed to as a stylist or anybody working in industry probably needs to do everything I just said because you really all of us today are bombarded by these industrial toxins, but no more than you guys—people working with these chemicals day in and day out.

So, there you go. Protect your DNA, right? Protect your DNA. That's the hallmark of cancers. And then, enhance liver function.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.