by Karen Hawthorne (excerpt)
Dear Asking For a Friend,
I am a pretty hairy woman – particularly when it comes to my arms. I have been dyeing this hair for years, but I have always worried about the health risks of using the bleach so often. Is it better for my health to just be hairy?
Signed, Hairy and Concerned
Dear Hairy and Concerned,
With the warm sunny season coming up, people often become even more conscious of body details like darker arm hair. I get it: you want to feel comfortable in sleeveless and short-sleeved clothing to make the most of the heat and relax on a patio.
Although bleach doesn’t eliminate body hair, it can make the hair appear almost invisible, so you’ll get that sought-after aesthetic of smooth, bare skin. It’s also quick, pain-free and inexpensive, although the product cost adds up over time.
But is it safe? Hair dyes use a cocktail of chemicals to alter hair colour, including the bleaching agent hydrogen peroxide. While researchers have looked at the long-term effects of hair dye use, including cancer risks, the findings have not been conclusive .
Interesting, too, to note that North Carolina State University has created a public chemical database of hair dye substances as a resource for developing safer hair colour products.
Dr. Lisa Kellett, dermatologist and founder of DLK on Avenue in Toronto , says that bleaching hair is a safe practice as long as you’ve purchased the product from a reputable drugstore or retailer — not from someone’s home basement salon — and follow the manufacturer directions for application.
“The biggest health concern would be irritation from using the product because they are usually hydrogen peroxide-based,” she says. “There could be redness or sensitivity, or, rarely, scarring or infection. If your skin is irritated and you scratch it, you could infect it with your hands.”
A good first step is to do a test patch on a small spot before applying the bleach to the full arm to check whether or not you experience any problems or unexpected results. Sometimes bleached hair on darker skin tones is more noticeable than your natural hair colour, or you might experience a temporary pigment change where the skin tone is lighter post-treatment.
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