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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

Changing Things Up – Without the Chemicals

January is a common time when people are ready for a change – winter has thoroughly set in, New Year’s resolutions are being made, and nails and hair are starting to need a little “boost.” This year, when you consider pampering yourself with a new hair color or a nice set of nails, you don’t have to settle for traditional chemical, fume-ridden products and services. Now there are organic options! But do they work as well?

1. Does organic hair color still stink?

No! At last, you can get your hair colored without having to put up with the burning eyes, tingling scalp, headaches, and stinging throat that some people experience during chemical hair coloring. What causes that pungent odor is the chemical reaction taking place; it creates ammonia that in turn swells the hair and makes the color penetrate. With organic colors, most people notice an herbal, pleasant scent.

2. If there’s no ammonia, does an organic color last as long?

Yes! Here’s how it works: gentle dryers are used to swell the hair during an organic color service (instead of ammonia), which allows the color to absorb into the hair. There’s less damage to the hair and no absorption into the skin/scalp, unlike traditional colors. Organic hair colors last anywhere from 6-8 weeks, depending on the rate of outgrowth, with no fading.

3. Are ammonia-free and organic color services the same?

No. Ammonia-free hair colors are safer than traditional hair colors, but there are still harmful ingredients in them. They can go darker, but not much lighter. They can be used to change the tone of hair, but tend to be less effective in changing color significantly.

Organic colors are still chemical services, but they are made from totally organic ingredients. (Chemical service in that natural color is being removed and another color is being applied.) Organic hair colors are effective for everything including hi-lights, lo-lights, foils, lightening, darkening, changing tones, etc. They work as quickly as chemical colors without the chemical ingredients.

4. What part of an organic manicure or pedicure is actually organic?

The oils, lotions, salts, and polish are all organic and therapeutic. In our salon, we use vegan nail polish, which lasts as long, dries as quickly and is as brilliant in color as traditional nail polish. Another nice thing about organic nail colors is that they are available in smaller bottles. This means less is thrown to waste as the polish gets old (most people find their polish goes bad before their bottle is even close to empty) – easier on you and on the earth.

If you’re not a salon type and want safer at-home products, be aware that not everything labeled “natural” or “organic” truly is. Check for the USDA’s National Organic Program seal, read the label, and become an ingredient detective. If the company only lists key ingredients and doesn’t include a full list of ingredients (on the products themselves or on their websites), that’s a red flag. And of course, if you want to go totally natural and organic, skip the colors and nail treatments altogether. There are several organic hair products, such as Pureology, that work fabulously and provide beautiful luster and shine to hair. Great natural nail care includes cleaning and trimming, natural buffers, good lotions, etc.

If you want something new, but don’t want the harmful chemicals of traditional hair and nail services, try going organic. As a cancer survivor, choosing to use products and services which would not subject me to so many harmful and carcinogenic substances was an important choice. As with many of my clients, I have enjoyed being able to “change things up” without suffering from all the negative side effects!

Geri Falch is a breast cancer survivor and owner of Spring Street Studios in Chippewa Falls, WI, the only full-service salon in Northwestern Wisconsin which offers organic hair colors, manicures and pedicures.

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