A middle-aged woman from Harbin, China, was recently diagnosed with chemical cirrhosis that seemed to have been caused by her long-time habit of dyeing her hair every month.
Referred to only as Mrs. Chen by Chinese media, the 50-something woman allegedly started spotting white hairs on her scalp when she was in her 30s. There were only a few of them back then, so she could easily pluck them out, but after she turned 40-year-old, the white strands really started to show, particularly around her temples. Like many other women do around that age, Chen started dyeing her hair to conceal the sign of ageing. However, she claims that her white hair grew really fast, so in order o keep it from showing, she had her hair dyed at a salon every month for the last decade. She recently learned that her habit has taken a heavy toll on her liver.
Photos: Orin Zebest/Flickr
About two months ago, when Chen was climbing the stairs to her bedroom for the night, she started feeling unusually tired and breathless, but didn’t really think too much of it. However, when she finally reached the bedroom, her husband noticed that the woman’s skin had turned yellow, as had the whites of her eyes. They went to the hospital immediately, and from there they were rushed to the Department of Infectious Medicine in Harbin, where tests showed that she had more than 10 times the normal level of bilirubin in her body.
Doctors found that Mrs Chen’s liver was in an advanced stage of cirrhosis and tried to figure out the cause. The woman had never had an alcohol problem, and her medical history showed no drugs that could have damaged her liver so severely, so they kept asking her more questions about her habits, in hopes of finding some clues. After hearing of the woman’s monthly hair-dyeing routine and that it had been going on for 10 years, doctors established that the chemicals in the dye were responsible for her cirrhosis.
After over 20 days of treatment, Mrs. Chen consideration has improved considerably, but doctors say that some of the chemical damage to her liver is irreversible, which increases her risk of developing cancer.
Dr. Fu Lijuan, director of the Department of Internal Medicine for Infectious Diseases, said that most hair dyes contain dozens of chemicals, some of which are very toxic to the human body, like nitrobenzene and aniline. These substances are easily absorbed through the scalp, and once they enter the body, they must be metabolized by the liver. Over time, this not only wears out the organ, but can also cause serious damage, as in Mrs. Chen’s case.
Dr Fu suggest that, ideally, you should never dye your hair, to protect the liver, but if you must do it, he advises using a plant-based dye. If you opt for chemical hair dyes, Fu claims that you shouldn’t use them more than once every six months.