Pink hair and health risks


Pink hair season has arrived.

It always sits uncomfortably for me … I applaud the fun, the community, the rallying around a good cause (the colour pink, for that matter). I disdain the branding and the avoidance of the real issues.

I’ve done it, heard about the connection of hair dyes to some types of cancer. Yet there I was, purchasing hot pink chemical concoctions to put in my children’s hair, ignoring the bad news in order to “belong” and to participate. Luckily, my daughters didn’t want to do it last year, giving me time to process the whole issue enough that when they approached me this year I shared my thoughts with them. We’ll see if they decide to go for the beet juice dye job I promised to research.

My thoughts turn to the pink ribbon “awareness” campaign, a.k.a. branding. I would say we are very aware of breast cancer now. We here in “the mainstream” are finally beginning to hear about pink ribbon corporate opportunism or “pink washing.” Sure the company that stamps the pink ribbon on its product donates some percentage of its profit to ‘the cause’, but how much profit does the pink ribbon add to the company’s income? This is not some altruistic endeavour, but another marketing angle to separate us from our money, and worse, to separate us from our common sense. Is the product itself suspect in increasing our risk of developing breast cancer? Many personal care products, food preservatives and weed killers have chemicals shown to increase breast cancer risk. It is not in the best interest of these companies if we focus on this …

So why are cancer rates increasing as we funnel more and more money towards “the cure” (I was going to say prevention, but realize it is not the word we use. Interesting)…?

This scenario (and in my opinion, cancer rates themselves) are only going to change when we, as a society, begin to vote seriously with our dollar. This means we make a point of not buying the pink-washed products, especially the products that leave our water systems, air and land toxic.

There has been such a strange disconnect between this reality and our willingness to notice and ask for better. It is so easy to be lulled by the corporations with their slick advertising, by our own momentum in this questionable direction and by the sense of overwhelm that comes when we think about how to turn it all around. This even has a name: Eco despair.

Movements such as Eat Local and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are slowly bringing our awareness to the power we actually have to determine our destiny. We can do this. We need to begin to trust our guts as the young boy in The Emperor’s New Clothes did … to name the insanity and look for alternative solutions that we can stomach.

In this season of pink, what if we were to show our community’s support for cancer victims in a wholesome, corporate-neutral way such as dyeing our hair with beet juice … I looked it up. Easy. Fun. Non-carcinogenic (I didn’t say mess-free, but neither was the dye job I gave my daughters two years ago). I could get my head around that … or that around my head.

Jill Cunningham, St. Albert


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