True Roots: What I Learned about Health and Beauty from Hair Dye

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 Ronnie Citron-Fink colored her hair for twenty-five years. Yet as an environmental journalist, she knew all those unpronounceable chemicals on the back of the hair dye box—para-phenylenediamine, toluene, ammonia —were far from safe. So she decided to confront the powerful beauty influences in her life, ditch the dye, and go in search of answers. What are the risks of coloring? Why are hair dye companies allowed to use chemicals that may be harmful? Are there safer alternatives? True Roots: What Quitting Hair Dye Taught Me about Health and Beauty is the story of her investigation.

The book shatters the misconception that “It’s on the shelf. This is America. It must be safe.” with revelations about the regulation of beauty products, suspected carcinogens in hair dyes, and who is most vulnerable to these dangers. It reveals a study from the National Institutes of Health that concludes salon workers can experience a fivefold increase in cancer risk compared to those not exposed, links between dark hair dyes and bladder cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, why the US has only banned 11 chemicals in beauty products compared to approximately 1,300 in the European Union and Canada, and more.

While True Roots takes a realistic look at the dangers associated with chemicals in hair dye, it also highlights rays of hope including proposed, bipartisan legislation that would mandate greater FDA oversight over beauty-product safety, a cultural shift in how women with gray hair are feeling empowered, and breakthroughs in safer hair products. Throughout, Citron-Fink offers an honest account of her experience as she transitions from dark dyes to a natural gray. The result is a deeply human look at one of the most charged intersections of wellness and beauty facing women today.

With True Roots, those who dye, highlight, bleach, chemically straighten, or relax their hair can discover a new hair story built on wellness and truth.

Ronnie Citron-Fink is the editorial director for the Environmental Defense Fund’s Moms Clean Air Force. She is a contributor to A Glorious Freedom: On Being a Woman, Getting Older, and Living an Extraordinary Life, edited by Lisa Congdon, and has written for USA Today, In Style, and Huffington Post, among other publications. Yahoo named her one of the “Top 10 Living Green Experts.”

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