Q. I’ve been using a Grecian Formula for my graying hair for years. It has lead acetate in it. I checked the FDA website. They say they tested it and approved it. The lead has me a bit concerned. Any thoughts?
A. The FDA does no testing of its own but did approve lead acetate as a “progressive” hair dye. That means it gradually darkens hair with repeated use.
The FDA concluded in 2002 that according to safety tests it received, “No significant increase in blood levels of lead was seen in the trial subjects and the lead was not shown to be absorbed into the body through such use.”
Despite this reassurance, questions remain about the safety of lead-containing hair dyes. Canadian and European Union health authorities have banned lead from hair dyes and personal care products.
A study published in the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association (Jan/Feb, 1997) revealed that some lead residue is left on hands even after washing. Rubbing hands through hair may contaminate hands again.
The researchers noted that, “Given the requirement to continually reapply these hair coloring agents, the user becomes a living purveyor of lead contamination.”

Join Over 54,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. SLivengood
    Reply

    Your absolutely right, I was using the product for years and I discovered my High Blood levels after I took a hair analysis test. Lead was off the chart. I had a Blood test done, I had elevated levels of lead. Took another hair analysis (not from head) after I stopped using the product (4 weeks) and discovered again it was high but at least measurable this time. The problems I had with night sweats have gone away.

  2. Question asker
    Reply

    I just learned that I have moderate lead poisoning and am working very hard to keep it out of my world. I keep getting the run around regarding hair coloring from my hair stylist. I don’t think she has a clue. I do not use over the products. Do you have any information or websites I can use? By the way, I did not eat paint chips as a child. lol

  3. Renee
    Reply

    I finally have more info regarding my hair dye. It contains toluylendiamin, resorcin and hydrogen peroxide. Are the first two chemicals harmful over a longer period of time? Could they cause cancer? THANKS FOR YOUR GREAT WEB PAGE!!

  4. Kathy
    Reply

    I don’t know if dye for my hair had lead in it. I colored my hair for at least 10 years when I developed interstitial cystitis. this became severe as I passed through menopause. When I was about 60, I felt strongly that I should stop using the dye. My IC decreased over time and is rarely a problem. I have heard that women who dye their hair have an increased incidence in bladder CA.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: ONLY “PROGRESSIVE” HAIR DYES THAT ARE APPLIED EVERY DAY OR TWO CONTAIN LEAD ACETATE. BUT WE ARE GLAD TO LEARN THAT STOPPING THE USE OF DYE WAS ASSOCIATED WITH LESS TROUBLE FROM IC.

  5. beau
    Reply

    For The poster “HM”: please travel to Wash. DC, go to the headquarters of the FDA, speak to those idiots at the FDA very concisely and slowly so they will be able to understand human speech and inform them that they are allowing those people who use products w/lead to act as guinea pigs.
    And later, after it is proven no lead is safe, the FDA will whisper “Whoops”.

  6. Renee
    Reply

    What is the chemical name for lead acetate? Do ALL hair dyes contain it?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: LEAD ACETATE IS THE CHEMICAL NAME. ONLY “PROGRESSIVE” HAIR DYES CONTAIN IT. MOST OF THESE ARE MARKETED TO MEN RATHER THAN WOMEN.

  7. Fred C
    Reply

    Dang! You’ve done it to me again: forced me to acknowledge my own common-sense reservations about the lead in Grecian formula. I’ve used it for several years, resisting the natural greying of my hair. It is simple vanity on my part: I want to be (or at least appear to be) young forever. While I continue to use the stuff (and I probably will) I think I’ll stop sneering at people who get boob implants and face lifts and collagen injections and and and…

  8. HM
    Reply

    The reassurance given by FDA is not reassuring at all. As researchers have demonstrated, lead acetate is readily absorbed through the skin and partitions into extracellular fluid showing up in sweat and saliva, and at barely detectable levels in the blood. Thus, the blood lead levels used by the FDA are the wrong endpoint to measure for lead absorbed through the skin, and their conclusions are based on inappropriate safety tests.

What Do You Think?

Share your thoughts with others, but be mindful of protecting your own and others' privacy. Not all comments will be posted. Advice from web visitors is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. In posting a comment, you agree to our commenting policy and website terms and conditions.