Fashion Happenings Health Opinion

West Hartford: Are You Ready to Go Gray?

Ronnie Citron-Fink is the author of "True Roots: What Quitting Hair Dye Taught Me"

February’s Lunch & Learn at First Church West Hartford will welcome Ronnie Citron-Fink, author of ‘True Roots: What Quitting Hair Dye Taught Me About Health and Beauty.’

By Joy B. Taylor

Ronnie Citron-Fink, editorial director for the Environmental Defense Fund’s Moms Clean Air Force and journalist, wondered if the unpronounceable chemical names on her box of hair dye could be causing her allergies and headaches. But she worried that going gray would adversely affect her job and social life.

All she could think of was: “Will I still feel like me when I have gray hair?” Along her journey to find answers, she discovered products that are safer for the planet and for people, and she learned to embrace her natural beauty.

I met Citron-Fink’s 92-year-old mother Joan at a small health fair in New York last fall. She and I hit it off and due to the nature of the event, the conversation quickly went from health to beauty products, and toxins in the environment. Joan jumped at the opportunity to hand me Ronnie’s card promoting her “True Roots” book and I was immediately intrigued. Incidentally, that’s when Joan told me she had just stopped dying her hair two years prior at age 90!

Except for a one-time highlighting job for a community fashion show experience I was in, I’ve never dyed my hair. A long-time buddy of mine recently proclaimed “gray hair is sexy,” so that alone will keep me off the dye for sure!

I know I’m in the minority, and I get it – hairstyles and hair colors are so much a part of our persona. Maybe gray hair is just “in my genes.” My mother only dyed her hair when, at age 45, she was tired of saying her 5-year-old twins were not her granddaughters. Other than during that time period she embraced the gray, so that’s likely the main reason I never had the desire to cover up the gray.

People tell me “but you have the nice type of gray, if I let mine go, it wouldn’t look as nice!” I don’t believe it even if those justifications are true. What is real are the unwritten pressures and expectations of society on women, and they are not always treated with respect when they “go gray.”

I’ve got nothing against the rainbow of colors and styles that women can wear, I just worry about what those dyes are doing to their scalps, bodies and the environment. This book certainly addresses all of that.

Citron-Fink addresses the emotional, environmental, and health concerns around hair dying. When Citron-Fink wrote “True Roots,” she had to dig deep to find studies linking hair dye to women’s health.

“There were previous studies and the NIH kept ringing the alarm citing hair dye as a ‘major risk factor for certain types of cancer.’ The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program (NTP) classifies some chemicals in hair dye as ‘reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens.’ And American Cancer Society (ACA) classifies some chemicals that are, or were, used in hair dyes as ‘reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens,’” according to Citron-Fink.

I’m grateful for “True Roots” because it has opened eyes to the potential dangers of hair dyes, and helps put a spotlight on the safer products available to women and men who dye, not to mention the people who work in the hair and beauty industry. The book includes information on the proposed, bipartisan legislation that would mandate greater FDA oversight over beauty-product safety and safer coloring alternatives. 

If you dye your hair, don’t dye, or are considering quitting the dye as Citron-Fink did, this talk is for you.

The public is invited to the author talk to take place on Sunday, Feb. 2, beginning at 11:30 a.m. in the JPW Library at First Church, 12 South Main St. Not to be confused with the main town library, visitors may enter the church building via the rear parking lot and follow the stairs or elevator to the second floor to find the library. A light lunch will be provided. Copies of her book will be available for sale at this event. Please call the library for more information: 860-232-3893.

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Joy Taylor

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