Kids & Hair Dye: Hair Raising or Hip?

Plenty of people go to the hair salon on a regular basis to dye their hair.  Whether it's highlights or a complete change in color, it's a popular trend.  The clients are getting younger and younger.  While some say the trend is simply a fun way for kids to feel fashion-forward, others say there are safety concerns.

We all want fabulous looking hair and today it's not just adults trying to keep up with the latest beauty trends.  Emily Oates, an 8-year-old, gets it done on a regular basis.  She says, "It looks so pretty and I want to just keep on doing it."

Emily's not the only one.  Salon Owner, Billie McLendon of Bliss Salon in North Columbus, says he sees a lot of 11 to 19-year-olds having it done.  McLendon says highlights and extensions are definitely the "in" thing.  He says for teens lightening or darkening locks can add body and shine.  Even his 12-year-old daughter is getting in on the craze.  "Her hair is a medium brown and its sort of mousy," he says of his daughter's hair, "And the highlights are actually gonna make her look older."

But could it make her look too old for her age?  Psychologist Susan Newman fears the trend shows how quickly children are growing up.  "Parents have a problem saying no to the peer pressure and they have a problem saying no to their children."

Aside from the age factor--is all this hair dying safe?  Dr. Tong Zheng, a world renowned researcher out of Yale, has been studying hair coloring products for years and says several studies have linked hair dye to cancer. His most recent study examined the possible link to Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  He says, "We have found people used dark permanent hair dye more than 20 years, they have doubled their risk."

But the FDA told us other research shows no cancer link --therefore the evidence is inconclusive.  The Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association says "the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence supports the conclusion that hair dye use does not pose any increased health risk."

McLendon agrees the procedure is safe, and better for your hair compared to several years ago.  "The bleach that we actually buy now is actually way more expensive, " he says.  "And it's actually more conditioning so if it's applied properly it's not damaging to the hair."

But there are words of advice.

"Definitely go to a really good salon and have it done," McLendon says.  "Don't try it at home.  We've seen some butchered up jobs."

So when's the right time to get highlights?  McLendon says if your child already has natural highlights, leave their hair alone until they get into their teens.  The FDA recommends young children minimize their exposure to hair coloring products.