imageI can’t tell you how many times a client enters our doors at juju and proclaims, “it smells sooooo good in here!” And she’s right: wafting through the air are overtones of ylang ylang, fresh lavender, lemongrass and, over the past holiday season, ginger, pine and cinnamon.  I’m lucky to work in such a smell-good joint, in fact, I take it for granted.  The scents from our pure, clean, organic hair products, soy candles and bath soaks never take backseat to nasty, noxious hair dye fumes.

The Scary Dangers of Ammonia.  Hair dressers and clients alike are still drinking the Kool Aid: hair dye must have stinky, over-powering ammonia in it or it won’t work.  I hear it all the time.  “It won’t cover the gray,” “it will wash out next week” and so on.  Let’s face facts, we want to look good and often that wish will take back seat to health concerns.  What harm could occur? What’s a little ammonia now and then?

Well, to a client, it’s just an hour or two of gasping, take-your-breath-away chemical air pollution.  But to us stylists and salon workers, it’s our everyday air.  It’s the beauty industry’s Love Canal.  And, Federal regulations have yet to address this issue in any meaningful way.  I predict future class actions from workers, manufacturers and yes, the millions of us who dye our hair.

The beauty industry continues to use ammonia in its products because it’s cheap and abundant.  Non-ammonia color lines, like Mastey, Organic Color Systems, and Chi Ionic used at juju, contain more expensive natural oils and extracts of aloe vera, comfrey, orange and grapefruit instead of ammonia to do the job. It’s money over health concerns, it’s as simple as that.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Division of Toxicology in Atlanta, Georgia, ammonia is listed as a hazardous substance which has related negative health effects. Ammonia is irritating to the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Nearly all professional salon and “box” hair color contain ammonia. Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia in the air may cause severe burns in your skin, eyes, throat, and lungs. In extreme cases, blindness, lung damage, or death could occur. Breathing lower concentrations will cause coughing and nose and throat irritation.


I know that hair colored with non-ammonia dyes at juju are even more silky, soft, and vibrant than conventional colors.  We wouldn’t still be in business if our color services (sucked!) weren’t top notch.  We give you permission to be vain, demand great color, cover your gray, highlight that hair and be healthy and awesome at the same time!







Whether it’s “functional food” or “natural beauty products,” we consumers are asked to navigate through hundreds of products that claim to promote health and wellness. These claims live on the front of the product, in big eye-catching fonts, reminding us that we’re not getting enough: oat bran, hemp seed, goji berries, Omega 3’s…AND that our skin is blemished and our hair is dry because we slather on paraben-laced chemical sludge. Ever leave the Whole Foods with a bunch of new supplements, protein powders, probiotics and the like, in desperate hopes of warding off the big “C”?

In the beauty biz, it seems that all of the new professional hair lines are touting new products that are Ammonia-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free, and full of unadulterated god-given argan oil.  Here’s what their not telling us, as loudly that is.  If you simply turn the product around, put on your readers and give yourself a minute or two, you yourself can determine if said new product is really healthy and really worth your money.  So what if the shampoo is sulfate free and contains organic burdock root? If there’s ‘fragrance’ listed, you’re exposing yourself to pthalates…endocrine disrupting chemicals.  Or if a Nonylphenol compound is present (a chemical which helps dissolve oily grime into water in cleaning products) you should be equally horrified.

In today’s Health section of the New York Times, an article about the “slick marketing” of healthy foods, inspired this post. “[s]hoppers are being bamboozled by slick marketing. Many people grab products with healthy claims on the front of the package and overlook crucial nutritional information, like calorie counts, in the small print on the back.”  Bravo.  But, What The Cuss?

Federal Regulators are only now investigating outlandish health claims.  Do I trust that they’ll mind the  hen house? Emphatically ‘No.’  Both the cosmetic and the food industries are sorely lacking in marketing claims’ oversight.  Bottom line:  read the labels. Google an ingredient a week to discover what really is in your Tinted Aveeno Moisturizer with SPF.

Best source ever?  The Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Database.


The end of an op-ed this weekend in the Times states, “The precautionary principle suggests that we should be wary of personal products like fragrances unless they are marked phthalate-free. And it makes sense — particularly for children and pregnant women…” This principle has been toted by many in my field as a necessary avoidance. In fact, no phthalate-containing nail polishes, shampoos, perfumes and body lotions can be found at juju or many other forward minded locations peddling safer beauty products.  Now, peer-reviewed medical science articles are being written about the absolute link between autism, for example, and exposure to environmental toxins. A wonderful fact-driven migration: from granola crunching health food stores to the JAMA!

The science community knows that Phthalate exposure to pregnant women can lead to their children displaying behavioral issues. So why is this toxic ingredient still being added to hair sprays, shampoos and conditioners? A quick search on “phtalate” in the Environmental Working Group’s website, Skin Deep database, found almost 23,000 products containing phtalates!  Sure, I wasn’t surprised to find Versace’s Red Jeans perfume listed, but Aveda’s Detoxifying Shampoo (detoxifying? what a misnomer!) and cleansers from Kiss My Face?!!

My advice for now: avoid buying any product with “phtalate” listed in its ingredients. Moreover, avoid buying any beauty product that lists “fragrance” in its ingredients, unless, there is an asterisk explaining that the fragrance is an unadulterated essential oil. Scary.


If I had a penny for each time I heard someone say, “It smells so good in here” referring to our salon and spa, of course, I’d be in financial heaven.  I know that what the clients are actually experiencing, olfactorially that is, is the Lack of a Toxic Scent or Artificial Odor in our stores. No usual toxic voc’s from hair coloring agents, no artificial or synthetic fragrances of any kind can be found at our salon or spa. Synthetic, artificial fragrances can contain toxic chemicals linked to not only allergic reactions but to cancer, birth defects and central nervous system disorders.

That’s why is this so important. Synthetic fragrances are one of the most common environmental toxins around…soaps, shampoos, cleaning products… all of these common household items are loaded with artificial fragrances containing synthetic compounds derived from petroleum including benzene derivatives, aldehydes, and many other known toxins.  Yuck! watch out too for ‘fragrance-free’ items such as shampoos and conditioners, which may contain chemical fragrance ‘maskers.’

Put your pennies in cosmetics, cleaning products and such that contain naturally derived fragrances from pure plant essences.


Ok, liabilities up front: I am not a chemist. Chemistry class remains a vague, distant and confused high school memory and something I avoided at all costs in college. However, I do know, as we all do, that plastics, polymers, copolymers, epoxy, polystyrene, to name a few… and most important to your hair style – polyvinylpyrrolidone or PVPs are usually synthetically formulated with non-renewable and hazardous petroleum-derived chemicals. Inhaled particles can cause serious problems in our lungs. Plastics, in all their glorious forms – goopy, sticky, stretchy, durable, and bouncy, are found in every conceivable product and/or its packaging – it’s hard to escape them. We all know that recycling these plastics and cutting back on their use is imperative.

Oh, a day without plastic….what would that look like?

Let’s start that day with you – getting yourself ready. PVPs are used in hairsprays, styling gels, nail polishes, mascaras – all the “must-haves” for many of us. And, what about those plastics in your hairspray….how are they going to be recycled? In what recycling bin does one dispose of PVP particles? No need to fret. Read your labels, of course! Rule of thumb: if your scalp or skin feels itchy and flaky, chances are there’s probably some suspicious ingredients in your body products.Some good suggestions and great products follow: Zoya Nail Polishes! Toulene, phthalate, formaldehyde and acetone free….great long-lasting colors…love them! Miessence’s styling gel conditions and nourishes the hair while providing terrific hold without flakes or build-up.

And my personal can’t-live-without, Morrocco Method’s Blood of the Dragon Gel – full of restorative and rare conditioning herbs – provides hold and encourages healthy hair growth -it’s full of hair restorative goodies from the sea including kelp, nori, kombu and fucus! See previous post on hair loss! Remember the inter-connectiveness of everything – let your grooming rituals be plastic-free!