It’s cold, and as the bruhs on the block say, “It’s beard season.” With the popularity of the dye-craze of blackouts, silently men are suffering for a style that’s not a good look for their health.
Beards have surfaced as the ultimate expression of masculinity. Nowadays, the bigger the better. You’ve even got regional looks like the Philly beard, which is wear the huge halo looking jawns come from. Then you’ve got the Atlanta beard which is more meticulous. And you’ve got the NYC beard which ranges from gritty to glorious.
Amongst African Americans and now Latinos, for the past 15 or so years, the beard-dying trend of the “blackout” is commonplace. Now with the rash of breakouts and chemical burns from it, even for men, beauty hurts.
As a barber who has 20-plus years swinging chairs, I’d always get clients who’d ask me to blackout their beards. Blackout is when you create a thicker look to facial hair and after a haircut by applying dye, and in some cases, creating a more visible line to give a crisp look.
Dying the beard, as I’ve researched traces back to Muslims in the Middle-East and South Asia who dyed their beards due to stories that the Islamic prophet, Muhammed dyed his facial hair with henna.
Everyone from LeBron James to Fat Joe blackout their beards and cuts, but therein exists a nasty secrete with the grooming trend. A lot of these guys are breaking out due to the toxic chemicals in them, and even having to rush to the hospital.
In quite a few Black and Latino barbershops, there is a brand that is popular called Bigen Hair Color. It’s used only because it’s cheap and quick acting. And that the brand I stopped using years ago: Bigen Hair Color.
Let me tell you about the case of Bigen Oriental Black #59. In the early 2000’s, while working in Atlanta, the Bigen hair dye phenomenon erupted onto the scene of African-American men’s hair coloring. Not only was the dye readily available at just about any hair supplies store, but it was cheap and easy to apply. In many ways, blackout and Bigen became synonymous.
Guys were darkening their grey hairs, but they also began to apply it to fading hairlines. The blackout was supposed to augment hair and not create hair. Nevertheless, men who had been bald for years or were balding excessively were excited to get a semblance of their hair back.
However, as quickly as the trend caught on, the excitement of Bigen began to die for me. Clients were coming back with rashes on their skin or huge boils on their head. Other barbers were reporting that people were breaking out, and losing hair, and developing eczema and allergic reactions they never experienced in their lives.
Before I knew better, I put a dark brown Bigen in my wife’s locks and several days later she developed a pus-filled knot the size of a cherry right in the middle of her fore-heard. It lasted for about six weeks. She was pissed. Begrudgingly, she wore a lot of headbands in the summer.
So bad were the reactions to Bigen that some years back, an Atlanta-based personal injury law firm, Marks Law Group, filed a class-action lawsuit against Bigen for the physical ailments it has caused. How do I know? I did a blog about Bigen when I opened my shop and they contacted me to thank me because they posted in the comments section in the story I ran which resulted in them getting some clients.
Of course, Bigen Hair Dye, a Japanese-based company, claims to be a “natural” dye, but I’ve learned that most things that make those claims are natural lies.
Bigen claims to have no ammonia; however, they list ammonium hydroxide, an ammonia-based ingredient that serves to adjust the pH level of the product.
Here are a list of some of the other ingredients:
- Sodium Perborate: an oxidizing agent used in the detergent industry to bleach their product.
- P-Aminophenol: a chemical used in developing Black and White photos and film.
- Para-phenylenediamine (PPD): a toxic agent that has been banned in Germany, France and Sweden since the mid-1900s.
After some research, I switched to a Brazilian organic, henna based dye, but Bigen Hair Dye is a staple. Henna Dye is a colorant that is made from the leaves and flower of the henna plant.
The dye is known for providing the beautiful coloring of intricate designs on women in various parts of Asia and North Africa for hundreds of years. But henna has an even longer history. The usage of henna as a commercial product is traced as far back to Egypt 1000 BCE.
Today, henna dyes have evolved into coloring that is as effective as synthetic dyes, but far less toxicity. The one drawback is that it doesn’t last as long as general synthetic hair dyes; however, henna dye does not leave the hair brittle and dry, a symptom of coloring that also causes hair breakage like other colorants.
Dyeing a beard is an old practice and practiced across the spectrum of people.
For barbers who have contacted me, I tell them, do their homework. In general, all stylists should use as many natural, organic and plant-based products on their clients — from dyes to shampoos and conditioners. It is beneficial both ways. As the stylist, you will not be exposed, neither will your client. And as a stylist, you are exposed more because you have to reapply product to multiple heads daily. But overall, to care about the health of the people in your chair brings you good, quality clients.
For people who apply a dye at home, I do suggest a patch test and also a thorough search on any reports about the product. Also, you can bring your dye to the salon or shop with you.
As a guy, we don’t have the information network on hair like women. So, since it’s winter and the beards are blinging, I just want the brothers to glow-up with healthier grooming options.
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