Washington men and women apparently are not going gray over recent reports connecting some hair dye ingredients to cancer.
In an informal survey of more than 40 confirmed, regular hair dye users, only two indicated any change in their hair coloring practices, on having switched to natural henna; the other is now letting her hair go gray.
Salon owners, styles and wholesale distributors of hair color products in the Washington area say they have seen absolutely no change in hair color usage. "A few have asked about it," says Eivind of Lucien and Eivind, "but just the same they are getting their hair colored."
"It's not going to stop me from dyeing my hair, says the wife of a noted Washington cancer surgeon who has colored her hair since becoming gray in her mid-20. "I've decided that if I paid attention to all of those things that come out in reports, like saccharin, I'd have to go underground . Life is a gamble and this is just one more step."
"Everything is life-threatening," says Rose Narva, general manager of the Sheraton Carlton, who for years has dyed her hair to cover the gray. "My husband would be more uptight than I am and he hasn't alerted me to anything yet." Capt. William Narva is chairman of the dermatology department at the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center.
Many women who rely on their hairdressers to know for sure about the safety of hairdyes report they usually are not being discouraged from using their regular products. Jean Paul at Garfinckel's suggests henna to those "very, very few" people who question the safety of other products. Floyd Kenyatta at Fingertips recommends Ve Borne, a natural product, or Crazy Color, a rinse from England.
"Few people are switching to the natural products," says Kenyatta, "but knowing they are available, they don't seem to be in a panic."
Henna sales have increased over the past four years, according to Louis Saul of A.B.C.Beauty and Barber Supplies. This is in line with the generally increased demand for natural products. Saul's wife, Rose, a vice president of the company, is reluctant to try henna herself, however. "It's fine for virgin hair," she says, "but I'm concerned about what may happen when I put it on my previously tinted hair."
Floyd Kenyatta also discourages the use of henna by black women since henna tends to dry the hair, a quality that already troubles many black women who use chemicals to relax their hair.
Suzanne Hargreaves, a native of France who teaches French here, is going on the word of her hairdresser who just returned from a seminar in France on haircoloring. "I don't want to look older than I seem to be," says Hargreaves, "so I'll just keep on coloring my hair as I've been doing for many years."
Another woman, who has been frosting her hair for 15 years, admits she would have second thoughts before doing it again. "I really don't know how addicted I am to it," she says. "I do know that when it is freshly done, people tend to say I look well. I'm living on the hope that frosting the hair, which is done with a cap covering the scalp, will prove to be safe."
Says the surgeon's wife: "If it makes me feel better, and it does, and I have to go to the grave early, then I'll just go early."