Lithium vs Hair Colouring

For anyone who has gone through cosmetology training we know we’ve been told not to use salon coloring products or lighteners over home dye jobs because metallic dyes can interact with the products and cause ridiculous amounts of damage to the hair and sometimes to the scalp.

I’m here to tell you about something most of us have never even thought about: lithium medications interacting with coloring products.

Lithium compounds, also known as lithium salts, are primarily used as a psychiatric medication. This includes in the treatment of major depressive disorder, that does not improve following the use of other antidepressants, and bipolar disorder. In these disorders, it reduces the risk of suicide. Lithium is taken orally, typically in pill form.

Lithium itself is a metal. Like many medications, lithium then becomes present in one’s hair/skin/nails/etc. While it typically does not react with most “deposit only colors” it can have extreme reactions with any color or product that is designed to lighten. It can react with the ammonia and hydrogen peroxide and create an intensely exothermic situation.

Yeah, it can get hot, boiling hot. On scalp applications can produce heat burns if not rinsed immediately, off scalp applications in foils or otherwise can produce chemical burns from boiling ammonia vapors escaping.

I know we as stylists can be a little worried about invading clients privacy, and since it’s not a common reaction nor a common medication it seems easier to ignore, but… I urge you to double check ahead of time if you have any reason to be concerned.

And for clients out there… please understand when we ask things like this we aren’t just being nosy or making conversation, we are taking your health and safety very seriously and we want you to leave happy with a head of beautiful hair and all your skin in good condition.

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