Your salon probably handles a lot of chemicals for colouring and lightening and treating hair. But not all of what you squeeze from a tube makes it to your clients’ head and so you are left with excess. It is likely that much of your excess chemicals end up with the rest of your general waste but this can put unnecessary pressure on British & Irish landfill sites. It might also be the case that excess chemicals get washed down your salon drains but there are a number of reasons why this is also not a good disposal option.

Salon chemicals can be incredibly problematic for both people and the environment so it is important to make sure it gets disposed of properly. Read our article Chemicals: Human and Planetary Health to understand why. In this article, you will learn about how your business can minimise the negative impacts of salon chemicals and make some recommendations for using them more wisely.

Vish & Precision Colour. Before looking for ethical ways to dispose of your salon’s chemicals, it may be a good idea to consider whether there is anything your team can do to minimise what is wasted to begin with. Two examples to help you are Vish and Precision Colour who are dedicated to tackling chemical waste from the start.

Both brands have developed software for salons to use which accurately tracks colour usage. It’s a clever management system where teams can easily predict actual usage from previous visits to determine actual needs for future treatments. The result is a savings for the salon not just in terms of reducing product costs but also costs related to disposal.

Tom Bentley-Taylor from Vish says that UK salons typically waste 20-40% of colour.

“This is waste left in the bowl and doesn’t include over-application which is really waste left on the head. When you take this into account the percentage is much higher.”

Visit Vish website and Precision Colour website to see if either could help your salon.

Avoidance. A good industry-specific explainer video for the top five chemicals to avoid in salons is this one below:

Note: Rebecca from the video lists ammonia as an ingredient to avoid but products often replace this for monoethanolamine which is just as harmful to human health. In fact, the latter has also been shown to be more damaging to hair than the ammonia.

Better brands? Some brands claim to use a percentage of natural or organic ingredients but when you're literally mixing those with toxic chemicals, you may (rightly) think to yourself, What’s the point? To us it seems like making a coffee with organic coffee beans but then using non organic milk or milk alternative. Would it still be an organic coffee?

Our advice is to not be fooled into thinking something is “natural” even when the company is advertising it as 99% naturally-derived. That last one percent can still include any number of toxic ingredients that can still cause serious harm even at low doses.

Protective gear. Personal protective equipment (PPE) isn’t just for pandemics. When using toxic chemicals be sure to protect yourself. This is especially important for stylists who come into repeated contact with chemicals. As MeetthefiveRs and Green Salon Collective cannot be held liable for the health and safety of your salon’s personnel, it is up to you to do your own research to decide which PPE will fulfill your needs.

Fun fact: In Australia’s state, New South Wales, stylists must wear a face mask, goggles, gloves and an apron to mix and apply a hair colour. It is the law!

Green Salon Collective has even more solutions for your salon. Be sure to read our article, Chemicals waste: Responsible disposal solutions.

This article was written for Green Salon Collective by MeetthefiveRs

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References and further reading

Green Salon Collective’s article, Waste to energy article, Toxic chemicals in salon products: What salon workers need to know

Simply Organic Beauty’s video, 5 harmful chemicals to avoid in hair salons

The Guardian’s article, Hairdressers of the world unite against hidden dangers of the salon
Journal of Cosmetic Science article, Comparison of damage to human hair fibers caused by monoethanolamine- and ammonia-based hair colorants

Cover photo by Valeriia Kogan on Unsplash

Stephanie Hodgson

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