I gave up perms, but I'm ashamed to say it was a beauty-based decision, not an environmental one. I didn't consider the fact that perm solutions contain triethanolamine (TEA), diethanolamine (DEA), or monoethanolamine (MEA).
What happened was, my hair stylist Kendra moved to California and I got Doug instead. The last time I'd been to see Kendra, I'd gotten this gorgeous, soft spiral perm, which I'd absolutely loved. Doug had different ideas: cut off the frayed ends, a little layering, some cute side bangs.
"But I was hoping to get a perm."
"You don't want a perm, not really."
"Yes, really, I want a spiral perm. I just loved the last one."
"I don't think you do. I mean, no one gets perms any more. Perms are so frumpy '80's. ... O.k., I'll give you a soft perm, to add a little body."
Thanks a lot, Dougie. A bad hair month ensued, with floppy hair that looked like I'd slept on it wrong no matter what I tried. So I gave up, both on Doug, and on perms in general.
To Doug's credit, the environment is much happier since I abandoned perms. While advances in hair care products are being made all the time, there are still a surprising amount of pollutants in them: formaldehyde, paraben perservatives, heavy metals like lead and selenium. The stuff not only emits foul fumes that are breathed in by stylists and customers alike--it often gets rinsed away down the drain.
The other day, I passed by the salon where I'd locked horns with Doug. There was a vent coming directly from the building at ground level, a vent emitting a pink, frothy, damp air onto the sidewalk. Oooo, yuk, I thought, what the hell is that? Were hair salons even considering stuff like environmental impact? I went looking, and found at least one place (Victoria, BC) where there are suggestions for reducing pollution through Best Management Practices.
It's the unseen dangers in our everyday environment, like CO2 emissions, germs, and hair perm solutions, that really get us. I must be vigilant, even about the seemingly innocuous, even about my hair, which I only see when I take the time to look in a mirror.