Grecian formula problems

Updated April 17, 2017

You have probably seen commercials for Grecian Formula. It claims that you can look years younger by combing it through your hair over a period of time. The hair colourant changes the hair colour gradually. This way, it is not so obvious that you have changed your hair. Hundreds of men use Grecian Formula to get rid of their grey. Unfortunately, critics claim that the formula is potentially dangerous.


Grecian Formula contains a mixture of lead acetate and sulphur. These two active ingredients create a metallic-based pigment. The substance coats and penetrates the hair shaft. The lead acetate reacts with the sulphur to produce the dark pigment. Used over time, the hair can be restored almost to its original colour.


If ingested, lead acetate is poisonous. It is also suspected as being a carcinogen. Although it is an ingredient in many products in the U.S., Europe and Australia, some doctors have warned about potential absorption through the skin and risks associated with it. But there is no proof that lead or any compound containing lead can be absorbed through the skin.

Concentration of Lead

Currently low concentrations of lead acetate (0.4 per cent) are allowable for use in lotions and creams such as Grecian Formula. Trials in the U.S. monitored subjects for increased lead in their bloodstream. The results showed that there was no increase, and the researchers determined that the lead acetate was not absorbed through use as a hair dye.


The instructions that come with Grecian Formula do warn that you should not use the product if you have a cut or wound on the scalp. It is also not intended for use on facial hair. You should discontinue use if there is any redness or irritation. Whenever you touch your hair, you should wash your hands, especially before eating.


You will have to decide for yourself if it is worth the potential risks to look younger. It is up to you to use the product as indicated to prevent any potential health risks. Combe Inc., manufacturer of Grecian Formula, released a statement claiming that its product is absolutely safe. The FDA also considers lead acetate dyes safe as long as they are used correctly.

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About the Author

Ruth Kongaika began writing professionally in 2008. She has been working as a freelance writer for various websites, specializing in health, travel and technology. Kongaika works for the School of Education at Brigham Young University's Hawaii campus, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in art.