National Association of Professional Creative Groomers

Promoting safety and education in the grooming industry since 2009


Ammonia Free?! You've got to be kidding me..

Posted on September 1, 2014 at 2:50 PM

With the professional grooming industry, as well as the public, becoming more aware of the dangers and health risks posed by using hair bleach on pets, it’s no wonder that the proponents of bleach are scrambling to find ways to justify their careless actions.

There have been lots of attempts at justifying their actions, but the public is not as stupid as those using hair bleach on pets would like to believe. They use elusive terms such as ‘color lifting’ or ‘reverse color inlay’ but make no mistake, these terms still mean ‘I use hair bleach on my dog’.

The latest strategy being scrounged up is the use of a hair bleach with the brand name of ‘Ion’. They claim that it is ammonia free and can be used right on the skin! Wow…just wow. If these groomers had any education concerning coloring and bleaching products, they would know that just because a brand claims to be ‘ammonia free’ does NOT make it safe. But it does prove they know bleaching pets is dangerous…and that’s why they constantly seek ways to justify their actions.

Now, the Ion brand of hair bleach is in fact, ammonia free….meaning that the bleach powder contains no ammonia. But ammonia is not the only ingredient one should be concerned about, nor is the bleach powder being used without having to be mixed with a developer. So let’s analyze this a bit.

The very first ingredient on the Ion bleach powder packaging is potassium persulfate (1). Potassium persulfate is a strong inorganic oxidizer that can cause respiratory distress, contact dermatitis, chemical burns, and even lead to long term health issues such as asthma or seizures. It is considered a ‘hazardous substance’ by OSHA (2). Severe reactions can occur in concentrations greater than 17.5%, yet hair bleaching products contain concentrations of up to 60%! (3) So, we substituted one dangerous chemical (ammonia) for another (potassium persulfate). Of course, those groomers condoning the use of hair bleach on pets are not looking for information; they are looking for justification, so they could care less.

The next ingredient listed on the label of Ion bleaching powder is sodium metasilicate which is a strong alkaline that can cause damage to the respiratory tract, skin irritation, and even third degree burns (4). There are many studies to show that both potassium persulfate and sodium metasilicate are damaging to human skin, but keep in mind that the human epidermis is composed of 20-25 cellular layers while canine epidermis is composed of 8-10 cellular layers. What does this mean? Well, in layman terms it means that canine skin is much more sensitive to these caustic chemicals! The label explicitly states “not for use on children”. Do you know ‘why’ this product is not safe for children? Because the epidermal layers of a child’s skin has not fully developed. This means the epidermis of a child is very similar to the epidermis of a dog or cat. Bleaching proponents claim their dogs are ‘like their children’ and they would never do anything to harm their children. But if Ion is not safe for use on children, why in the world would one think it is safe for pets!?!

We aren’t quite done yet! Let’s not forget that in order for Ion bleaching powder to work, it must be mixed with a developer. How else could one get such a volatile chemical reaction that can literally combust the color pigmentation within the cortex of the hair?

Now the first ingredient in the Ion 20 volume developer is water…no problem there. However, the next ingredient on the list is hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide was used for decades to treat wounds and prevent infections. But new research has shown that hydrogen peroxide is damaging to healthy skin (5). Once this research was published even hospitals stopped using hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds and found safer alternatives…and that is just at 3%! Now, according to the directions on the bottle, Ion hair bleach powder should be used with a 20 volume developer…that translates to 6%. A 30 volume developer (which is not recommended for use on scalp) converts to 9%….and a 40 volume developer converts to 12%. If the medical industry has stopped using 3%, why in the world would one think using 6, 9, or 12% on an animal whose epidermis is half the thickness of a human being would be safe?! I recently saw a self-proclaimed “expert”…and I use that term loosely…tell someone to use 150% peroxide to “lighten” (there we go trying to use those misleading terms again) the coat. According to OSHA, one would burst into flames at such a high concentration (7)(8). This tells me that this self-proclaimed “expert” is completely ignorant when it comes to hair products.

There is a reason one cannot purchase a ‘ready to use’ hair bleach…because the mixing of these chemicals causes a violent, caustic reaction that would cause the product to explode right in the bottle…that should tell you something in itself.

For those of you who don’t understand ‘how’ hair bleach works, let me explain this in laymen terms. The corrosive nature of the alkalizing agents cause the cuticle of the hair to swell and lift…this damage is permanent by the way. The oxidizing agents then enter the cortex of the hair to do their job…destroy the pigment molecules. The problem is that these caustic chemicals cannot distinguish between other components of the hair, so they destroy everything…the fibrils, the medulla, everything that gives hair strength and elasticity.

According to the instructions on Ion hair bleach powder, one should only use a 20 volume developer. But a 20 volume developer only lifts two shades…it does NOT bleach dark hair to an orange or yellow stage. Why then do we see dogs bleached to yellow and hear the groomer say, “I only used 20 volume developer”. Well, there can only be one of two answers. 1.) They are repeatedly subjecting these poor animals to numerous bleaching sessions, or 2.) They are simply lying and using a higher volume. It is physically impossible to bleach to a yellow using a single application of 20 volume developer. Proponents of hair bleach know this; hence their need to lie to the public.

I can’t help but wonder what the manufacturer of the Ion brand would think about groomers promoting their product for use on pets? I would be willing to bet my last dollar that they would be quite upset. The NAPCG has a call in to the company, but as of this posting we have not received a response. I can’t wait to get an official statement from them.

I’ve listened as the pro-bleaching groomers try their best to defend their ‘rights’ by touting that scientific research has been performed on humans, not canines. This is true. No scientific laboratory has (or ever will) perform these studies on domesticated canines. Why? Because these educated professionals have already performed studies and research on human beings. They also know that canine/feline skin is much more susceptible to corrosive and caustic chemicals and such research would not be necessary to conclude that these products are dangerous for canines/felines. Just take a look at a few reactions that have been caused by hair bleach being used on humans (6) and keep in mind that a cat or dog cannot tell you when they feel itching or burning.

As you can see, these self-proclaimed ‘experts’ are pretty clueless about the science behind creative coloring products. Somehow they have disillusioned themselves to think that a trophy or ribbon is equivalent to real education, when in fact nothing could be farther from the truth. For those professional groomers seeking true education with concern for the pets’ safety, your best course of action is to acquire a membership with the NAPCG (9). For those pet owners who would like to find a groomer to perform safe creative coloring on your pet, e-mail us at [email protected] to find an educated member in your area who makes the safety of your pet the top priority.

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe










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