Combe Incorporated finally has a web site dealing with Grecian Formula.  Includes photographs and an FAQ!

For more details on Grecian Formula 16, check out the excellent book How Does Olive Oil Lose Its Virginity? by Bruce Tindall and Mark Watson (1994, Quill/William Morrow Books). 
 
The Albany Times Union had an article titled Hair dyes containing lead pose health threat, study says.  This article appears in the February 4, 1997 issue on page 2.
 
The Tuesday, February 4, 1997 issue of USA Today features a small blurb on page 1D titled "Lead Threat".
 






If this stuff is clear, how does it color gray hair?

We've all seen those commercials - the guy combs a glob of Grecian Formula 16 into his hair. Each day it gets darker and darker until his youth returns. 

What gives? 

I always assumed that some sort of dye was involved. I was wrong (and I'm willing to admit it!). 

To understand how this stuff works, we must understand why hair turns gray. 

It seems that both our hair and skin color is caused by a chemical called melanin. Melanin is produced by a specialized cell known as a melanocyte (big surprise, huh?). 

We'll skip all the mumbo-jumbo as to how these cells work and keep it simple - the more melanin the melanocytes produce , the darker your skin is. And, since your hair follicles are made from specialized skin cells, the melanin causes your hair to get darker. 

As we get older, our melanocytes produce less melanin and our hair begins to gray. If all melanin is cut off, your hair turns white. Believe it or not, your skin also gets whiter with age for the same reason, but it's less noticeable. 

Enter modern technology - the Grecian Goop that was introduced way back in 1961. 

Grecian Formula 16 is 98% clear liquid. The rest is a small amount of sulfur and 0.29 - 0.34% lead acetate. These chemicals work as follows: 

The lead acetate both coats and is absorbed into the hair shaft. 

The sulfur coats the hair shaft (a small amount of naturally occurring sulfur is present in the amino acids of the hair follicle). 

The trick is that lead acetate reacts with sulfur (both inside and outside the hair) to produce a dark black pigment . 

Therefore, your hair will get darker on both the inside and outside of the shaft. The color is permanent (until you hair either grows or falls out). 

Apply it each day and your youth will return - and you never even used a dye! 

But, what about its safety?  The thought of placing a lead compound in one's hair is a bit scary. 

Well, it seems that the FDA has studied these lead-containg dyes and has concluded that it is unlikely to be absorbed through the skin.  Warning labels on these so-called "progressive dyes" warn to keep the products away from children and to wash your hands thoroughly after using.