The Beehive and the Hairball

by Franke James

comb Illustrations by Franke James
hairball and comb Illustrations by Franke James
hair Illustration by Franke James
hair Illustration by Franke James
hair Illustration by Franke James
hair Illustration by Franke James
hair Illustration by Franke James
hair Illustration by Franke James
hair Illustration by Franke James
hair style Illustration by Franke James
hair style Illustration by Franke James
hair style Illustration by Franke James
math Illustration by Franke James
math Illustration by Franke James
math Illustration by Franke James
math Illustration by Franke James
beauty Illustration by Franke James
sink Illustration by Franke James
ringing clock Illustration by Franke James
cook Illustration by Franke James
foil Illustration by Franke James
landfill Illustration by Franke James
ask why Illustration by Franke James
fish Illustration by Franke James
yikes Illustration by Franke James
soup Illustration by Franke James
skull Illustration by Franke James
cigarette package from wikipedia
lipstick Illustration by Franke James
hairball Illustration by Franke James
hairwash Illustration by Franke James
sink Illustration by Franke James

My Green Beauty Action Plan

  1. I Will Use Safer Hair Dyes: I will ask (insist) that my hair salon use hair dyes and shampoos from the 1290 companies that have signed The Compact for Safe Cosmetics which includes six common-sense requirements.
  2. I Will Move To A Green Salon: Bad habits are hard to break. Salons (and uninformed clients) have been abusing our natural environment for years. Even though I love my salon, I am prepared to switch! Check out Clover Earthkind Hair Salon in Vancouver, as one example of a green salon. With a little effort (and pressure from clients), salons can use safer hair dyes, recycle foils, recycle empty dye bottles, and take other green actions to minimize their toxic and carbon footprint.
  3. I Will Stop Building Foil Mountains: Recycling hair foils is a bit of a challenge but not impossible. Smelting appears to be the best way. Clover Earthkind Hair Salon used to wash their foils but now they are selling them to a scrap metal company. When I called Turtle Island Recycling and spoke to co-founder Louis Anagnostakos, I learned that anyone can drop off bags of foil at no charge (they discourage small numbers of bags but will accept larger quantities). They would sell the foil to smelting companies in North America. I then called North America’s leading recycler of foil from curbside collection programs, Connecticut Metal Industries. Interestingly, neither company had recycled hair foils — yet.Green Circle Salons is a new business launching in Toronto that promises to help local salons clean up their act and go green. They have their work cut out for them. Let’s hope they can do it!
  4. I will NOT be intimidated by long chemical names: I will understand what I’m putting on my hair and skin by looking up the chemicals (and the products) at Skin Deep.
  5. I Will Buy Fragrance-Free Cosmetics: I will reduce or eliminate products from my beauty regimen that contain “fragrance.” A loophole in Canadian and U.S. government regulations allows cosmetic companies to refuse to disclose what chemicals are in their fragrances on the basis that it’s a “trade secret.” Fragrance is used to mask or hide the odor of chemicals, but many contain phthalates which have been linked to hormone disruption.

Key Health Reports for You:

Environmental Working Group:
Teen Girls’ Body Burden of Hormone-Altering Cosmetics Chemicals
“Laboratory tests reveal adolescent girls across America are contaminated with chemicals commonly used in cosmetics and body care products. Environmental Working Group (EWG) detected 16 chemicals from 4 chemical families – phthalates, triclosan, parabens, and musks – in blood and urine samples from 20 teen girls aged 14-19. Studies link these chemicals to potential health effects including cancer and hormone disruption. These tests feature first-ever exposure data for parabens in teens, and indicate that young women are widely exposed to this common class of cosmetic preservatives, with 2 parabens, methylparaben and propylparaben, detected in every single girl tested

US Breast Cancer Fund:
Policy and Research Recommendations: Cosmetics and Personal Care Products:
“Because the U.S. lacks a pre-market screening program, shampoo, deodorant, make-up, lotions and other products that consumers use every day contain chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems. Major loopholes in federal law allow the $50 billion cosmetics industry to put chemicals into personal care products with no required testing, no monitoring of health effects and woefully inadequate labeling requirements….

New York Times: A Simple Smooch or a Toxic Smack?
The debate seems to resurface every few years. Do some lipsticks contain lead? If so, is the amount so negligible that consumers have nothing to be concerned about? Or will all those years of applying lipstick several times a day add up to a worrisome accumulation of a dangerous substance?

Good green reading to get started:

Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry by Stacy Malkan, reveals the toxic truth about the personal care products used daily by women, men, teenagers and children – and how activists are forcing the industry to clean up its act. Author Stacy Malkan is also co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products and Services in Canada by Adria Vasil. Her book features a Top Ten list of beauty product ingredients to avoid, including DEA, Parabens, PPD, Toluene, and Phthalates.

Writing and illustrations © 2009 Franke James, MFA
Franke James on Twitter

Thanks go to Ontario chemistry secondary school teacher Anthony Corvinelli who helped me in my hair dye research. Anthony also collaborated with me on Sparking a Green Conscience.

78 Responses: 36 Comments and 42 Tweets

  • Vince Deon says:


    FROM @vincedeon

    GREAT art and thought-provoking too!

  • SimpleDiff says:


    FROM: @SimpleDiff

    @frankejames a real interesting illustrator, with creative social environmental illustrated blog

    For you “greens” w hair color issues: RT @frankejames My new visual essay is posted – The Beehive and the Giant Hairball:

    @frankejames excellent essay, will pass it on! have u considered letting ur true colors shine?

  • Franke James says:


    FROM @frankejames:

    TO: @SimpleDiff Thnx for tweets on my new Hairball essay! Yes I’ve considered going “mousy” but not my 1st choice!

  • Wendy says:

    Good for you!!! Who knows, maybe you can convince your salon to go green and you won’t have to leave them (or leave them for long).

    who gave up the good fight and am now enjoying my natural color – I prefer to call it (after a fabric color I encountered) “silver mink”

  • Oh, gosh, Franke. I always thought of you as a natural blonde. Maybe because I’m a natural blonde? Thanks, Norwegian greatgrandmother for getting on a ship and making your way to America…Yeah, this is one of those Bothered By My Green Conscience Dilemmas, isn’t it?
    We can’t be PERFECT, Franke. Maybe you could dye your own hair out in the garden with one of those supermarket bottles and wash it out in the…nah. Yeah. Tough. I’ve got my own list! Working through it knowing I will never do everything, but aiming for balance and moderation. Could you give up Being Blonde?? For the Environment?? xoxo

  • Franke James says:


    Yes, I confess I highlight my hair!! I have a very fair complexion and was born white blonde — but it morphed into a dirty blonde! Drats! (My mother used to say it was from pollution.) Blonde highlights look natural on the dirty blonde base but….

    My first goal is to find a “greener” way to highlight my hair. Hmmm… Lemon juice??


  • Vijji says:

    here in India, a lot of us use henna for dyeing our hair. It is combined with a whole bunch of other natural stuff (like tea infusion) to enhance the colouring, it zero chemical & absolutely eco-friendly. also no aluminium foils required, coz the mixture dries up and cakes around your hair. Plus henna also is a great conditioner. Only problem is that you have no choice over what colour your hair could become – it just gets really dark brown with reddish highlights. Since most Indians out here have black / dark brown hair, it doesn’t matter! And the henna colouring looks great in natural sunlight :)!

    this website might give you more technical info:

  • absolutely love the whimsical dr seuss like feel of this piece. my silver strands were just too stubborn to color and so I gave up the entire cover up process many years ago – i am lucky that i can pull it off as is, the current silver thread look work for me

    like you I have wondered this very same conversation a million times – what we do for our appearances sake

    If I may recommend a plant sourced and paraben free shampoo and conditioner let me know…I have serum for repair post those nasty treatments too

  • Vince d'Eon says:

    I wonder how many other things we purchase occasionally that are in the same light as this.

    Now I must go away and evaluate my once-in-a-while-purchases. Maybe this is my “doing the hardest thing first”

  • Franke James says:


    Thanks! I love Dr. Seuss’ stories! I think “highlighting” hair is a classic Cat in the Hat scenario — where fixing one mess (my dirty blonde roots), creates another much bigger mess, and then on and on and on….!

    Let me know your recommendation for a natural shampoo.



  • Daharja says:

    Hi Franke – Maybe I’m throwing a spanner in the works here, but I don’t like the look of “highlights”. I find them plasticky and barbie-doll-esque. I’m not intending to be rude at all, and it is a personal issue on which I have absolutely no right to comment at all, but I think you’d look just fine with your natural colour hair!

    Maybe the whole reason we (as a culture) colour our hair has a lot more to do with fashion than results?

    I’m a case in point. I’m a natural brunette. For years, I coloured my hair, giving it lighter, reddish highlights, because I thought it looked more interesting and better. I looked more like everybody else, too.

    But when I stopped a few years ago (I refused to colour my hair during my son’s pregnancy) and deicded to revert to my natural colour, I started getting compliments for the first time in my life on how lovely my hair colour is!

    I guess I’d just convinced myself that coloured was better. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe mother nature knows best regarding our hair colour after all. And society is really good at telling us that one “look” is better than another – if we hear / see it often enough, we sometimes start believing it.

    On that other issue you raised – phthalates and the safety of these chemicals – I just got the scare of my life when I did some heavy research.

    I discovered that a host of hormone disruptors are in all sorts of products that we would have thought we safe, including Tupperware (!!) and baby bottles (!!!), and did a recent blog post on it.

    I think we simply can’t trust companies to look out for us, and what we are told is safe may not be at all. When a profit can be made, safety and all other issues seem to go out the window.

    Thanks for yet another great visual essay.

  • Stacy Malkan says:

    Go Franke! This is awesome. You are a wonderful creative spirit! Thank you for mentioning my book and the work of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. We offer lots of tools and resources to help people make safer choices in the stores and salons.

    One thing I want to clarify about the Compact for Safe Cosmetics – yes there are more than 1200 companies that have signed our pledge and many of them are making truly great and non-toxic products. However, the compact is not a guarantee that the companies are using only safe ingredients, so it’s still important to research products before you buy.

    Hair dye is a particular challenge. I often say that the beauty industry has already figured out how to make safe and effective products in nearly every category — with the exception of hair dyes, hair straighteners and perms (as well as some nail products). Anything that changes the shape and color of hair tends to be quite toxic chemistry.

    Your essay does such a great job of pointing out the big-picture impact of hair dye. Consider that 40% of women in North America color their hair! Girls as young as 10 and 11 are getting on the hair-dye bandwagon, and becoming life-long customers. So given these two points — the toxicity of hair dye, and the massive usage — the best option is … bye bye dye!

    We are starting a page on Facebook devoted to this topic: Bye Bye Hair Dye, as a way to support women in making the change to natural hair. To Dahara’s point, it is true that many women actually look better with their natural hair color, which matches their skin tone. I finally stopped getting the blonde foils, and it was strange at first. People started asking me if I was dying my hair dark! But now I also get a lot of compliments on my natural color. Sometimes I still miss the blonde lightness, but I do save a ton of time and money!

    Just something to think about. Thanks for sharing your important work!
    Stacy Malkan
    Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
    Author, “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry”
    Bye Bye Hair Dye page:

  • Rebecca Gasior Altman says:

    Hi Franke:

    I’m an environmental sociologist by training, and have been following your work for a bit. Can’t remember, now, how I stumbled upon your blog originally, but I have since purchased your book, which is sitting in view of my desk. I am so glad to see you are tackling the intersection between human health and ecological health in this latest illustrated essay! What a fabulous piece. And that you’ve learned about the Campaign. I’ve been tracking research around contaminants in human blood, breastmilk, and umbilical cord blood for a couple years, and have been looking for (hoping for!) someone to make this material visual, to bring an artistic touch to these issues. How happy I am to have found your work. If you ever want to team up on another project, or if I could ever help you get started with references and resources, feel free to contact me. I want to encourage more work like this! And, you’ve inspired me to attempt some of my own. So, an extra helping of thanks for that. Sincerely, Rebecca

  • Franke James says:


    Thank you! A nice surprise to hear that you know of my work and have my book! Wow!

    I’m delighted that you like this new growth phase into — as you put it — the intersection between human health and ecological health. I will definitely take you up on the offer to contact you about future work in this area. Much appreciated!



  • Stacy Malkan says:

    One more thought on safer hair dye — Vijji is correct that henna is a good natural choice for those who want to go darker or red. Doesn’t work for the blondes though!

    Stacy Malkan

  • Franke James says:


    Thanks for the great (and helpful) comments and the gentle push towards going natural….

    Also, my congratulations on the success of “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry.” The fact that it’s now been printed four times shows that you have an important message — and you’ve hit a nerve!

    Keep up the great work!



  • makhijani says:

    Wow, this is fantastic!

  • EJ says:

    But its really part of an even bigger problem: we think that we are not good enough as we are, and need to consume to feel better, or be good enough, or to keep up with the neighbors. As long as our self confidence and sense of worth is based on appearances and status products we will always fall prey to “buy more, newer and better” (clothes, furniture, music, travel, books, garden plants, square feet of living space, car…). Even if “green” consumption is “better” it still has an impact.

    All actions have consequences. A difficult thought to face and live with. Most of our society encourages us to not think, in particular about the hard questions. Let someone else tell you what you need…

  • This is beautifully illustrated, supremely creative piece that definitely gets the point across! While I can’t quite relate to the hair coloring, I made the decision 9 months ago to stop relaxing my hair for similar reasons.

  • Liz Banse says:

    What a clever way to get an important message across, love your creativity! I know my hairdresser will be open to this.

  • Carolyn S. says:

    I forwarded this to a friend who owns the Academy of Hair Design here in Las Vegas. She trains hundreds of cosmetologists every year and she also serves on national committees with other school owners. Seems like a good place to start a movement.
    Love the essay. Love the illustrations. Love you!


  • Franke James says:


    Yeah!! That’s great news. Thank you!

    I’d love to hear from your friend — especially if she has any advice on specific products to use. I can pass it on to some hair salons here in Toronto that need a kickstart!


  • Daharja says:

    Hi Franke – I’ve just written a post at my blog called “Going grey and refusing the bottle!” which was inspired by your visual essay on hair colour. It’s located here, if you’re interested:

    Thanks again for such a great topic and essay :-)

  • Franke James says:


    Excellent article! Entertaining and thorough too. I encourage everyone to check it out — and also keep tabs on your site. You consistently write interesting articles on the environment.

    Going grey and refusing the bottle!



    P.S. Thanks for the “inspired by” credit at the end!

  • […] In July, I spoke at several climate change education events which were organized by Stan Kozak for the Ontario Teachers Federation. Following the McMaster event, teacher Anthony Corvinelli, contacted me to find out whether teachers could use “What’s bothering your green conscience?” to spark cross-disciplinary learning in schools, at the elementary and secondary level. This post is my answer to that question. It’s an overview of the green conscience concept, with an exercise idea at the end.It also inspired me to create this visual essay, The Beehive and the Hairball. […]

  • Lee Marie Oliver says:

    I never realized that the cosmetics, lotions, deoderent or hair dye I was using had lead and toxic chemicals in them. I read food labels now to stay healthy and now I will pay special attention to cosmetic labels. My concern is what about the lipsticks. I purchase the L’Oreal stay-on lipstick… You think the manufacturers are producing safe products… I like your post with the graphics. They get the point across. I definitely am on board with this campaign. It is too bad the bill was squashed in California.

  • Gisele Fourny says:

    I love the creative message!!!

  • Nicole Leal says:

    HI Franke,

    I recently came across your blog through a friend of mine. My name is Nicole Leal and I’m a hairstylist in West Hollywood, CA. Over the past year I have been implementing eco-friendly ideas into the salon that I work at. I’m not a salon owner, but my ways have been more than accepted. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading through your blog. I started blogging almost a year ago and really enjoy it. You can get to my blog either though or I will be writing for a site called and by mid-Feb.


    Nicole Leal
    Color Expert/ Eco- Blogger

  • tiffany says:

    Great article, I will have to check more of this. Will go on and read to a greater extent here as I can see you have done some great work with your site. Keep up the good work!

  • […] The Beehive and the Hairball came about as a result of something that was bothering MY green conscience: the aluminum foils used when my hair is being highlighted. Creating that essay taught me a lot of things and actually got me “Googling” the ingredient list in hair dye products. I ended up with a much different conclusion than I thought I would…. […]

  • Patty says:

    Hi Franke,

    Great article!

    As a salon owner it was really bothering my conscience. Foils are a big part of my work. Recycling will be my first priority.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on brands of colour that are more environmentally friendly?

    My email address:


    Vancouver, BC

  • George says:

    That is just awesome. Thanks!

  • […] our introduction to a “Green Conscience” via Franke James’ website:  It’s a great start on how to blog your thinking! Share this:TwitterFacebookLike […]

  • Frances says:

    Hello Franke,

    Just read recent (May 2013) article in the Montreal Gazette (“Artist says government monitored her eco-book”), then found your website… First the video about being silenced, then the blog about hair-colouring.

    I wish….. women would give up on hair colouring entirely. Some things just carry too big an environmental cost. A person can go “green”, but this works only to a limited extent.

    I long for the day that women truly feel attractive and complete without….. hair colouring, high heels, and makeup. Men don’t do these things for the most part. We women have been brainwashed.

    (I don’t colour my hair, though it would be fun to be blonde. I have sacrificed that desire for the sake of the environment. And high heels? ….. Why wreck my body and also be uncomfortable?…. it never appealed to me.) Makeup?…. lipstick, for special occasions mostly, such as dance performance. Even that, I ask myself…… why?…… Why am I “putting on a face” ?…

    I love your artwork. It’s fabulous!


  • […] knows how to convey gloomy information without being a downer. She takes a relentlessly cheerful, self-deprecating approach to issues too often screamed about by scolds and trolls. (It’s an approach we here at Grist […]

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