Natural hair dye

Do you dye your hair? If you do, you’re in good company: According to The Washington Times, as many as 75% of American women get their color from a bottle. But does safe hair dye exist?  First a primer.

There are three main types of hair dyes on the market today:

  1. Temporary dyes coat but don’t penetrate the hair shaft, and can last for through just a few shampoos.
  2. Semi-permanent dyes penetrate the hair shaft and can last for a few weeks or months (depending on your hair type and how often you wash it).
  3. Permanent hair dyes penetrate and change the hair shaft—remaining permanent until new hair grows in.

In conventional hair dyes, you can find coal tar, peroxide, ammonia and benzene—just to name a few. Lead acetate, still found in some American hair dyes, is banned for cosmetic use in the European Union because it’s a neurotoxin that can actually cause fetal mortality if you use it when you’re pregnant. Yikes.

The American Cancer Society stops short at linking hair dye to cancer, but it does warn of allergic reactions and hair loss.

dark hair on female
Image courtesy of Cristiana Gasparotto

Even “natural” ammonia-free hair dyes can contain hydroxytoluene and aminophenol, among others, which rank “6” on the Skin Deep Database because of concerns about allergic reactions and cancer. The one truly natural hair dye option is henna, which is naturally derived from plants—but can be challenging to apply.

Want to get great color with less chemicals? Look for a natural hair color brand that’s free of coal tar, peroxide, ammonia, benzene, lead acetate, propylene glycol and resorcinol, while maintaining low or zero levels of PPD, also known as pigment. (EcoColors, which offers PPD-free options and Tints of Nature both provide permanent and semi-permanent options.)

When it comes to toxic chemicals in hair dye, the point is to minimize your exposure. Truly safer hair dye. You minimize your exposure by first using less hair dye. And you use less hair dye by making your new color last.

After using hair dye, wait 72 hours before washing, then wash again only every 48 hours. On the off day, rinse your hair with hot water to combat oil, and/or use a natural hair powder. On the wash day, use sulfate-free shampoo and condition with a combination of 1/3 apple cider vinegar and 2/3 shampoo; according to stylists, the vinegar actually helps the hair dye to remain bonded to the hair.


Feature image courtesy of Gemma Bou

By Rachel Sarnoff

Rachel, better known as Mommy Greenest, blogs about healthier living with less judgment. A journalist and the former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World, Rachel has been interviewed on programs such as "TODAY," "CNN Headline News" and "Good Day LA,". She believes you shouldn't have to be a scientist to make healthy choices, and serves as a resource for information on the topic.