hair, Skin

Finding Non-Toxic (at home) Hair Color


Do you color your hair? I do. And I have since I was about fourteen years old. I would buy a box of L’Oreal hair color, head to the basement where I’d lean over the work sink and apply the heavily ammonia scented mixture. Then I’d settle down with a Danielle Steele novel and wait the thirty minutes for the color to take. 

My hair coloring journey started when a boy in my class, one who always teased and tormented me, said I had ugly hair. That was it! I had to do something about it other than spray it with Sun-In. So I started coloring it and never stopped. My hair is naturally blond but for some reason, the front of my hair grows in darker than the rest and it bothers me because I’m vain. I wish I could let it go natural but I can’t, maybe someday.

Until fairly recently, I didn’t even know safe at home color options existed. Over the years I had tried chamomile, lemon juice and peroxide, and henna but those only slightly enhanced the color, not changed it. For many years my favorite hair color brand was the Clairol Perfect Ten. But when I went natural…I wanted to commit to being as non-toxic as I could. And this included hair color. (I will add the disclaimer than I do get my hair professionally colored a few times a year and I know the salon doesn’t use non- toxic color)

Most hair dyes contain ingredients such as toluene, coal tar, ammonia and lead. In *Europe, there are 22 banned hair dye ingredients that can potentially cause bladder cancer- but they are not banned here. Dark hair dyes used over the years have also been linked to certain cancers.

“A 2001 International Journal of Cancer study found people who use permanent hair dye are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as those who don’t dye.”

Like nail polishes, hair dyes by nature cannot be totally non-toxic, hair dyes require various chemicals, both toxic and non, to make the color stick. Chemical dyes take out natural color and replace with synthetics- over time this wears hair down and makes it worn and brittle.

Even natural dyes have dangerous chemicals such as ethanolamine, a form of ammonia and paraphenylene diamine andresorcinol, which come from benzene, a known carcinogen. And here’s an interesting fact: The FDA doesn’t regulate hair dye ingredients (synthetic or natural).

One of the worst ingredients is  p-phenylenediamine (PPD) which causes allergies and cancer. Nice! And here’s the kicker- this chemical is found in all permanent hair dyes since its what gives the dye the ability to be permanent. Hair color that boasts no PPD will surely replace this dangerous chemical with something equally toxic such as lead, mercury or heavy metals.

Yes you can find pure henna rinses (which may contain metallic salts) which coat the hair not bleach it, and vegetable dyes but these just don’t work as well as the more toxic hair colors at covering gray  hair or lightening hair color. 

The least toxic of the home hair color bunch include Herbatint which contains a low level of PPD and my personal favorite, Naturtint. 

I like Naturtint because it “is ammonia-free and paraben-free hair color and does NOT contain, resorcinol, silicones, paraffin, mineral oils, heavy metals, artificial fragrances, SLS, or formaldehyde derivatives.” It does not have a heavy odor and while it is not as natural as I wish it would be, its as natural as a home hair color can possibly be.

Do you color your hair? Will you seek out some natural alternatives to drugstore favorites?

*Toxic Hair Dye Ingredients Banned in Europe:

4,5-Diamino-1-((4-Chlorophenyl)Methyl)-1H-Pyrazole Sulfate
5-Amino-4-Fluoro-2-Methylphenol Sulfate
3,4-Diaminobenzoic acid
Solvent Red 1 (CI 12150)
Acid Orange 24 (CI 20170
Acid Red 73 (CI 27290)


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