How to pick Natural or Organic hair color

April 08, 2018

How to pick Natural or Organic hair color

Is there any such thing as chemical free hair dye?

It’s an interesting topic.

Hair Colour products carry some of the harshest chemicals than any other beauty products on the market, and it seems we’ve accepted this in the name of “Beauty”

Lucky for us technology and market demand is changing all that. But there's still a lot of misconception around Natural or Organic Hair Colour.

Surfing the net there are many blogs and bloggers commenting and analysing all about the ingredients list of these Natural Organic Professional Hair colours.

They will often make comments like “it doesn’t cover grey hair”, “it can’t work efficiently if it doesn't have ammonia in it” or “its just a gimmick and they replace Ammonia with other chemicals just as bad”. 

Just to clear things up. There is "No" such thing as 100% Organic or Natural Professional Hair Colour.

The fact is there really is no such thing as 100% natural/organic professional hair colouring/lightening products on the market.

These products must contain some type of synthetic ingredients to get results that we all want. Articles you read may say “those ingredients are just as bad for you ” so why bother.? And those companies are misleading us. 

Well, my answer to that after being in the industry for many years is to support forward-thinking conscious companies that are making a difference and are looking to remove the harsh chemicals wherever they can and replace them with beneficial ingredients.  

If you can replace with something kinder and safer then why wouldn't you? 

 The landscape for the amount of harsh or RED FLAG INGREDIENTS being used is changing. 

So what's changing?

The Hair colouring process typically contains ingredients like: 

Ammonia; swells the cuticle, so colour can be absorbed. 

PPD’s - Paraphenylenediamine; gives a long-lasting natural look to darker shades of colour.

PTD - toluene - 2,5- diamine ( TD), a sister chemical to PPD.

TDS - toluene 2,5 - diamine sulphate,  

Resorcinol; used to get a certain coloured helps bond the colour to the hair. 

Parabens; a preservative

Fragrances; can contain hidden phthalates

All of the above are potential irritants and can cause shocking allergic reactions in some people. A test patch is always advisable if you have never coloured your hair before. 

The major ingredient of concern lately has been Ammonia. (Natural by the way) 

Ammonia is used in hair colour products to raise the PH and force open the cuticle layer of the hair. Once the cuticle is swollen and open, the colour can penetrate the cortex and do its job inside the hair shaft.

Being a harsh and aggressive ingredient, with continuous use can damage the cuticle layer leaving the cortex vulnerable. And once you have vulnerability in the hair it becomes porous, meaning you lose protein, shine, strength, bounce and your colour fades much quicker.

It also has quite a strong smell, very off-putting for some.

According to the U.S National Library of medicine, there are health risks attached to this ingredient.

And let’s not forget that being applied directly to the scalp, means these chemicals can be directly absorbed by our pores straight into our bloodstream and The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), of yet still cannot confirm whether colouring your hair causes cancer. 

The main issue with these ingredients is they are harsh and can cause irritation and severe allergic reactions. 

And you only have to recolour your hair every 6 weeks - what about your hairdresser using it all day every day, often hairdressers hands are susceptible to dermatitis because of the constant chemical and water usage and their career often cut short because of health issues around skin irritations and respiratory problems.

 The big question is        What's replacing the Ammonia?  

 Ammonia is an ingredient that increases alkalinity to open up the cuticle, so we do need something to do the same job and there two seem to be the favourite replacement. 

 1, Ethanolamine   - an organic chemical compound, often abbreviated as ETA or MEA). It’s derivatives are widespread in nature, e.g lipids

2, Cocomide MEA- derived from coconut.

Like Ammonia, Ethanolamine raises the PH level of the hair, and anything that raises alkalinity to this level is going to be deemed as toxic, and damaging to the hair.   


What do we really need to be careful of? 

 We have a choice to colour our hair or not!

 And if we do decide to colour our hair in a salon, we really need to bear in mind with these PH adjusters is the quantities of the ingredients in the colour being used.

 Ammonia free can still be damaging if the quantities of these other ingredients is high. 

Always pay attention to the “Caution” or “Warning” on the packaging. The minute you see this you know that the levels are high and you should be concerned. So my advise to you is to choose companies that are minimising the use of these ingredients.

1,  A commercial colour warning of the dangers and  2, Natural/Organic Professional Hair Colour Product.  

As you can see the top list contains 16% Ethanolamine 9% Toluene and 6% Resorcinol.

The bottom contains 1% Cocamide MEA and 1,5% Ethanolamine

The Benefits of Natural or Organic professional hair colour.

There are some “Organic” purest’s out there that say all these “Colour” companies that market themselves as "Organic" or "Natural" are not being truthful and are "Green washing" us. 

 I think we just need to bear in mind that if we want to colour our hair, as of today there is no 100% Natural or Organic Professional hair colour on the market and it really is a case of looking at the company as a whole and looking at the ethos of the company and the ingredients in the entire range. 

These colour companies often have a professional range of Natural or Organic shampoo’s, conditioners and styling products to support their colour range and it's here that you can see how natural or organic the company is.

If you want 100% Natural, "Henna" is really the only way to go. 

But there could be complications....

If you do want 100% natural hair colour you are limited to products like Henna, which in its self could have complications. 

There are many different Henna companies on the market and choosing the right one is important.

Henna is generally a Red colour and companies that call themselves a Henna company that have different hues in their range are generally using different ingredients to achieve the colour range. Of which some are chemicals and salts. 

You have to think carefully before embarking on the “Henna journey” because if you change your mind once you have used it, it can be difficult to use a professional colour over the top, especially if you have coloured your hair darker and have changed your mind and want to go lighter. 

Some Henna products could potentially have metallic salts used to enhance the colour in them and many hairdressers will not colour your hair once they know you've been colouring your hair with Henna.

The reaction from strong commercial colours over the top can vary from having a purple or greenish cast to disintegrating completely, depending on the compounds used in the "Henna" product.

Sourcing the right Organic Henna colour that is completely transparent with their ingredients list and has not been adulterated is the key. 

Organic or Natural Colour companies have a duty of care to their loyal and passionate followers.

I do believe these companies have a duty of care to their loyal following if they are to call themselves Organic or Natural and it's up to them to keep researching and updating their ingredients list as new safer ingredients come on the market. 

And thank goodness we have these pioneering companies, that 20 years ago they decided they wanted better and safer. One of these companies is Desert Shadow. They set a benchmark that leads the way for others to follow, forcing big commercial companies to take note and take a look at their ingredients they were using.

We should be saying "Thank you" to these companies for leading the way and opening up the doors for safer products. 


If you enjoyed this article then why not hear more? 

Sandra x

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