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Natural Beauty

Safe Ways to Color Your Hair

Many women wonder whether or not it is safe to color their hair. Some read the warning labels on the box and assume that chemicals that can cause allergic reactions and blindness cannot be good for them. Others don’t think twice about coloring their hair until they find they are expecting and wonder if hair coloring is safe while pregnant.

Are hair dyes safe? Are they safe to use if they don’t touch your scalp or skin? What about those toxic fumes? These are many questions that women who color their hair and cannot bear the thought of mousy or gray locks, have to know.

It is important to remember first of all, that just because you do not see or feel an immediate reaction, that a chemical is not harming you. Some chemicals build up in your body and add to your chemical body burden, causing cancer or other disease years later. Chemicals may also cause seemingly unrelated problems, such as infertility that you will never associate with the beauty or cleaning products you were exposed to throughout your lifetime. When you use chemicals on or near your body, you are essentially performing a science experiment on yourself and your family that you will never know the results of.

That is why you should not put products on your skin or breathe the fumes of products that you are not willing to eat. This is especially true if you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant or breastfeeding, because a developing fetus or newborn baby is especially vulnerable to toxic chemicals. Just because you have colored your hair without an immediate reaction does not mean that there are no potential dangers. If there is a possibility that your newborn will suffer reproductive difficulties in twenty years or have cancer in forty because you colored your hair while pregnant or breastfeeding, would you still do it?

Hair dye, like other cosmetics and personal care products, is not regulated for safety. The government is not looking out for your welfare so it is up to you to research the products that you wish to use to determine if they are safe to use or not. Roughly 400 out of the 456 hair colors ranked at the Skin Deep cosmetics database of the Environmental Working Group are considered high hazard, which means they contain toxic ingredients linked to cancer, developmentive and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, organ toxicity, not to mention allergies and irritation of the eyes, skin or lungs.

Whats a girl to do? Women are programmed at every turn to avoid the appearance of aging. We lust after luscious Aniston-esque bronde (yes bronde) high and low lighted shimmering locks. This is a conundrum of the highest magnitude. If you are a women who has always colored your hair, the thought of simply going natural one day is unthinkable. Friends and family would have opinions and comments, much of which will be unsolicited and possibly not so nice. If you are largely gray under your color, then you may face a certain amount of discrimination in the workplace. Forget about being seen as an attractive woman when you are out on the street unless you live in a commune.

Fortunately there are safer options for coloring your hair that will leave less of an impact on your body burden and the earth and will also allow you to wear your hair with confidence and pride. It is important to remember that no amount of color can compensate for a poor haircut. The first rule of hair care is to get a really great cut. The second rule is to keep your hair in great condition. If you have healthy hair and a fabulous cut, then hair color becomes a complement rather than the center stage on your head.

Generally speaking, the more permanent the color, the more toxic the product is. Semi-permanent and temporary colors are much less toxic than permanent colors. Darker colors have been shown to be more toxic than blonde and red shades. Hennas, herbal dyes, vegetable dyes and food based ingredients are the least toxic of all and can leave your hair luscious, healthy and full of shine. If you do insist on a permanent color then there are some smart ways to reduce your exposure to the toxins from hair dyes.

Safe Salon Hair Color
Salons are a safer environment than your home for hair coloring in some ways and a more toxic environment in other ways. because they often highlight/lowlight sections of hair rather than the whole head and the solution rarely touches the scalp. Salons are also usually larger and better ventilated than your bathroom is. You may still get all over hair coloring at a salon by request or prior to the highlights. If you receive all over color plus highlights then you are getting the double whammy of chemicals. You are also exposed to the fumes of every other person getting their hair chemically treated that day.

The easiest way to minimize your chemical exposure at the hair salon is to seek out a chemical free, odor free or herbal hair salon that caters to patients with multiple chemical sensitivity, allergies or cancer. This will also benefit you when you are visiting the salon for a cut because you will not be exposed to the secondhand coloring toxins.

You can also seek out an environmentally friendly salon because many of the same chemicals that harm your body also harm the earth either in the manufacture or disposal process. Many salon employees now suffer from multiple chemical sensitivity themselves or they are trying to avoid the cancers that they are more predisposed to than non-salon workers.

Search for salons that use Ecocolors, Hybrid or European brands. Some salons use infrared technology to open up the hair shaft to absorb color rather than peroxides and ammonias. Tell the salon that you suffer from MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity) and they can point you in the right direction if they are unable to accommodate your needs.

Safer Home Hair Color:
You cannot beat the price and convenience of home hair coloring. While you miss out on the spa treatments, the cappuccino and the professional highlights, you can give yourself a quick boost and cover your gray for less than $20, wearing your pajamas, in less than an hour.

In addition to being exceptionally toxic however, home hair dyes can leave your hair one dimensional with flat, lifeless unicolor that has been clearly colored at home. Natural, healthy hair has multiple colors and tones that the salons are always trying to emulate.

A great solution to the toxic, unicolor home dyes are henna based dyes which can also cover your gray. Henna is plant based, totally safe and non-toxic. Henna enhances your natural color rather than totally covering it, which allows some of your natural highlights to come through. Henna coats and seals the hair shaft so it not only products your hair from environmental and weather related damage, but it also makes your hair gleam.

Look for home based hair dyes that are henna or herb based, and do not contain PPD, ammonia, peroxide, heavy metals, pesticides or other chemicals. In addition, you probably want to seek a product that is environmentally friendly and not tested on animals. Another way of choosing a safe brand, is to check the Cosmetics Database for products that are rated low hazard (0-2) on the safety scale such as the Light Mountain line of hair colors.

Herbal Home Hair Color
A variety of herbs have been used throughout history to color hair. Using herbs, food or infusions is the safest, non-toxic and gentle way to color your hair. The changes to your hair are often more subtle, take much more time to see a noticeable difference and are frequently temporary. While the rinses and infusions will often condition your hair, you can also add some Vitamin E, Wheatgerm Oil, Avocado Oil or any other hair healthy oil to your rinses for extra shine and conditioning.

There is a great selection of shampoos, conditioners and styling products on the market today that will enhance and protect every color of hair from brunette to gray. This is a much more convenient alternative to creating your own infusions and rinses but most of these products still come with a toxic pricetag. You can check the cosmeticsdatabase to see if you want to take that risk otherwise whip up an infusion and treat yourself to old-school hair enhancing with no toxic additions to your body burden. Create an infusion by boiling the herbs in water then cooling and straining prior to using the rinse.

Brunette Rinses:

  • Rinse your hair with the cooled water left after boiling unpeeled potatoes.
  • Rinse with teas made from Rosemary, Sage, Raspberry leaves, Parsley, or Catnip
  • Rinse with black Coffee or black Tea
  • Rinse with an infusion of Tea, Walnuts and Coffee
  • Rinse with and infustion of Apple Cider Vinegar, Rosemary and Coffee .

Blonde Rinses:

  • Rinse with infusions or teas made from Saffron, Turmeric, Calendula (marigold), Mullein.
  • Rinse with an infusion of Avena Sativa (oat straw), Licorice Root and Saffron
  • Rinse with Chamomile tea
  • Boil chopped rhubarb in water then cool, strain and rinse hair with water.

Red Hair Rinses:

  • Rinse hair with cool, strong black Coffee
  • Rinse with teas made from Rosehips, Red Hibiscus, Caledula or Saffron

Gray Hair Rinses:

  • Use a Hollyhock infusion or Betony rinse to remove the yellow from gray hair.

Find great recipes for hair infusions and rinses at Geocities/Heartland/Prarie, and Vegfamily.

Visit to find the safest hair coloring products for Brunettes, Blondes, Redheads and Graceful Grays.

About the author

Natural Living – who has written posts on A Much Better Way.


41 Responses to “Safe Ways to Color Your Hair”

  1. Hello! Found your blog on yahoo while searching for Healthy Natural Makeup And Skin Care – quite some good info thanks, Kasper P.

    Posted by Healthy Natural Makeup And Skin Care | January 25, 2008, 2:03 am
  2. Great great great advice. Generally speaking, some women are sacrificing their health for their beauty and in the long run we all know it isn’t as worth it as it may have seemed. Skin bleaching, hair dying and mostly any cosmetic service should be thoroughly researched before proceeding with it but sometimes we’re blinded for our lust for beauty.

    Again, great article.

    Posted by Chris | March 26, 2009, 4:46 pm
  3. I think reading the warning labels and following what they tell you to do should help keep you safe for the most part. Common sense will help as well.

    Posted by Philip | April 15, 2009, 11:35 am
  4. There are always natural ways to dye your hair. If you you have fairly light color hair and want to go blonde, try using lemon juice. The process takes longer and you might not always get the perfect color you want. My hair is naturally black and it turns reddish brown when I use lemon juice.

    Posted by Kate | June 24, 2009, 3:47 pm
  5. i like this. a safer way to hide my white hair.

    Posted by Jan | July 2, 2009, 10:37 am
  6. natural ways to dyeing hair? wow… i must admit this is my first time hearing this.
    Sounds intriguing and i think i will give it a try.
    I already eat natural only food, might as well live out my entire lifestyle naturally too!

    Posted by kitkat | October 15, 2009, 10:21 am
  7. I wonder if my hair stylist would be able to provide me with henna hair colors. Honestly, I never thought about it before. Fortunately, the few times I do get my hair colored, I use semi-permanent, so it washes out with time. But I never considered that it might not be healthy for me. Time for me to have a talk with my stylist. Thanks for the information.

    Posted by Kara | October 24, 2009, 4:34 am
  8. Professional hair color is the only safe hair color that you get the expected results! Hello hair color is hair color…ammonia is in all hair color whether it says it directly or not! Henna is unpredictable, and face it when you mess up your hair you are going running for your stylist in hopes of perfect hair again! I think the reccomendation of the article should have supported more towards that fact that professional hair color is the only way to go…i mean you wouldnt expect yourself to do brain surgery…you want doctors to do that..same should go for your hair! That is a cosmetologist job!

    Posted by kayla | November 23, 2009, 1:54 pm
  9. Great advice you have here. I have never dyed my hair before and have recently been thinking to go from blonde to brown. I have found this information very helpful and will now think about dying my hair a bit more :) Scary stuff!

    Posted by Leanne | December 16, 2009, 1:34 pm
  10. Are the herbal hair coloring as effective as the other ones? Perhaps more research should go on this to avoid hazards brought about by the toxic chemicals especially when used at home.

    Posted by Brooklyn Hair Extensions | January 29, 2010, 7:12 am
  11. Great advice. I have used a home dye kit only once and I was allergic to something in the product. It was terrifying, but wish I had done a skin test first! I wont use the kits again but this is great warning!

    Posted by Jen | February 15, 2010, 4:00 am
  12. I have been trying to get pregnant for years, and I’m happy to say that it just happened

    Posted by Natural Pregnancy | February 26, 2010, 9:36 am
  13. I have to die my hair often and really value the tips listed above. Along with the safety guidelines, is there one for waxing a face? I am tired of shaving each day and could really use any tips.

    Posted by denver mens waxing | April 21, 2010, 8:11 pm
  14. This is great informative and nice article.

    Posted by Hair Transplant Pakistan | April 26, 2010, 12:09 am
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  16. Where's a great place to live for a 28 s/f that's inhabited by liberal-minded, natural living oriented people?

    Posted by James | July 22, 2010, 2:10 pm
  17. Hair transplant is a surgical technique that involves moving skin containing hair follicles from one part of the body (the donor site) to bald or balding parts (the recipient site). It is primarily used to treat male pattern baldness, whereby grafts containing hair follicles that are genetically resistant to balding are transplanted to bald scalp.

    Posted by jhon5 | August 21, 2010, 4:42 am
  18. This is some excellent advice. To many men and woman go to color their hair and end up frying it because both the process used and the actual product it self is wrong. I’m going to use this advice for my own grey coverage. Unfortunatley, I’ve learned the hard way.

    Posted by Medusa from Hair Extensions Salon Chicago | September 5, 2010, 8:25 am
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    Posted by Manic panic amplified, manic panic hair color, rusk product | September 13, 2010, 2:24 am
  20. A compare and contrast feature on hair coloring options from chemical to organic. Includes information on hair care consequences and EC directives.

    Posted by manic panic hair color | September 29, 2010, 12:17 am
  21. Great writeup!

    Posted by tim | October 9, 2010, 2:00 pm
  22. Much nice info is presented in the article I was unknown of :)

    Posted by tommyboy | October 17, 2010, 2:28 am
  23. Hi there, as a coffee lover, I’ve never thought of putting coffee on my hair, although once, my wife threw a (cold) cup of coffee over me (didn’t do anything for my grey though.
    Just a question – does it matter on the type of coffee (and I guess a frothy cappuccino wouldn’t help;))

    Posted by Andrew | October 17, 2010, 2:21 pm
  24. Fortunately I don’t dye my hair but if I did, I wouldn’t want to use hazardous products.

    Posted by Leo | November 3, 2010, 7:52 am
  25. Hello Healthy, I am also interested in this. (See my latest blog post for details.) Your article is really great to read, you’ve most certainly provided me with some food for thought.

    All the best,

    Posted by Jessica | November 3, 2010, 6:38 pm
  26. I must say, your site has to be the most well written weblogs that I have read in a number of years.What I wouldn’t give be able to distribute posts which are as intriguing| as the one you have. I guess I’ll need to continue reading the one you have and hope that one evening I can create on a matter with just as much knowledge as you have.

    Posted by Spa cover | December 20, 2010, 10:44 am
  27. hi,

    after reading your very good article, a good effort, could you please mention some basic tip to find a good hair color.

    i will wait for this, many other too


    Posted by Hair Transplant in Pakistan | December 29, 2010, 9:23 am
  28. (Where’s a great place to live for a 28 s/f that’s inhabited by liberal-minded, natural living oriented people?
    Posted by James from buy tent | July 22, 2010, 2:10 pm)

    Durango or Boulder Colorado. Durango is smaller but full of liberal minded and health oriented people. They have more health food and health grocery stores for its size than about any other city that size. Boulder is bigger and of course liberal and health oriented too.

    Posted by JohnL | February 6, 2011, 10:40 pm
  29. Very good content and seriously aids with understanding the subject matter better.

    Posted by Karyl Doom | April 19, 2011, 4:18 am
  30. Professional hair color is the only safe hair color that you get the expected results! Hello hair color is hair color…heavy water and ionic discharge are in all hair color whether it says it directly or not! The article should have supported more towards that fact that professional hair color is the only way to go…i mean you wouldnt expect yourself to brush your own teeth, would you…you want your dentist to do that..same should go for your hair! That is a cosmetologist job!

    Posted by Kalala | May 21, 2011, 8:24 am
  31. Great tips! I am a professional hairdresser and I encourage people to seek healthy and natural beauty rituals becuase in my opinion true beauty is a reflection of your body and mind state.

    Be aware that should you choose an alternative method to color your hair (especially henna) you can NOT color your hair with professional haircolor as the reaction would cause your hair to melt, this includes perms. If you are unsure and are seeking haircolor, a good hairdresser can perform a test with a small sample of hair. A positive result for a reaction is a swelling of the hairshaft with smoke and fumes being emitted. If the test is positive you can not color your hair. I am unsure if other natural alternatives cause similar reactions but precaution is advised.

    My advice is to educate yourself about the risks and find a hairdresser who will put saftey above beauty. For instance the FDA requires a predisposition test be done 48 hours before any chemical service to test for allergies. Allergies to haircolor are aquired, so just because you may not have had a reaction to haircolor before means nothing. The more frequently you color your hair the greater the risk.

    If you have ever had a reaction to haircolor do not attempt to color your hair with a professional haircolor. Do not see a hairdresser who does not insist on a predisposition test before haircolor.

    Posted by Gordon | May 26, 2011, 6:56 am
  32. great advice

    Posted by lyn | May 29, 2011, 8:40 pm
  33. This is the safest way you can color your hair.

    Posted by Black Hair Extensions | July 12, 2011, 4:13 am
  34. Hair Transplant is one of the alternative and efficient solution of Hair Fall.Cosmetic surgery and hair transplant in India is becoming very common at very affordable cost. It is provided with par with west with least error . People from USA and UK are visiting to get treatment in India

    Posted by Gabaru | July 27, 2011, 11:02 am
  35. I guess after all this information the best choice to do, no matter if you color your hair at home or at the salon, is basically try to use organic hair products as often as you can. Thanks for sharing such great tips.

    Posted by Igor | August 9, 2011, 12:14 am
  36. Thank you, I have just been searching for info about this topic for ages and yours is the best I’ve found out till now. But, what in regards to the conclusion? Are you certain in regards to the source?

    Posted by Special Fitness Store does the business for fitness supplements | August 19, 2011, 7:48 am
  37. Thanks for the read. Very informative. I used coffee and black tea over the weekend. I love it. Personally I have never had luck with chemical dyes (professional application or otherwise).

    Posted by Alysse | August 22, 2011, 8:34 am
  38. Hairdye chemicals build in the body and organs.

    Patch tests are not reliable.

    Use a cap, apply lightest color first for natural youthful highlights over bold-roots, upkeep,
    solid-color look, exposure.

    Posted by Karen | March 1, 2012, 4:57 am
  39. hi,
    I believe good hair is hair that can be style in any way, shape, or form. It doesn’t need a curling iron, flat iron,or a perm (of any kind). Let me put it to you this way, He’s looking for a bald woman. After all, bald is so quite.
    Black hair extensions

    Posted by peterjems | March 23, 2012, 1:20 pm
  40. Hi! Does the blonde natural dye actually work?! Want to try but scared.

    Posted by Sydney | February 28, 2013, 12:27 am


  1. […] There are many options for the health conscious when it comes to altering the color of your hair, but these certainly aren’t the only way to avoid harsh chemicals. Many salons and even a few at home brands now offer eco-friendly products with far less damage to you and the environment. Some of these items contain vegetable oils and are used a rinse rather than a full coverage job, which allows for your normal color to be retained while still adding a little something extra to your look. This means that those who prefer their dos to be left in the hands of a trained professional can keep their stylists and still benefit from gentle hair care. Of course, the fact still stands that nothing is as natural as using ingredients from nature, which has been suggested by experts in the field: […]

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