Natural Hair Dye: How To Get All-Natural Color At The Salon

Want to get your hair dyed at the salon? Before you go, here's something to think about: Most salons use products that contain harmful chemicals that lead to several health problems such as allergies, throat and lung irritation, and even cancer. In fact, according to a European Commission report of 2006, not one hair dye brand was proven to be safe for consumers. This led to the EU Commission banning 22 harmful ingredients. Sadly, the same does not go for the U.S.: These 22 ingredients are still allowed in the U.S. and are, without a doubt, lurking in hair dyes you'd find at a salon.

To make matters worse, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has confirmed approximately 400 out of 456 of the hair dyes they tested are filled with harmful chemicals. In other words, roughly 56 hair dyes in their SkinDeep database are actually safe to use. That's drastically low. However, the ones that are safe to use are most certainly not the ones you'll find at conventional salons, simply because they are natural and not mainstream brands.

The Solution: Tips For Going All-Natural At A Salon

So what's a person to do? Well, to make sure you get the best, all-natural salon experience you possibly can, I've listed 7 ingredients you need to watch out for in hair dye. That way, when you go to the salon, you have a better idea of what to avoid. All you'll have to do is ask your stylist about the ingredients in the products they're using and request a natural hair dye without any of these chemicals in it. Along with that, here are some other tips that will help make your salon experience as natural as possible:

  • Do your research on a salon before you decide to give them your business. Check out their website and see what services and products they list. If they have any organic coloring options or say they are free of all the chemicals I list below, they're a keeper.
  • You can locate the most eco-friendly and all-natural salons around your area by simply searching "best green hair salons" in your area. For example, if you live in New York, google "best green hair salons in NYC" and see what pops up. You'll be surprised at what you find.
  • Watch out for brands that greenwash. There are a lot of hair salons that claim to be all-natural but don't meet their own standards. Being fully transparent is essential. It's always good to double check with your stylist to see how all-natural your dye really is.
  • Once you've found a green, eco-friendly salon you can trust, ask for demi-permanent hair dye (unless your hair is more than 25 percent grey), as this will be gentler on your hair. Demi-permanent dye washes out with time, while permanent dye is harsher and tends to stick around for much longer.
  • If you prefer a more permanent color, ask your stylist for a permanent dye that contains ingredients like vitamin E, B5, and aloe vera, as your hair will actually benefit from the treatment and display less damage.
  • Feel free to ask your stylist (or the salon in general via email) about their practices. If you're not comfortable with something, or want more information about a specific service, let them know! The whole goal is to accommodate the customer and build a relationship so you'll feel great about going back again.

7 Chemicals To Avoid In Hair Dye

With those tips in mind, it's time to look at some of the most harmful chemicals that could be lurking in your hair dye. Make sure to double check with your stylist that none of these are used in the products you treat your hair with.

  1. PPD (or para-phenylenediamine) – This is typically used as a dye for darker shades and is made from coal tar, a petroleum-derived chemical (ew). It is also used as a wood preservative and contact with the skin should be avoided.
  2. Ammonia – Used to open the hair's cuticle so the dyes can come into the shaft, or the inside of the hair. Often it can produce lung irritation and caustic burns (ouch).
  3. Hydrogen Peroxide – This is used to strip away your natural color before applying the actual hair dye color. It leads to brittle and lackluster hair. Research states that hydrogen peroxide in combination with PPD is extremely toxic and can lead to cancer!
  4. DMDM Hydantoin – This is a preservative that slowly releases the toxic formaldehyde chemical the longer it sits on the shelves (yuck! Need I remind you what formaldehyde is used for?). DMDM hydantoin also kills off bacteria, fungi, and yeast, so it's used in more than just hair dyes (herbicides, copying paper, floor waxes, and inks are just a few other places it's found).
  5. Parabens – These are used as a preservative. Two of the most common parabens are methylparabens and propylparabens.They're widely used in hair care and beauty products and are known for causing skin irritation and severe allergies.
  6. Resorcinol – This is a toxic dye that can cause scalp irritation. It also is an allergen affecting the endocrine system (yeah, no thanks).
  7. Lead Acetate – This is used as a color additive for darker hair dyes. Believe it or not, it's linked to anemia and neurological problems (so stay away!).

It's important to remember that about two-thirds of conventional hair dyes in the U.S. contain PPD (which was banned in Germany, Sweden, and France, mind you). That's why it's so important to avoid these ingredients and follow my suggestions (listed above the chemicals). Choose a green hair salon you can trust that uses products free of these seven chemicals. If you're not sure what's in the hair dye your salon uses, just ask. By all means, you have a right to know all the products that go near or in your body. And if the salon gives you an attitude about it, forget them. No business is worth your time if it sacrifices your health in the process.