“Beauty is pain” can very well be the mantra of women everywhere as they endure so much discomfort, and even potential health hazards, just to look good—wearing uncomfortable high heels (but they look cute!), putting on itchy false eyelashes (but they’re sexy!), and using scalp-burning, hair-damaging hair dyes (but it looks great!).
Fortunately, there’s a way to get a different hair color without the potentially harmful chemicals that come with it. If you’re looking for mild hair color, then consider going the more natural route.
All hair dyes contain chemicals, but not all chemicals are bad ones. (Case in point: Water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, making it a chemical.) Six of the harmful ones you should steer clear of are:
- PPDs (p-Phenylenediamine). Virtually all commercially available hair dyes contain PPDs, which have been linked to a host of healthy concerns. The key is to look for something with a low PPD content of less than 1% (5 to 6% is already considered very high).
- The Environmental Working Group states that the main concerns of resorcinol exposure are endocrine disruption and irritation.
- Not as alarming as PPDs, though it can still cause irritation and damage hair.
- Methylparabens and propylparabens are two of the most widely used in hair color and may cause irritation.
- The U.S. Food and Safety Drug Administration hasn’t found any conclusive evidence that phthalates have negative effects on health, but the ingredient is continuously being monitored.
- It’s not just food that affects those who have celiac disease or a gluten allergy. Even hair dyes that contain gluten can cause a reaction.
If you still want to color your hair, check the ingredients list and go for those without harmful chemicals. Three of your options for natural hair color are:
Henna Powder. Made from the leaves of the laswonia inermis plant, henna has been used since ancient times in such places as the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula, Eastern Europe, and Africa. The leaves of the plant are dried, ground into a powder, and combined with water (and sometimes other ingredients like lemon) to be used as hair and fabric dye.
Natural henna gives a vibrant red tint to hair when applied. Sometimes it is mixed with Cassia obovate and indigo to produce other shades like brown or black. Unlike most commercially available hair dyes, henna has no harmful chemicals, thereby reducing allergic reactions, and improves hair texture by coating the hair cuticle instead of penetrating it.
The absence of chemicals also means that hair is less prone to breakage, so you don’t have to worry about losing hair. Henna also fades gradually, so you won’t see an obvious, unsightly line between your colored hair and natural hair color once it grows out. (Use products for color-treated hair and conditioner to extend the life of your hair color.)
But henna powder isn’t without its inconveniences. Mixing the powder with water and applying it onto hair can get messy. Henna can stain everything—it’s used for temporary tattoos after all—so make sure you use gloves and wear an old t-shirt when applying it.
Applying petroleum jelly to your forehead, neck, around your neck, and behind your ears will keep the color from staining your skin.
It also takes more time to apply and absorb, and the color isn’t predictable—this depends entirely on your natural hair color, so results may vary.
Henna Cream. Henna cream is also made of the natural stuff henna powder is made of, except it comes in an easier-to-apply cream form.
The difference is henna powder is made entirely from the plant, while henna cream has other ingredients, typically other natural plant ingredients like aloe vera and Brazil nut, to create a wider range of colors. If you’re looking for an easier way to apply henna and more color options, then henna cream may be for you.
Natural Hair Dye. The Good Housekeeping Institute stresses that other than henna, all other dyes contain synthetic substances for them to work, but it’s a matter of choosing which substances you’ll put on your tresses.
In an interview with Good Housekeeping, master colorist Madison Reed says that people are now looking for a “six-free” formula, or hair color that doesn’t contain the six ingredients listed above, which are a mix of active ingredients, preservatives, and contaminates.
If you’re health-conscious as well as eco-conscious, look for brands that don’t test on animals and that come in environmentally friendly packaging. Head to your nearest Healthy Options to see a range of available natural hair color brands.