From farm fresh produce to sustainable clothing, the green revolution is transforming nearly every industry. Organic alternatives to some of our favorite products are more accessible than ever, making it easy to cut out the chemicals and go all-natural. But how well do these all-natural alternatives work? And how “all-natural” are they anyway? These are important questions to consider when making the switch to organic products, especially when it comes to hair dye. While traditional hair dyes work, they come with a risk of allergic reaction, skin irritation, and hair damage. Yikes. These pesky problems make organic hair dye all the more appealing. But changing up your color routine can be nerve-racking, and when it comes to getting that perfect hue there is no room for error. To get the facts on going green, we sat down with Sayaka Lee, founder of the organic salon Blow Me Away, for a crash course on these natural color alternatives. Read on to find out everything you need to know about organic hair dye.
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1. No Permanent Dye is 100% Organic
Sorry to disappoint, but 100% permanent organic hair dye does not exist. Our tresses are naturally acidic, so an alkaline pH adjuster is applied during the coloring process to open the cuticle and deposit the dye, allowing for long-lasting, permanent color. Unfortunately there are no alternatives to synthetic pH adjusters, so organic dyes must include this chemical component.
2. Organic Dyes May Be Safer Than Traditional Dyes
What separates organic dyes like salon-favorites Natulique and O&M from conventional dyes is the amount and type of chemical utilized to adjust the pH. Many chemical dyes use ammonia to achieve that permanent hue. Ammonia has been linked to a number of negative side effects for clients and salon professionals alike, including skin irritation and respiratory problems. “What’s most important is that organic dye is safe for stylists and clients who have an allergy to traditional color” says Lee. While most chemical dyes are FDA approved and widely accepted as safe to use, organic dyes often opt for less harsh chemical pH adjusters, like the coconut oil-derived chemical MEA.
3. Herb and Vegetable Dyes are 100% Organic
While there is no permanent organic solution to the hair dyeing conundrum, there is a temporary alternative: herb and vegetable dyes. The most popular pick in this category is henna. Henna dye is a plant-based dye derived from the lawsonia inermis shrub. These dyes are 100% organic and all-natural, containing no synthetic chemicals. Instead of opening the cuticle to artificially color the hair, henna dyes simply coat the outside of the strand. The effect is less intense and more variable than permanent dyeing techniques, but the coloring process with henna dye is much less damaging. In fact, many henna dyes contain cocoa butter and natural oils to condition and soften hair.
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4. Organic Dyes Can Work As Well As Traditional Dyes
The idea that organic dyes are less effective than conventional chemical dyes is a total myth. “We use O&M color. Their color system contains Molecular Blend Technology (MBT)” Lee shares, “their color also lasts just as long as traditional color with proper at home care. It provides maximum grey coverage without the need for ammonia.” Because organic dyes utilize the same process of opening the cuticle and depositing dye, the results should last just as long and the color should be just as vibrant as when using chemical dyes.
5. Organic Doesn’t Mean Damage Free
Permanent organic hair dye is not completely damage-free. Any chemical-containing dye can cause damage to your mane. Permanent organic dyes are often up to 98% natural, meaning they still contain some synthetic chemicals (like the pH adjuster mentioned above). However it’s much less damaging than traditional color. “The activator base is certified organic oil” explains Lee, “it is free of ammonia, PPD, and resorcinol.” According to Lee, organic dyes can also reduce oxidative stress on scalp which promotes hair growth.