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Ladies, you might just want to put down the box of hair dye and step away. The Environmental Working Group recommends avoiding all hair dyes containing ammonia, peroxide, p-phenlyenediamine and diaminobenzene. These unpronounceable, scary-sounding ingredients are not good for your body, your hair or the environment. Finding natural, ammonia- and peroxide-free hair hair dye that actually covers gray and lasts, however, can be a challenge.
A study in the July 1992 edition of the “American Journal for Public Health” found an increased risk of certain types of cancer correlated with the use of hair dyes, especially dark versions. A 2005 meta-analysis in “Public Health Results” notes that an association between using hair dye and increased risk of bladder cancer exists. Even though ammonia and peroxide are not the compounds associated with these increased cancer risks, these harsh chemicals leave your hair dry and vulnerable to breakage. Getting gorgeous mahogany browns or coppery reds shouldn’t be so difficult, but most natural dyes that do not contain ammonia and peroxide offer fleeting results. The color just doesn’t stay put — so you might go back and tolerate the fumes of permanent dye just to get the head of hair you want.
What's Wrong with Ammonia and Peroxide
Ammonia and peroxide break down the cuticle, or outer layer, of each strand of hair so that color can penetrate. The problem is, the breakdown is permanent — so the more you dye your hair, the more porous it becomes. It loses its ability to hold onto moisture and ultimately becomes more fragile. While topical conditioners can help restore some moisture temporarily, you should try to avoid doing the damage in the first place. In addition to causing hair damage, ammonia and peroxide give off noxious fumes that almost knock you over when you walk into a salon. For sensitive people, these odors can cause serious respiratory complications and headaches. Contact with ammonia or peroxide can also cause burning or rashes.
Semi-permanent dyes contain no ammonia or peroxide but may contain other chemicals instead. The same goes for the newer ammonia-free permanent dyes on the market. The absence of ammonia or peroxide does not automatically make a dye safe — it just makes it ammonia- and peroxide-free.
You can find plant-based dyes in health-food stores and natural-beauty markets. These dyes are derived from the roots, leaves and barks of certain plants. Instead of ripping up the cuticle to allow dye to penetrate, these dyes coat the cuticle with color. As a result, however, they may wash out more easily. Henna is one of the best known and safest natural hair dyes. Henna fades in about four to six weeks, but you can easily recolor often because it does not damage to your hair.