Are there eco-friendly hair dyes? Will they cover grey?
Carol of Calgary

Eco-friendlier hair dyes do exist.

Avoid ammonia, petrochemicals, sulfates, phthalates, parabens and P-phenylenediamine (PPD).

It’s hard to find permanent colours that don’t contain PPD. PPD-free products often use aminophenols – people allergic or sensitive to PPD may react to those, too. Find a hairdresser educated in the prefixes of these chemicals.

Before you book, ask the salon about ingredients. The more of us that ask, the quicker they’ll catch on. 

It’s for their own good – PPD can cause cancer and be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain.

Many eco-friendlier dyes are henna- or vegetable-based (from roots and fruits), others are oil-based.
Some are paired with hydrogen peroxide to help the colour last longer.

Note: many hennas don’t disclose ingredients, but labels may list leaves of aslawsonia inermis and indigoferae tinctoria, walnut, or pure indigo.

So called black henna may be derived from indigo (from the plant indogoferae tinctoria), but may also contain PPD. Those sensitive to PPD should avoid black henna.

Most vegetable-based colours are called stains – they coat the hair but aren’t absorbed below the cuticle of the shaft. Ingredients will be similar to henna but may contain dispersed inks (like pigments used in tattoos).

Greys need a small percentage of chemicals to have true permanent coverage.

Most natural colours are grey-blending more than grey-covering.

Do-it-yourselfers can find non-toxic options in health food stores or organic grocers.

If you like bright reds, violets or gold and have naturally lighter hair; lily stamens or belladonna flower, turmeric or even beet juice can do a wonderful job of tinting the hair and even refresh older highlights.

Always wear gloves.

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