There’s a buzz circling the hair community lately. Rumors are, hair dyes might bid ammonia — their companion for a lot of years — a goodbye. More and more people are looking for a safer option to color their hair without having to deal with the side effects of ammonia. Of course, there will always be those DIYs but manufacturers of hair dyes are also up to meet the demand for the best hair color without ammonia. But do they really work or just a fad? Before we get down to that, let’s discuss the issues with ammonia and how it really affects our hair.
- What Ammonia Does to Your Hair
- But just how bad can it be?
- More Reasons to Ditch Ammonia: It’s toxic to your health
- How does the best hair colour without ammonia works?
- Is it worth it?
- 5 Best Hair Colour Without Ammonia
- And the best hair color without ammonia goes to…
What Ammonia Does to Your Hair
Most people may not know but the process of dying hair is more complex than depositing new color to your hair. We certainly don’t want to bore you with chemistry stuff because we know you already had enough in high school but let’s get a bit of a refresher here. Remember those litmus paper tests you used to do in school to test the alkalinity or acidity of a substance? It’s worth note-taking that human hair is naturally acidic. Most commercial hair dyes are made up of ammonia, a popular alkaline solution.
What happens when ammonia gets applied to the hair is it produces an alkalizing effect. This eventually raises the pH level of the hair, opening up your hair cuticles (outer layer of the hair shaft) and busting through the cortex (the layer next to cuticle). This allows the dye to be absorbed and the main reason why ammonia is critical to the dyeing process.
The process, however, comes with a major drawback. Notice that after dyeing hair it often feels dry? That’s because ammonia also parched hair of its natural moisture. And the fact that ammonia breaks through the hair shaft and force it to accept new color is what also degrades hair of its structural composition, making it vulnerable to free radicals — insert hair breakage!
But just how bad can it be?
The damage is irreversible and in most cases, chopping your hair off is the only fix. Sure there are plenty of hair care treatments you can go for but reviving the damage done often takes time and will definitely break your bank. Moreover, frequently exposing your hair to dyes with ammonia will permanently keep your cuticles open. This often results in a more protein and moisture loss along with a great deal of hair color loss too.
More Reasons to Ditch Ammonia: It’s toxic to your health
Most people would complain about an itching scalp, allergic reaction, or the burning sensation that may be felt on the nose, eyes, or throat to their ammonia-based hair dyes. But let’s tackle the real issue here. Ammonia releases a strong pungent odor that when frequently inhaled can trigger asthma, acute respiratory effects, and lung damage. Ammonia is also touted to reduce fertility among women and men as well as a danger to those who are expecting. Although this case is still an ongoing debate, it’s still wiser to avoid exposure to ammonia until proven otherwise.
How does the best hair colour without ammonia works?
As more and more consumers realize the toxic effect of ammonia on both hair and health, manufacturers of hair dye continuously work to meet the consumers’ demand for a healthier option. But how do hair colors free of ammonia compensate for the lack of an alkalizing agent? The answer is simple — use heat. Most manufacturers of ammonia-hair color require their users to expose their hair to heat (either blow-dry or using a heat cap for example) during dyeing. Heat is a great way to naturally lift the hair cuticles up to make way for the dye without disrupting the pH balance of the hair.
Ammonia-free hair colors also may rely on a chemical called monoethanolamine (MEA). This odorless alcohol is often used as an alternative pH adjuster replace to ammonia. Depending on the brand, you might also see Ethanolamine, Cocamide MEA, Aminomethyl Propanol (AMEA) in the ingredient list which also works to open up the cuticles. Although the aforementioned is not aggressive and corrosive as ammonia, they still elevate the pH level to an extent. So you decide if this is the risk you are willing to take.
To mediate a possible dryness that may occur, manufacturers of ammonia-free hair dye often blend their formula with emollient oils and conditioning agents.
Is it worth it?
To go ammonia-free or not comes down to how concerned you are about the negative side effects of ammonia versus how strong the color you want. Because let’s be real, ammonia-free hair dye won’t outperform hair dyes with ammonia which has stronger chemicals. What the best hair color without ammonia can promise is it a decent result without putting your hair and health to risk.
5 Best Hair Colour Without Ammonia
Some ammonia-free hair color brands may boast about how much healthier of an option their products are but their ingredients list full of chemicals says otherwise. On contrary, some may be ammonia-free and have a clean profile from all other hair-damaging chemicals but not as effective as they claim to be. Let’s cut the crap. There’s a reason why the following products are top-rated; they deliver results while also take care of your hair.
A blend of oil including a variety of natural flower oils replaces ammonia in Garnier Olia range. Much like ammonia, the natural oils work their way into the hair shaft to deposit color but in a more hair-friendly way (way friendlier than ammonia). Natural oils aren’t only a healthier alternative but we all know how it’s very nourishing to hair whilst coating your hair with a protective film. Even better, it adds volume and shine while giving your hair a great smelling fragrance. Now isn’t that genius?
Garnier is the first one to adapt oil-powered permanent color, a result of years and years spent by Ganier’s chemist perfecting a high-performing hair color without the use of ammonia. Their hair color kit includes a colorant tube, applicator bottle with a developer, glove, final-step conditioner, and instructional insert.
- Pure, vivid long-lasting coverage
- Formulated with 60 percent blend of oils
- Promotes healthy hair growth
- Adds shine
- Mild floral fragrance
- Packaged with hair coloring basics plus a conditioner
- Very affordable
- Not the best when it comes to grey coverage
- Packaging needs improvement
If you can’t risk your hair trying out new hair dye brands, go with the tried and trusted — L’Oréal Paris. They are also one of the first few brands to launch a wide variety of ammonia-free hair colors. Don’t know where to start? Venture into their Colorista collection. L’Oréal Paris has teamed up with beauty bloggers to create 11 trendy pastel tones for that Instagram-worthy look!
L’Oréal Paris Colorista Semi-Permanent Hair Color is available in semi-permanent color to let you customize your look from time to time. I mean, why not? The wash-out-formula is ammonia and peroxide free and formulated with conditioning agents so you can play the color like a chameleon without the hair-guilt! The color should stay on your hair for about 4-8 washes although some claim it lasts them 15.
- Available in trendy colors
- Blended with conditioning agents
- Hair color stays on a decent length of time
- Also made without peroxide
- Some color selection fades into green
- Not for someone who’s into permanent hair colors
Clairol also boasts of great quality ammonia-free hair color you can go for if you cannot commit to specific hair color. They are all infused with antioxidants and conditioning compounds with aloe vera being one. Even better, they all fade so naturally, you won’t even have to hassle fixing that harsh root-lines. It takes 28 shampoos for the color to fade so go ahead take an easy flirting with blonde for a month then go brunette the next, no strings attached!
- With conditioning aloe and antioxidants
- Only takes 10 minutes for the color to work
- Covers well on gray
- Color stays on for about a month
- Fades naturally, no more harsh root-lines
- Includes conditioner and Clairol’s Week 2 color refresher
- The color came out darker for some
- The color stays on longer for a semi-permanent color
Since we are about hair color here, it would be a sin not to mention one from the leading hair color brand in the United States, Revlon. Always a trendsetter when it comes to hair coloring, Revlon gives a twist to the traditional hair coloring by giving it a multi-tonal shade patented in their 3D Color Gel Technology, meant to boost color and add dimension. So if you want to spice it up and give your flat color the needed oomph, all you need is choose from Revlon’s 41 multi-tonal colors.
The formula is also blended with conditioners and polymers enriched with nourishing silk proteins to reveal your hair’s natural shine. The gel penetrates so easily with every strand. What’s more, it’s also engineered with UV defense to guard your hair against color-fading UV rays.
- Multi-tonal, high-definition vibrant color from root to tip
- Offers 41 colors to choose from
- With nourishing protein, conditioners, and polymers
- Color stays on for about a month
- 100 percent gray coverage
- Added with protection from UV rays
- Some users warned about a possible allergic reaction
While going ammonia-free, might as well go organic hair dye! ONC Natural Colors offers a spectrum of 29 shades, of which ingredients compromise certified botanical extracts (aloe leaf, chamomile, and argan oil to name a few) combined with vitamins to give your hair the nourishment it needed. In addition to being low in pH, the gentle formula is in the least chemical concentration possible.
Besides being ammonia-free, it is also produced without the use of hair-damaging nonoxynol, resorcinol, paraben, and silicone. It’s basically giving your hair a break from all the chemical-laden hair dyes and giving it the conditioning it deserves! And oh, did we mention it also smells like a banana?
- Certified organic ingredients
- Blended with healing botanical extracts and vitamins
- A clean profile and low in pH
- With a pleasant banana scent
- Doesn’t cover gray perfectly
- Requires more effort to use: needs to blow-dry hair for 10 minutes during the process
And the best hair color without ammonia goes to…
We have to give it to Garnier Olia Ammonia Free Hair Color. I mean c’mon, oil in substitute to ammonia? I say clever! Oil is what gently opens the cuticles to deposit color while keeping your hair’s pH balance intact. Moreover, using oil as a means of color molecule transport is also effective as hair absorbs oil before water. Oil also replenishes the offset of moisture that may have come along with frequent hair dyeing. Oil is so nourishing and adds shine. In short, oil is crucial in every ammonia-free hair color. And this is probably why Garnier made their ammonia-free hair color to be 60 percent oil-powered!