Our hair’s our best accessory. We style and colour our hair to match our personalities, change up our appearance, and express our attitude. While most salons in Singapore use chemical hair dyes for hair colouring services, natural hair dye is gaining popularity, as it becomes recognised as a safer alternative.

Whether this is the first time you’ve heard of a “natural hair dye” or have been thinking about switching to it, we’re here to help you understand everything you’ll need to know about natural hair dyes.

What are natural hair dyes and why are they popular?

The main difference between chemical hair dyes and natural hair dyes is in its ingredients. While both are able to colour hair effectively, natural hair dyes are said to use natural pigment to change the colour of hair, and contain little or no harmful ingredients that chemical hair dyes are associated with.

Since natural dyes contain much smaller amounts of harmful ingredients, they are said to be much better, not only our hair, but also our health. These are some of the harmful substances that people who opt for natural hair dyes are trying to avoid:

1. Para-Phenylenediamines (PPDs)

PPDs are extremely common in chemical dyes as pigments that darken hair colour. However, they have been known to cause a multitude of health issues, and are even classified in the European Union as being toxic to the environment. They are linked to bladder cancer and disorders of the lung, kidney, and nervous system. They can also trigger severe allergic reactions, including severe dermatitis, swelling, eye irritation, asthma and gastritis.

It may be hard to find hair dyes that omit PPDs completely. However, natural hair dyes have a much lower concentration of PPDs than chemical dyes. Chemical dyes can contain up to 5-6% of PPDs, while natural dyes could contain less than 1% of PPDs.

2. Ammonia

Ammonia is the culprit behind the nasty smell of many chemical hair dyes. It is used to increase shelf life of hair dyes and allows dye to penetrate the hair cuticle. However, it can cause irritation to the skin, scalp, eyes, and respiratory system, potentially causing asthma and breathing problems. It could also weaken hair structure, as it increases hair porosity to help with hair colouring – resulting in frizzy hair and split ends. Although ammonia is much less toxic than PPDs, it could still be a health concern, and it damages your hair.

Natural hair dyes are often ammonia-free – thus they are much better for your health, and they smell better too.

3. Resorcinol

Resorcinol is also a hair dye pigment. However, it causes almost as many problems as PPDs, and is rated 8 (out of 10) for being hazardous at the Cosmetics Safety Database. Not only is it dangerous for the environment, it could irritate eyes and skin. On top of these, it is also said to trigger immune system attacks and disrupt hormonal function, leading to hypothyroidism.

Similarly, many natural hair dyes are resorcinol-free, and using these products as alternatives for chemical dyes will allow us to negate these risks.

(Editor’s note: The substances mentioned above are most significant in causing health issues. Many other compounds used in chemical dyes, which lead to another host of problems, are frequently absent in natural dyes. They include parabens, hydrogen peroxide, and persulfates.)

How are natural dyes inferior to chemical dyes?

Since natural dyes omit many damaging chemicals, you can imagine them as a gentler alternative to chemical dyes.

1. Colour choice

One drawback of natural dyes is that they seldom give a drastic change to hair colour. In turn, they typically come in a limited colour range, often ranging from blacks to reds. You won’t be able to dye your hair a completely different colour from what you already have. And you can certainly forget about achieving the beautiful unicorn-inspired colour you’ve always wanted with natural dyes.

2. Lasting power

Since natural dyes use a minimal amount of PDDs, the colour typically does not last as long as the results by chemical dyes. In fact, dyes that are completely free of PDDs are mostly marketed as non-permanent dyes. Expect the colours to fade more quickly than what you might be used to.

Types of natural hair dye

If you find that the pros outweigh the cons for natural hair dyes, we have a list of types of natural hair dye for you to try:

1. Henna

Henna comes from the henna plant and is powdered before it is used as a dye. It is a natural pigment that has been used to dye hair and skin for thousands of years. Various henna products exist on the market, and they offer to dye your hair in a variety of colours. On its own, natural henna gives a reddish tint. They are often mixed with other ingredients to form different coloured dyes.

Henna dye is made by mixing henna powder with some water, and then applied like typical hair dyes. You can find henna powder in NTUC Fairprice supermarkets, or in shops around Little India.

(Editor’s note: Henna is a wonderful and affordable hair dye if you need to touch up your roots or cover any grey areas.)

2. Do-it-yourself (DIY) recipes

Pinterest is full of DIY natural hair dye recipes. While these tend to be hard work and results are temporary, they are an affordable fix when you are in a pinch. Additionally, you get to know exactly what goes into your hair dye. Here are some common recipes:

  • Paint on lemon juice on your hair before sitting outside in the sun for a natural highlight. However, note that getting fruit juice on your skin and exposed to sunlight can cause chemical burn, and you should be extremely cautious if you really want to try this recipe.
  • For a reddish tint on your hair, juice up some beetroots. Apply liberally to your hair and wrap it up. Wash off after at least an hour.
  • For a dark brown colour, boil crushed walnut shells for 30 minutes. Leave to cool and apply the mixture to any strands of grey.

3. Original & Mineral (O&M) dyes

The Australian brand O&M offers natural hair dyes that are free of many toxic chemicals including PPDs, ammonia, sulfates, parabens, and more. These salon-grade hair dyes give permanent colour using their Clean Colour Technology formula, and is popular among celebrities and models. These dyes come in a large colour selection too. Check with your usual salon if they offer O&M dyes. Several salons in Singapore, including Focus Hairdressing, offer this dye.

4. Natulique dyes

Natulique is a Denmark brand offering natural hair dyes. These dyes are permanent, organic hair dyes, and 98.02% of their ingredients are from natural sources. Apart from being cruelty free, they are free from ammonia, lauryl sulfate, and paraben. Several salons in Singapore also offer this dye, including J & J Hair Identity Salon.

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About the Author
Vetra LeowVetra Leow is a 20-year-old student and an avid rock climber. She loves starting each day with her makeup routine (she is not actually awake until her...Read More

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