In the past, I shied away from natural hair dyes because, since coloring your hair is inherently unnatural, I didn't think they would work as well. And I was right. Years ago, the hair color technology was not what it is today—natural hair dye couldn't achieve high-lift blondes (like me), didn't last as long, couldn't totally cover gray and required longer processing times.
But just like every aspect of the natural beauty industry, as demand for healthier hair dyes and better natural options grew over the last decade, beauty companies put their thinking caps on and delivered.
"Clients across the nation are asking their stylists for safer alternatives, which is great! And the industry has responded by producing more and more color, backbar and retail options," says Amy Leavell Bransford, esthetician and founder of Aviary Beauty & Wellness Collective, who has been researching and testing out natural and organic skin care, hair care and hair color products at her organic beauty studio since 2008. Her top pick? Oway, which stands for "organic way" and works just as well as traditional hair dyes (something I can attest to personally, having tried it).
Oway, a More Natural Hair Color
"We first learned about Oway in 2015 when we were testing out new hair color. We were instantly blown away when we saw the improvements to the previous limitations of the color line that we started with in 2008. We now get 100-percent grey coverage and can lift blondes five to six levels, and safely," explains Leavell Bransford.
A Lot to Love
No harsh smell. Unlike the typical nasty, nose-burning smell of hair dye (that's the ammonia, by the way), Oway hair color doesn't smell like anything except the soft aroma of its essential oils. It also doesn't contain synthetic fragrances, known allergens.
Farm fresh. Oway has a biodynamic farm (a holistic, ecological and ethical approach to farming) in Italy, where it grows ingredients for its color and styling lines.
"Most people don’t think of farms and salons and spas having anything to do with one another, but if those farms weren’t growing their ingredients, I wouldn’t have any products to use!" Leavell Bransford quips.
Vibrant hues and babealiscious blondes. "Oway works just like any other color line, but is safer for humans and the environment that we live in," Leavell Bransford says.
Safer ingredients. Oway Hcolor, Hnectar and Hbleach do not contain ammonia, parabens, petrolatum, synthetic fragrance or artificial colorants.
Hnectar is an oil-based permanent hair color line of 34 shades that can lift one to three shades lighter, does not contain resorcinol, PPD or mineral oil, and utilizes sugar extracts and biodynamic elderberry for shine. It is best for people with typical sensitivities to traditional hair dyes.
Hcolor, a permanent hair color line with 95 hues, uses biodynamic hibiscus, cotton protein and oils that increase the shine and condition of the hair as it changes color. There is a very small amount of resorcinol in a few of Hcolor's ashy dark colors to help control warmth and the smallest amount of PPD possible to still effectively color hair permanently with a cream base.
Hbleach is the first bleaching cream based on kukui butter, and is enriched with three organic and biodynamic oils to nourish hair fibers and protect the scalp. It also does not contain resorcinol or PPD.
No scalp burn. It won't make your head feel itchy or burny like other hair colors/bleaches sometimes do.
A faster process. "There is a product called Hypercolor in the Oway line that can cut down processing time to 20 minutes, which is great for clients who are running late or just on-the-go busy city dwellers like we are," Leavell Bransford explains.
Other niceties. Oway is verified fair trade, certified cruelty-free by PETA and uses recycled and recyclable packaging.
No Bueno Hair Dye Ingredients
Did you know that Europe banned 22 different chemicals in hair dyes?
And that was back in 2006! Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration isn't keeping up with the Joneses in this regard. Here are a few top-offender ingredients that may appear in permanent and semi-permanent hair dyes:
Ammonia, a colorless, highly irritating gas with a sharp odor, affects the nose, throat, respiratory system and eyes. It also busts through the hair cuticle to deposit color, leaving weakened and dry strands in its wake.
Resorcinol, which, in addition to being a skin irritant and sensitizer, also has been linked to organ systems toxicity and endocrine disruption.
p-Phenylenediamine (PPD), a highly toxic substance also found in printing inks and gasoline, can cause respiratory issues, is suspected of being carcinogenic and can cause reactions from mild skin rash to the rare anaphylaxis. "The darker the hair color, the more likely there will be some trace PPD," Bransford says.
The American Cancer Society says researchers have been studying a possible link between hair dye use and cancer for many years. Studies have looked most closely at the risks of blood cancers (leukemias and lymphomas) and bladder cancer.
Does Your Hair Salon Not Offer Natural Hair Dye?
Then ask it to. If you love your colorist and salon, but want a healthier hair color, simply request it. They might be willing to accommodate you!
Looking for more natural beauty tips? Check out our Badass Beauty page.