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Which Hair Dyes Do The Least Damage?


6 Min Read

By Melissa Stanger2019-10-16

Medically Reviewed by


From elegant updos to a seemingly endless spectrum of color, one of the beautiful things about hair is our ability to transform it. But with dyed hair, transformation can come at a price — and we aren’t just talking about high-priced colorists.

Many hair dyes contain harsh and harmful chemicals that damage hair from root to tip. Common ingredients like hydrogen peroxide can have detrimental hair effects — and some studies even suggest a link between hair dyeing and certain cancers. 

“Hydrogen peroxide can also be damaging to hair because it’s not a smart molecule,” hair-color chemist Valerie George told Bustle. “While it prefers to go after the melanins [in hair], it really will interact with anything, including keratin, the dominant protein that makes up the hair fiber. This can also lead to damage.”

So before you take the plunge, consider the following to guide you in the right dye-rection.

How does dyeing your hair damage it? 

A strand of hair is divided into two main parts: the follicle, which is the living part of the hair that anchors it to your scalp, and the shaft, which is the part of the hair that you see, and which is given its color by the natural pigment melanin. As you get older, melanin production of the hair slows and then stops, causing hair to turn gray.

The way that many hair dyeing formulas work is that they contain chemicals like ammonia, PPD (paraphenylenediamine), and metallic salts that strip the hair of its natural color (as in bleaching) and sometimes replace the natural color with a synthetic one (as in going from brown to red, for example). Reactions to PPD can range from skin and scalp irritation to severe allergic responses, such as difficulty breathing. Hair loss, brittleness, or breakage in the hair can also occur in dyed hair. Either way, hair dyeing is not exactly a hair-healthy process.

The more tolerated hair dyes are generally the natural ones, such as henna-based hair dyes, which are derived from plants. Though less harmful than permanent hair dye, semi-permanent dyes may still contain chemicals like PPD, so always check the ingredients label.

How to avoid a hair color dye-saster

If you do decide to dye, there are a number of ways to make sure you’re doing it in a way that protects your luscious locks. If you’re doing DIY hair dyeing, make sure you read the ingredients on the back of the box. 

Avoid products made with ammonia, ethanolamines, hydrogen peroxide, and PPD, all of which can damage the delicate proteins in your hair, as well as potentially have an adverse effect on health in other ways. Instead, pick hair dyeing products that are natural or organic.

Finally, make sure you book a regular trim to get rid of split ends and keep your hair from looking frayed. And of course, any time you treat your hair with chemicals, use a deep conditioner or hair mask to restore moisture. 

As a bonus, take Nutrafol to support healthy hair from the inside out.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.