Our Non-Toxic Guide To Hair Salons And Hair Dyes

If you’re a health-conscious person who colors your hair, you’ve probably experienced the struggle of trying to find a safe, natural hair color that actually works. And make no mistake, it is a struggle to match your color with a non-toxic brand that lasts, covers gray, works with your natural tones and highlights, and truly contains no (or very few) harmful chemicals. It’s no wonder so many just give up and hope their healthy lifestyle will buffer the regular onslaught of chemicals. Some of these include cancer-causing PPD, formaldehyde, and ethanolamines; endocrine-disrupting phthalates, fragrance and ammonia; heavy metals and different forms of toluenes which impact the nervous system, and many more poisons. 

I get it because I’ve been there. I also understand that feeling your best isn’t just about eating well and avoiding toxins, you also need to feel good about how you look, which makes the temptation to compromise perfectly understandable. However, thanks to new innovations in non-toxic hair color, you may not have to turn a blind eye to have fabulous hair any longer. While truly chemical-free hair colors are few and far between, our team has managed to find a few impressive products we’re comfortable recommending for all hair types.

#1: Greenhare Mud

Greenhare is not a well-known brand, but a member of our team stumbled upon it while researching natural hair dyes…and she was pretty excited with the results. 

According to founder Jeannie Wrightson, “Green Hare Mud is pure ground plant materials. We use zero fillers, binders, thickeners, preservatives, or anything in our product or packing that is not clearly listed.” This product is not a hair “dye” per se, because it contains “no lift”. “Lift’ is the chemical reaction required to actually change your hair’s color and thus, requires chemicals. Rather, it’s a 100% natural permanent hair stain made of a proprietary blend of all-natural herbs, barks, berries, teas, and other ingredients that will permanently stain your hair…and cover gray.

Jeannie shared with us about how the product came to be, “Green Hare Mud was created by researching the ancient fiber dying recipes and processes of the spinners guilds. Working on the science that human hair is very similar to all other animal hair—like wool, angora rabbit hair, and alpaca fleece—the plants were then selected for suitability for the product, the process was refined to be user-friendly, and the seven current shades of Green Hare Mud were introduced.”

According to our in-house source, the application is very easy and the results—in color, gray coverage, and durability—are worth the 30-90 minutes processing time. Another thing we love is that it contains virtually no plastic packaging, so there’s very little waste. The only downside is their color palette is somewhat limited, but they cover all the bases (blonde, dark blonde, red, dark brown, very dark brown, etc.) and you can mix and match to create a custom stain. There’s even a “red remedy” if your hair tends to grab too much red from color. 

Learn more at: www.greenhare.com, check out their Facebook page for testimonials, and YouTube for tutorials.

#2: Hairprint

Hairprint is another good option for those with brown or black hair. This product is not a “dye”, rather a patented repigmentation product that returns your hair to its original color with no dyes, chemicals, or harsh toxins. It uses only 8 food-grade ingredients, claims to cause no damage to hair, and boasts the “Made Safe” certification…which we know from experience, is pretty hard to get.

It’s been featured in several beauty publications including Glamour and Goop, and some people swear by it. We haven’t tried it personally, but from our research, it looks like an excellent option for those with darker hair color who don’t have more than 50% gray. However, based on Hairprint’s website and customer reviews it will not work on every type of hair—especially if you have a lot of gray and/or if you have white hair which is apparently very difficult to repigment. And some people found the hair preparation and coloring process a bit cumbersome…but we’d say it’s worth the trade-off to avoid the chemicals!

Hairprint states that their product will not repigment blonde or red hair (but they’re working on it), and they have helpful instructions for getting the best possible result. They also have hair specialists to help you trouble-shoot as you get the hang of the system, and some salons do carry the product.

Based on the ingredients and their “made safe” certification, Hairprint appears to be a great non-toxic option for all you brunette beauties out there. Check out the ingredients and learn more here.

#3: Henna

Henna’s been around forever and is a tried and true non-toxic semi-permanent option. It won’t damage your hair and real Henna contains no harmful ingredients. And unlike the Henna bars of yesteryear, there are now many pre-mixed Henna-based hair color powders, which make the application a lot easier. The only downsides are it won’t always cover grays, it’s not always permanent, and its color tends to be on the red-side—though you can play around with it and even add indigo (see below) to achieve a more neutral tone. This is a great option for all hair types and colors, especially if you’re seeking a non-permanent color change. 

One misconception about Henna is that once you use it you can’t apply any other hair color until it grows out or you get it stripped out. The truth is you can dye your hair with regular color after the Henna has faded for 2-3 weeks, but check with your stylist for their recommendations.

#4: Indigo

Indigo is a plant-based dye from the indigo plant which is used in conjunction with Henna to create dark browns and black tones with less red. Some people also have success using it to cover gray, especially if it’s left to process long enough. An animal study even showed it could stimulate new hair growth1, so it does appear to have a nourishing effect on hair. The downsides of indigo are it can take a long time to achieve your desired color, and often requires two steps to use in conjunction with Henna depending upon the color you’re looking to achieve. The good news is, there are a lot of companies who have made the henna/indigo application process a no-brainer, so it’s worth looking into for those with dark hair.

#5: All-Nutrient

All-Nutrient is an organic hair coloring line I’ve used with great success for several months. Their permanent hair dyes are free of sulfates, parabens, formaldehyde, phthalates, propylene glycol, MEA, DEA, and other toxic fillers. However, we want to be clear that this is not a 100% non-toxic, clean option, so we highly recommend weighing the pros and cons of using hair dyes before jumping in! 

For instance, during the years of healing my endocrine system, normalizing my menstrual cycles, getting pregnant, and nursing my newborns, I chose to skip all hair dyes in efforts to heal and strengthen. Only after my body was stronger, did I make the decision to use hair dyes, and even still I  take precautions. After researching many “non-toxic” brands, I settled with All-Nutrient as it seems to be the cleanest out there. 

A few tips to lessen exposures if you do decide to dye your hair: going lighter is less toxic than going darker, and obviously doing only partial highlights is much better than doing a full color. I recommend going to a salon that only uses non-toxic/cleaner lines like All-Nutrient and does not do perms, as these contain a lot of toxic VOCs that should be avoided. 

I try to book my appointments during less popular times (fewer products being used in the salon), and fortunately, I’ve found a place that is small and willing to open the windows/doors while I’m there. I even sit outside while my hair is foiled and setting. Drinking a lot of green juice, grounding, dry brushing, and taking your own clean shampoo are other very powerful ways to combat the more toxic hair dye exposures. 

Did we leave any excellent non-toxic brands out? Let us know about your experience with natural hair color in the comments below.

 

  1. https://www.wjpps.com/wjpps_controller/abstract_id/8389

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25 Comments

  1. I have dyed my hair black, brown, red, & blonde over the years. A friend introduced me to henna & I used that for a few months before finally ditching all products & accepting my natural color. I’m very happy with my new silver highlights. I know this isn’t for everyone, but I’m content with mine.

  2. Hi Allison, I am a hairdresser of 34 years and have switched over to AllNurtient over 16 years ago, however since then I have discovered O&M CØR color from Australia which is one of the cleanest professional color lines out there and it actually works! No chemical smell at all, also OWay is another natural color line from Italy, not completely PPD free, but it does have a LOT less chemicals and their cream lightener is awesome! So I hope that helps give people more options. thanks for writing this article. Love the Branch Basics product!

    1. Hi Alice,
      I am a French native, living in San Jose, California and I am struggling to find an Organic Hair Salon that would use a non-toxic hair dye line !
      Do you by any chance know a hairdresser working in an Organic Hair Salons in the Bay Area ( San Jose, Campbell, Sunnyvale, etc ) ?
      Thanks in advance.
      Sincerely
      Delphine Bossy Genta

      1. Hi Delphine, Allison googled nontoxic hair salons in her area and called to ask about the products that they used. This may be the a good route to go in hopes of finding a nontoxic hair dye line.

  3. Thanks for this post! How do you find a salon in your area that uses some of these more natural products? I’ve Googled it but am having a hard time finding a good answer.

  4. This is excellent thanks for the information. I’ve been looking for a more natural coloring system. I tried Henna but it didn’t do anything to cover my grey. I’m looking forward to trying the All Nutrient. I didn’t see a link for All Nutrient – and after searching I don’t see a website – is the best place to purchase Amazon?

    1. All Nutrient can only be purchased by salon professionals. Allison googled nontoxic salons in her area and asked what products they used. This is how she found All Nutrient that her stylist uses on her.

  5. Have you seen Oway? A hair coloring system that promises all natural ingredients? Just wondering. Thanks for all your hard work and extensive researches.

  6. Thank you so much for this post! I have been struggling to find a natural hair color to cover my grays! How do I find a salon near me that offers All-Nutrient, I don’t see a salon locator on their site?

    1. Allison googled nontoxic hair salons in her area and called to ask what products they use. The stylist that Allison found and goes to uses All- Nutrient. Try googling and asking what they use!

  7. I tried Henna and Hairprint for a few years…. never completely satisfied with coverage, I’ve been considering just accepting the gray, thank you to the first person Yvonne that commented I think I will go gray!

  8. Thank you for writing this- this is the one area where I have been unable to find a safe alternative! Does All-Nutrient work for highlights? I do not need all-over color, just highlights! And is it available to the public or would my stylist need to purchase it?

    1. Hi, Allison gets highlights from her stylist using All-Nutrient! It is only available for purchase by salon professionals. Allison googled nontoxic hair salons in her area and called to ask what products they use.

  9. I’ve used Surya Brazil Henna for years and mix 2 colors in a bottle. Colors hair quickly without any odor or irritation and lasts longer than expected. After I leave the color on for a little bit I rinse and the color does not come off on my white towel or pillowcase. I couldn’t find red in the stores, but ended up ordering several bottles from Walmart online and the price was great. Haven’t researched it yet to see if it’s non toxic.

  10. Thank you for passing on your results. I used hair print for a while but it was such an involved process that when my hairdresser told me about Biologe plant based hair color we tried it. It works very well and a lot easier. Wondered if you think it is non-toxic?
    Thanks,
    Wanda

  11. I use Biokap nutricolor delicato in extra light golden blond. It’s made in Italy without ammonia, resorcin, parabens and PPD. It’s fragrance free and nickel tested. I’m very pleased with it. I switched to it because I wanted a green, healthier brand. Do you think this is a safe brand or should I try the Greenhare Mud? I have a lot of gray and my hair grows fast, so I have to have the roots done every 3 weeks.

  12. What about the Madison Reed line? They (say that they) ban all the harmful things you listed above. I have used it once and really liked the results, thought my hair felt more coarse than usually afterwards. But that went away after the first wash a few days later. Would definitely love your thoughts on their product …

  13. Why are your products so costly!!
    Add shipping & handling too!!
    How do I know your products are pure?

    1. Hi, our concentrate is super versatile! Here is the breakdown of what one bottle of concentrate can make- 3 All-Purpose bottles (24 oz.) at $2.90 each, 3 Bathroom bottles (24 oz.) at $5.80 each, 3 Streak-Free bottles (24 oz.) at $0.20 each, 3 Foaming Wash bottles (10 oz.) at $2.90 each, 64 laundry loads at $0.24 per load. Orders over $39 do have free shipping, otherwise it is $5. Our products were made for the chemically sensitive. The founders spend a lot of time finding the perfect ingredients. Our ingredients are all rated 1 on EWG Skin Deep, 0 on Think Dirty and we are also MadeSafe certified. We also went the extra mile and did third party testing for skin and eye irritation to prove the safety and quality, which we’re very proud of and even the chemists were surprised with the results. https://branchbasics.com/blog/the-importance-of-end-product-testing/

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