Almost every single woman I know dyes her hair. Whether it's to highlight her natural color, cover grays, or don a whole new look, using hair dye has become the norm. In fact, when I dyed my hair for the first time last year, my friends and co-workers were astonished. How, they wondered, had I gotten all the way into my 20s without booking a single color session or picking up boxed dye while running errands?
The short answer is that I liked my natural hair color. But I was also concerned about exposing my strands to harsh chemicals that would damage them. (My hair is so sensitive that I stockpile hair masks and oils like it's my job. Shout out to Olaplex's take-home treatment and Kiehl's Olive Oil Deeply Repairative Hair Pak $25). We've all seen the warnings on the boxes—even though they're there to encourage safety and best practices, it's still enough to put a little hesitation in mind.
This is where many people turn to organic hair dyes. With less chemicals and more natural ingredients, it gives them peace of mind (and maybe even healthier hair). But how does the color payoff and longevity compare? We asked experts to find out. Keep scrolling to see what two hair color experts have to say about organic hair dye.
According to Stephanie Brown, Colorist at Nunzio Saviano Salon in NYC, there is a real difference between conventional and organic hair dyes. "There are fewer chemicals and usually no ammonia in organic hair dyes." Ammonia is the ingredient that conventional dye formulas use to penetrate the hair cuticle and deposit color. It has the potential to severely damage and weaken the hair, which is why people with sensitive strands (like myself) might find organic hair dye to be a better, healthier option.
Brown cautions that not all organic dyes are completely natural. "They are not chemical-free," she says. While chemicals are present, they "rely on botanical ingredients and naturally derived ingredients." The only truly 100% natural hair dye is henna, but even that has major drawbacks. Brown says henna-based dyes are "actually pretty harsh on the hair because they contain metallic salts." In other words, natural doesn't always mean healthy. It's possible there are other additives or ingredients that can still harm the hair.
So what's the best plan of action then? We want to choose the healthiest option, not only for our hair but for bodies too. After all, hair dye can come in direct contact with our skin, and we're all about erring on the side of caution. For Brown, conventional hair dye is fine unless her clients have damaged or weakened hair. "In my professional opinion, organic hair dye is less harsh on your hair. If my clients are sensitive, I use this product," she says.
Roya Adjory is the founder of Nori's Eco Salon, which is located in Los Angeles. It is L.A.'s first green-certified hair salon, and it operates without any toxic chemicals whatsoever (even the wall paint and insulation is eco-conscious). For hair color, it uses Natulique, which is a haircare brand that is certified organic by the USDA. For Adjory, this is the only organic hair color option. She calls it "the mildest composition available in the world," though it is also functional with 100% gray coverage, long-lasting color, and shine. It's able to deposit pigment through natural ingredients like hydrolyzed wheat protein. Each shade of dye is composed of over 98% naturally derived ingredients.
Natulique is designed for salon use only, so you'll have to find a professional supplier. Adjory swears by it for the intense color pay off it imparts and hair health it maintains. However, if you plan to use an organic hair color that isn't backed by a professional, Brown says results will vary. "The colors tend to be duller," she says. On top of that, some might only last as long as a semi- or demi-permanent dye.
Essentially, there's no right or wrong. Organic hair color has fewer harsh chemicals, making it safer for prolonged use, but it may result in less vividness and longevity (depending on the type you use). Whether you choose to use a conventional or an organic dye, both Adjory and Brown recommend turning to a professional for all of your hair color needs. They will know what works best for your hair and what doesn't, saving you from spending more time and money to correct a bad dye job.