Toxins in Hair Dye: What is the Safest Way to Dye Your Hair Without Chemicals?

Is hair dye toxic to the body? Learn about the chemicals in hair coloring and how they could impact your health.

Many people love to dye their hair to express their style and personality.

Unfortunately, conventional hair dyes are some of the most toxic products out there. These chemicals sit on your scalp, absorb into your skin, and can even pollute the air you breathe. Express yourself without exposing yourself to harmful chemicals. There are natural alternatives that can give you beautiful results without the harmful side effects. For a safer hair dye, consider using henna or other plant-based dyes. You can also explore DIY methods with ingredients like coffee, tea, or beet juice. Embrace these natural tips and enjoy vibrant, healthy hair!

Why Is Hair Dye Bad for Me?

Grow your hair out of the habit of dying it with toxic chemicals. Hair coloring is very popular, but many people don’t know about the potential health risks of hair dyes. These products contain chemicals that can be absorbed through your scalp or inhaled as fumes. 

Many chemicals in hair dye can be harmful to your health. This is especially a concern for hairdressers and stylists who use these products often.

Studies have looked at the link between hair dye exposure and different types of cancer, such as bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, leukemia, and breast cancer. 

Hair dyes have changed over time. Early versions had chemicals called aromatic amines that caused cancer in lab animals, leading manufacturers to change their formulas. However, we still don’t fully know the long-term effects of these newer products. 

Toxic Chemicals in Hair Dye

Understanding the potential health risks of hair dyes involves knowing which chemicals to watch out for. Below is a list of common toxic chemicals found in many hair dye products that could pose significant health risks. By being informed, you can make safer choices for your hair care routine.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is widely used in hair dyes for its bleaching properties. It can cause moisture loss, dryness, cuticle damage, scalp irritation, and unpredictable color changes. 

Prolonged exposure can lead to hair breakage and split ends, making hair brittle and difficult to manage. It can also cause scalp burns if used improperly.


Ammonia is used in hair dyes to open the hair cuticle, allowing the dye to penetrate deeper into the hair shaft. However, it can cause several health issues. Ammonia exposure can irritate the respiratory system and trigger asthma symptoms. 

It can also lead to fluid build-up in the lungs (pulmonary edema) and bronchitis. Wear a mask if you work with ammonia regularly. [1].

Ethanolamine (MEA)

MEA, or monoethanolamine, is often used as an alternative to ammonia in some hair dyes because it has a less pungent odor and is perceived to be gentler on the scalp. However, using MEA can sometimes lead to more hair damage over time, causing hair loss and skin issues like dermatitis.

Additionally, MEA is linked to oxidative stress, which can harm cells in your body. It can also be toxic to human keratinocytes, the cells that make up most of your skin, including the scalp [2].

P-Phenylenediamine (PPD)

PPD, or p-phenylenediamine, is widely used as a coloring agent in many hair dyes. This toxic hair dye chemical is especially common in darker shades. 

However, PPD can cause irritation to the skin and eyes and may also trigger asthma symptoms. In more severe instances, exposure to PPD can lead to dizziness (vertigo), convulsions, and even coma.

Repeated use of products containing PPD can make the skin more sensitive, increasing the likelihood of allergic reactions over time [3]. Additionally, studies have shown that PPD can disrupt hormone function and alter genetic material, which could potentially raise the risk of cancer [4].

Lead Acetate

Lead acetate is used in some dark hair dyes and is linked to anemia and neurological problems. It is a known toxin to the brain, which is concerning since these chemicals sit on your scalp. Research shows that lead acetate can cause significant health issues with prolonged exposure [5].


Resorcinol is a common coloring agent used in hair dyes because it helps achieve long-lasting, vibrant colors. However, it's important to be aware of its potential health and environmental impacts. 

Resorcinol has been linked to hormone disruption, which can affect various bodily functions. Additionally, it has been shown to cause central nervous system disturbances and changes in red blood cells in animals [6]. Beyond personal health concerns, resorcinol is hazardous to the environment, particularly to aquatic life [7].

DMDM Hydantoin/Formaldehyde

In order for many hair dyes to survive on your hair, they must first survive on the shelf. DMDM hydantoin is a preservative used in hair dyes. It can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, and immunotoxicity [8]. 

Additionally, DMDM hydantoin releases small amounts of formaldehyde consistently. [9]. Formaldehyde exposure is associated with eye, nose, and throat irritation, shortness of breath, wheezing, and an increased risk of asthma [10]. 

It’s also a known carcinogen [11]. Wear a mask if you work with products that contain DMDM hydantoin. 


Parabens are commonly used in hair dyes and other cosmetic products as preservatives to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. However, they pose significant health risks. 

Scientific studies suggest that parabens can disrupt hormone function by mimicking estrogen, which can lead to reproductive harm, affect birth outcomes, and increase the risk of breast cancer. [12] Additionally, parabens can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions, making them a concern for both short-term and long-term health.

Heavy Metals

Heavy metals like lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), and mercury (Hg) can sometimes be found as impurities in hair dyes. These metals often end up in hair dyes due to contamination during the manufacturing process or from the raw materials used.

These heavy metals pose significant health risks. Lead exposure, for example, is closely linked to neurotoxicity and developmental issues. Beyond lead, cadmium and mercury can cause anemia, vomiting, autoimmune diseases, neurotoxicity, and endocrine disruption. Limit your use of hair dyes to minimize your exposure to heavy metals and other harmful chemicals. 

Natural Ways to Dye & Color Your Hair without Chemicals

In a world increasingly concerned with health and wellness, turning to natural ingredients for hair dyeing offers a safer and gentler alternative to harsh chemicals. Using nature's bounty not only nurtures your hair but also aligns with a sustainable lifestyle. Embrace vibrant colors and rejuvenate your locks without compromising on quality or appearance.

Here are some temporary ways to color your hair using natural ingredients:

  • Coffee: Brew a strong cup of coffee and let it cool. Apply it to your hair and leave it for about an hour to achieve a rich, dark brown hue.
  • Beet Juice: For a reddish tint, use beet juice directly on your hair. Apply it generously and let it sit for at least an hour before rinsing.
  • Chamomile Tea: Lighten your hair naturally by rinsing it with chamomile tea. This works best for those with blonde or light-colored hair.
  • Lemon Juice: Apply lemon juice to your hair and sit in the sun. The natural bleaching effect of lemon combined with sunlight can give you subtle highlights.

For a more semi-permanent solution, consider using henna. This plant-based dye has been used for centuries to impart a rich, lasting color that ranges from deep reds to warm browns. 

To use henna, mix the powder with water to form a paste and apply it to your hair. Leave it on for several hours before rinsing out, and enjoy the natural, vibrant color that also conditions and strengthens your hair.

Shopping for Non-Toxic Hair Dyes 

Choosing henna-based hair dyes is a proactive step toward embracing a healthier, more natural approach to personal care. Unlike conventional hair dyes that are laden with harmful chemicals, henna offers a safe and nourishing alternative that enhances your hair’s health while providing vibrant, lasting color. By opting for henna, you're not only making a positive choice for your own well-being but also taking a meaningful stand for sustainable beauty.

Here are three reputable brands to consider:

Make healthier lifestyle changes by choosing non-toxic hair dyes. Henna can be a bit messy. Start slowly when you first start using henna. Get a feel for its texture and how to best apply to your hair to limit messes. These are just small sacrifices we make for our health! 

Low-tox hair care is not just about your current health; it's about the future too. Prenatal exposure to the harsh chemicals found in conventional hair dyes can have adverse effects that span generations. These chemicals don’t just impact your body. They impact the bodies of your future children, too.

By opting for natural alternatives like henna, you're taking a crucial step toward protecting your hormones and securing a healthier, safer future for your family.

Make Healthier Choices with a Body Toxicity Test

Navigating the world of personal care products can be overwhelming, especially with so many harmful chemicals lurking in everyday items. It's natural to worry about what you're currently using and how it might be affecting your health. Transitioning to healthier alternatives starts with understanding what's inside the products you use daily.

Learn what’s inside with Million Marker’s Detect & Detox Test Kit. By testing your urine, you can uncover the presence of parabens, phthalates, bisphenols, oxybenzone, and other toxic chemicals in your system. 

You'll receive a personalized report with actionable steps to minimize your exposure to these harmful substances. Empower yourself with knowledge and take proactive steps towards a healthier lifestyle for you and your family's future.