HomeHealth articleshair dye allergyHow Do Hair Coloring Products Affect Our Health?

Hair Coloring Products - Ingredients, Harmful Effects and Alternatives

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Having gorgeous hair with a pretty shade is everyone’s desire. But can you believe that hair coloring can be detrimental? Read below to know more about it.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ekansh Shekhar

Published At October 18, 2022
Reviewed AtMarch 7, 2023


If you are in an idea about changing your hair color? There are two extents you have to look after. One is how your hair color adds to your personality and another is to think about the side effects it may cause. Though some chemically induced side effects are evident, safe coloring products with natural ingredients are also available.

Why Do People Prefer Hair Coloring?

There are various reasons why people prefer hair coloring.

  • The first and foremost reason is to cover up the gray strands.

  • Way of life to build up a personality.

  • Make hair vibrant and interesting by improving its shine and dimension.

  • Revitalize the style.

  • Build strength of weakened hair.

What Are the Ingredients in a Hair Dye?

According to the National Cancer Institute, there are 5000 chemicals in hair dye. These chemicals can cause lasting changes in the hair shaft.

Some of these chemicals are,

  • Para-phenylenediamine.

  • Ammonia.

  • Hydrogen peroxide.

  • Resorcinol.

  • Lead acetate.

  • Toluene.

  • Lead.

  • Mercury.

What Are the Types of Hair Coloring?

  • Permanent Hair Coloring: This type of hair coloring allows penetration of dye deep into the hair shaft. This is due to the ammonia content present in it. It has to be done only once a year.

  • Semi-Permanent Hair Coloring: This allows partial penetration into the hair shaft but completely coats the hair with color.

  • Temporary Hair Coloring: It contains water, organic solvents, and other agents.It is available as gels, sprays, and rinses.This type does not penetrate the hair and thus touch-up is done once a week.

  • Bleaching: It is used to lighten the natural hair color.

  • Ammonia-Free Dyes: These hair colors do not contain ammonia but contain other ingredients like hydrogen peroxide, resorcinol, etc. These aid in softening the hair. These are less damaging than the other types.

How Does Hair Dye Affect Your Hair?

Dyeing would lead to some adverse effects such as,

  • Excessive dryness.

  • Breakage of hair strands.

  • Excessive split ends.

  • Change in hair texture.

  • Loss of luster of hair.

  • Hair loss.

  • Damages the strength of the follicles.

  • Itchy scalp.

  • Excessive redness.

  • Irritation of the scalp.

  • In rare cases, the dye gets washed away with water.

What Are the Side Effects That Each Ingredient Cause?

  • Hydrogen Peroxide: Certain cheap hair colors contain ingredients that are toxic to human health. They usually contain aromatic amines and phenols, which contain hydrogen peroxide acting as a bleaching agent that breaks down the melanin pigment of the hair and colors the hair. Hydrogen peroxide is also the key ingredient in permanent hair dyes. Besides the bleaching effect, the peroxide component damages the hair and gives a sulfurous smell, and causes the eyes to sting.

  • Para-Phenylenediamine: It is the primary coloring agent and it is found to be carcinogenic. However, the exact mechanism is not completely known, and more scientific research has to be done to establish the link between hair dye and cancer. Besides its carcinogenic effect, para-phenylenediamine is linked to skin sensitization. It can cause itching, irritation, and redness of the skin. Certain studies have shown that it can lead to birth defects, liver damage, and blood toxicity on extreme exposure.

  • Ammonia: It breaks down the hair’s protein layer and allows the dye to gain access to the hair shaft. Ammonia is found to cause irritation of the skin, endocrine damage, and respiratory issues such as coughing, wheezing, breathing difficulty, and tightening of the chest. Asthmatic individuals can present with these symptoms if there is continuous inhalation of these chemicals.

  • Lead and Mercury: These components can lead to skin rashes as the chemicals seep into the skin. They can also cause dermatitis of the eye, ears, scalp, and face. The eyes get inflamed when these chemicals get exposed while coloring the eyebrows and eyelashes. So it is better to avoid them. And lead acetate is found to be neurotoxic.

  • Resorcinol: It can cause hormonal disturbance and toxicity to the organ system.

  • Toluene: It is an intermediate product in a hair dye that can lead to headache, dizziness, skin rashes, liver damage, kidney damage, and birth defects on massive exposure.

It is important to understand that these chemicals are not as toxic as they are found to be if there is no excessive exposure. So to get rid of the side effects, it is good to reduce the frequency of hair coloring and to check for the concentration of the ingredients.

What Are the Alternatives to Chemical Hair Coloring?

The safest way to get rid of the harmful effects of hair dyeing is to choose the natural path. There are naturally available substances that can color your hair.

They are,

  • Henna leaves.

  • Tea leaves.

  • Coffee beans.

  • Carrot and beetroot juices.

  • Herbs like rosemary, sage, and nettle.

  • Lemon extracts.

What Are the Precautions to Be Followed?

  • Avoid permanent hair coloring.

  • Opt for semi-permanent, temporary, and natural hair coloring.

  • Do it professionally.

  • Never dye your eyebrows and eyelashes.

  • Take your own color to the salon.

  • Do not color your hair frequently.

  • If asthmatic, try avoiding hair coloring as certain chemicals in the hair dye can aggravate respiratory problems.

  • Hair coloring should be avoided by individuals with psoriasis and eczema.

  • If you are doing it yourself.

The guidelines to be followed are:

  • Double-check the ingredients.

  • Do not combine different products.

  • Use products from trusted brands.

  • A patch test is recommended before using the product.

  • Keep the mixture as long as mentioned in the pack.

  • Wear gloves while coloring to minimize the penetration of dye through the skin.

  • Keep the dye away from the scalp.

  • Use a comb or a brush to apply the dye.

  • Do hair coloring in a well-lit and well-ventilated area. Poor ventilation can lead to eyes and nasal irritation.

  • Rinse thoroughly with water after coloring.


You may be deterred from coloring your hair due to its harmful effects. It is essential to know that post-processed hair is vulnerable to excessive hair damage which is completely normal. But if you notice persistent changes in your hair it is better to swap with the natural and organic dyes available that fend off those effects. So before booking your hair coloring appointment, get to know what type of hair coloring you are going to undergo, what are the ingredients in the products, and how frequently you should maintain it.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Harmful Ingredients Present in Hair Dye?

The most harmful ingredients in hair dye are the following:
- Ammonia.
- Parabens.
- Para-phenylenediamine.
- Hydrogen peroxide.
- Lead acetate.
- Hydantoin. 
- Resorcinol. 
- Lead.
- Mercury.


What Are the Adverse Effects of Hair Coloring?

The adverse effects of hair coloring are the following
- Loss of strength.
- Reduced hair thickness.
- Increased roughness of the hair.
- Decreased tolerance to heat styling.
The effects of hair coloring on general health are:
- Dermatitis of the scalp, face, eyes, and ears.
- Respiratory issues.
- Increased risk of breast or ovarian cancers.


Are There Hair Dyes Without Chemicals?

Among various hair coloring products with harmful chemicals, many companies have started producing natural hair coloring products with natural ingredients, such as coffee beans, tea leaves, lemon extracts, walnut shells, olive oil, coconut oil, and lavender oil.


Can Hair Coloring Damage the Hair?

Coloring hair can definitely cause hair damage. However, hair-friendly practices, such as limited heat styling and conditioning hair, can prevent damage. In addition, if hair color is almost close to natural hair color, the chance of damage is less.


How to Color Hair Safely?

Coloring hair using rinses, which are not permanent, is the safest solution for preventing hair damage. These hair color rinses are available in various shades with no strong chemicals but are temporary as they do not penetrate the hair shaft, thereby preventing hair damage or breakage.


How to Color Hair Naturally?

Natural hair dyes are available in the market nowadays, which color hair and nourish the hair strands and make them soft. The most common natural hair dyes are beetroot, carrot, lemon juice, coffee beans, tea leaves extract, and henna leaves extract.


What Are the Ingredients in Natural Coloring?

Natural coloring products contain ingredients such as:
- Henna leaves.
- Tea leaves.
- Coffee beans.
- Herbs like nettle, sage, and rosemary.
- Flowers like marigold and calendula.
- Vegetable juices like beetroot and carrot juices.


How to Mask Grey Hair Naturally?

Grey hair can be masked naturally by using hair masks containing the following:
- Amla.
- Tulsi. 
- Potatoes. 
- Shikakai.
- Henna.


How to Make Hair Look Darker Without Dye?

The best ways to make hair look darker are:
- Boil and ferment the coffee beans and mix the coffee grounds with a leave-in conditioner. 
- Apply and wash hair with sage, rosemary, and nettle extracts. They can strengthen the original hair color and make it appear darker.


Can Coffee Be Used for Hair Coloring?

Coffee is a naturally available ingredient for hair coloring, similar to tea and henna. The coffee granules can be boiled, and the resultant water can be used to wash hair, which adds color to the hair on repeated use.


Are Natural Hair Dyes Safe?

Natural hair dyes are mostly safe to use as they do not contain harmful chemicals that are otherwise present. However, some dyes can contain harmful substances such as logwood, hematin, and hematoxylin. These substances are used to give color to the dye. Such substances can be harmful when inhaled.
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Dr. Ekansh Shekhar



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