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Ammonia Free Hair Dyes- Harmful Effects of Ammonia for Hair


Why is Ammonia Added in Hair Dyes?

Before we understand the purpose of ammonia in hair dying let us take a minute to understand the dying process itself. Hair dying is a chemical process where the dye is absorbed by the hair strand. For this to happen effectively the absorbance of the hair must be more so that the dye is absorbed better. Ammonia is an alkaline compound that opens up the outermost layer of the hair known as cuticles. It causes the hair follicles to swell. Swollen hair being more absorbent, the dye makes a deeper penetration to the inner layers of the hair follicle. This gives the dye a lasting effect on the hair.

How Does Ammonia Damage Your Hair?

Now that we know how ammonia aids the hair dying process, let's understand the effects of ammonia on the hair after it has aided the hair dye to penetrate the hair strand. Ammonia has many adverse impacts on the health of the hair and causes some other serious symptoms as well. Some reasons for the influx of ammonia free hair colours in the market and why you should go for them are listed below. 

  • Ammonia damage to the hair

Repeated use of Ammonia based dyes damages the hair cuticles. Damaged cuticles are not able to hold the moisture in the hair effectively. This causes the hair to turn dry, brittle and frizzy.

Ammonia on the scalp can enter the bloodstream. This action destroys tyrosine, which is an amino acid essential to the regulation of melanin production in the hair. Since melanin is the natural pigment of the hair, continuous usage of ammonia-based hair dye impacts the ability of the hair to retain colour.

  • Other damages from Ammonia

The common symptoms of ammonia include irritation in the throat, nose and eyes. It can also cause difficulty in breathing. These can be triggered by coming in contact with ammonia dissolved in water which is an alkaline skin irritant.

Ammonia vapours if inhaled cause problems in the lungs and sinuses. These vapours also trigger eye infections.

Given these adverse effects, the case for ammonia free hair colour becomes stronger. Continue reading to discover the benefits of switching to an ammonia free hair colour.

Benefits of Using Ammonia Free Hair Dyes

Ammonia, though instrumental in making the hair dying process effective, leaves a trail of unwanted effects that damage the hair and may also cause inconvenient symptoms. Here we discuss the benefits of switching to an ammonia free hair colour.

  • Ammonia free hair colour provides gentle dying

Ammonia free hair colour is gentle on the hair. It does not damage the cuticles and helps in maintaining the health of your hair. 

  • Ammonia free hair colour cause the hair to retain moisture better

This avoids the frizz that the hair often suffers from after using an ammonia-based dye. If you have sensitive skin or frizzy hair, you must maintain the health of your hair cuticles by avoiding ammonia-based hair dyes. 

  • Ammonia free hair colour does not cause irritation

Ammonia free hair colour does not cause scalp irritation as some might experience after using the traditional ammonia-based colours. They are also free from the pungent smell of ammonia and its irritating effects on the skin, throat, lungs and eyes.

  • Ammonia free hair colour provides Long-lasting colouring

Since ammonia-based dyes destroy the melanin regulating amino acids in the scalp, switching to an ammonia free hair colour increases the ability of your hair to retain its colour. Thus, your coloured hair will hold natural as well as the applied colour more effectively.

Are Ammonia Free Hair Dyes Completely Safe?

The durability of ammonia free hair colour is less than the permanent ammonia-based hair colour. This is because the colour of the dye is not as deeply absorbed into the hair cortex as it would with the help of ammonia. Thus, ammonia free hair colours are semi-permanent hair colouring options.

In addition to this, we must also look at the chemical composition of ammonia free hair colour products as well. Ammonia free hair colour, though free of ammonia, still has alkaline ingredients. While the adverse effects of ammonia and its alkalinity on the hair and body are avoided, switching to an ammonia free hair colour does not mean that we have got rid of all chemical interactions during the hair dying process.

Thus, it can be easily said that ammonia free hair colour is a much better option than ammonia-based dyes. However, ammonia free hair colour also implies chemicals and chemical processes to achieve their objective and are not in any way as safe as natural and organic ways of getting your hair coloured.

Safe & Natural Ways to Colour Your Hair

If you want a permanent hair colour, chemical dyes are the only effective way to achieve it. No ammonia hair colour, as well as natural hair dyes, are mostly semi-permanent. However, the upsides of these options are innumerable. First, they are not harsh on the hair and the scalp, thus maintaining the shine and softness of the hair. Secondly, they do not induce any symptoms like ammonia or other chemical-based dyes. Thirdly, being chemical-free, they do not have any prominent side effects. Here, we look at some of the natural and safe ways of colouring your hair. All the options discussed below should be applied in the form of a paste and be left on the hair the scalp for at least 2-3 hours for the colour to penetrate the hair, before rinsing normally.

  • Amla

Also known as gooseberry, this fruit is extremely rich in vitamin C and has traditionally been used for dying the hair black. Dried and powdered fruit is made into a paste with water and applied to the hair. For best results leave the paste overnight in preferably a cast iron utensil. Amla is mostly used in conjugation with henna.

  • Henna

Henna for hair is the most common traditional hair colouring dye used in India. It gives a shining dark brown-reddish shade to the hair. It also nourishes the hair. For best results, leave the henna powder and water paste overnight in a cast iron utensil, and add a scoop of yoghurt or curd to the mixture before applying it to the hair the next day. You can also mix some amla powder in the mixture before leaving overnight.

  • Hibiscus

Powdered hibiscus flowers are also an effective dyeing agent. These lend a beautiful crimson shade. You can add the powder to your henna or amla paste before applying it to the hair.

  • Tea and Coffee

Strained tea water or coffee added to henna or a henna/amla/hibiscus paste deepens the shade of the hair colour.

Hair whitening is a universal issue today. With so many hair dyes available off the shelf, it is very easy that one might ignore the ingredients of the product. While herbal and all-natural options will always be the best choice for hair colouring as they have no side effects and have a gentle action, they are not as permanent as the chemical-based options. Among the chemical-based options, we strongly recommend you to avoid ammonia-based products and go for ammonia-free hair colours as they offer a colouring more lasting than natural options but are not as harsh and problematic for the hair as an ammonia-based dye.


  • Is ammonia in hair dye dangerous?

The Ammonia in hair dye forms a highly alkaline compound that can make its way to the bloodstream and harm the retention of pigmentation in the hair. The vapours of the compound also harm the lungs, eyes and throat.

  • Is ammonia free hair dye safe?

The safest hair dye are ones which are chemical free and totally natural. Though ammonia free hair dye does skip the damage caused by ammonia, be careful to read on the other ingredients in your ammonia free hair dye.

  • Which are potential side effects of hair color with ammonia?

Hair colour with ammonia damages the cuticles making the hair brittle. From the scalp, it can also enter the bloodstream damaging amino acids that impact the retention of pigments in the hair shaft.

  • Is hair dye better with ammonia?

Hair dye with ammonia makes the hair brittle and adversely impacts the hair health. Repeated usage impacts the ability of the hair to retain any colour. It does give you a deeper colour as it makes the colour penetrate the layers of the hair well.

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