sunitav colored hair

Photo by SunitaV

Of all the things we can do with our curls, changing up your hair color can be one of the best ways to shake things up!

Whether you're transforming yourself into a bright blonde, violet crowned rockstar, or someone who's gone a little less gray, coloring your curls has the potential to be a great thing. But if you regularly go DIY with your hair dye, showing off your colorful personality can come at a cost if you aren't careful about the agents you use.

Certain chemicals found in hair dyes can lead to dry, brittle hair that is more prone to breakage, chemically burned skin, and several months of regrets. Here are the ingredients to watch out for in hair dyes to ensure you stay safe and your hair stays protected.

PPD (paraphenylenediamine)

This chemical is used to change the color of hair to a darker shade. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this ingredient since many people have experienced severe allergic reactions to it. Thankfully, the EPA stepped in, and continues to investigate the long-term effects of the use of PPD. The EPA has reported that, "Acute (short-term) exposure to high levels of p-phenylenediamine may cause severe dermatitis, eye irritation and tearing, asthma, gastritis, renal failure, vertigo, tremors, convulsions, and coma in humans." Not exactly the most ringing endorsement...


Used to lighten hair by removing color and opening up the hair shaft, ammonia is one of the most important ingredients to avoid in hair dyes. It is incredibly drying to your hair while being harsh and possibly painful to your skin. In fact, most times when people feel a tingling or burning sensation when lifting their hair color, it's because the ammonia is getting to their scalp. Keep this stuff under the sink for cleaning use only, and DON'T feel the burn.

Ethanol and Isopropyl Alcohol

While you may be tempted to stay away from all alcohols in your curl cocktails, it should be noted that they're not all created equally. There are alcohols that dry hair out and then there are the uncharitably named fatty alcohols that actually help to moisturize hair and skin. The main bad alcohol you will see in the hair dye you might need to ditch is ethanol alcohol which will dry out your strands and possibly irritate your scalp. Put the prohibition on this ingredient, and read up on the differences in the alcohol family!


One of the most contested in terms of concrete evidence, parabens deserve to be on the list of ingredients to avoid in hair dyes if for no other reason than they've been tentatively linked to cancer. Neither the FDA nor the EPA have directly stated that parabens cause cancer, but both agencies have agreed that large amounts of parabens can contribute to cancer. You won't find a Surgeon General's warning on your hair care anytime soon though. Word from on high is that most products are still safe because the parabens used in them are very low levels. However, because parabens can be found almost every type of self-care product, and people use large amounts of those throughout their lifetime, the worry is that parabens may be accumulating in the body and disrupting normal function. According to esteemed journal The Scientific American, the problem with parabens is that they do not just sit on the skin, but sink below the surface into your system and disrupt hormonal balances. Consulting with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, they report that, "Of greatest concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity."

If you're looking to avoid these chemicals in particular but don't know where to start, check out our specially curated shop full of ONLY paraben free products!

Curlies, the only thing you should worry about when home-coloring your hair is whether you'll have to change your wardrobe to match. Avoiding these ingredients will give you added peace of mind about the health of your hair and your health overall, so take a deep breath and take the plunge!