samantha gunter maroon hair

If you search the hashtag #naturalhair on Instagram, you're guaranteed to come across some jaw-droppingly gorgeous kinky, curly, and coily manes. Not only do their curly fros, twist-outs, and updos defy gravity, many social media naturalistas are rocking eye-catching hues on their manes, from golden blonde ombre to sizzling red and cool blue. If you're anything like me, you look wistfully at these photos and begin contemplating what products you can hold off on buying in order to save up for a professional dye job. But then you chicken out, not only unsure of committing to a color, but somewhat fearful of ruining the natural hair you worked so hard to grow.

Check out these 6 much safer alternatives to add a little dimension to your hair. Fair warning: they won't give you drastic color lift/change, but it should be enough to satisfy your curiosity. Plus, they are all fairly affordable and relatively easy to do at home.

photo I_AM_PHOENIX

next page: Henna 

henna powder

Body Art Quality Henna

BAQ Henna is a personal favorite of mine. Not only do I use it monthly to help keep my scalp psoriasis at bay, I also love the rich reddish tint that the ground up leaf deposits on my hair. Although not entirely invisible in indoor lighting, outdoors my henna color is gorgeous! Not only will henna give you a little reddish color boost, it also conditions the hair, thickens it, helps promote shine, and make it stronger.

My personal favorite Body Art Quality brand is Jamila because the sift is super fine, making it easy to apply and rinse out. Before discovering Jamila, I tried Light Mountain brand henna, and each month was a fiasco in terms of trying to get the grit and twigs out of my curly mane. Also do note that pure henna that won't harm your hair or skin only comes in one color: red. Anything else (black henna, brown, etc.) may contain additives and chemicals that could cause irritation, so beware. If the box does not say 100% pure henna/lawsonia inermis, put it down and slowly and back away.

To see how I mix my henna, click here.

next page: Indigo

indigo plant

Indigo

In a similar vein to henna, indigo comes from ground plant leaves. When mixed with liquid (water) and exposed to air it turns blue. Don't worry though, indigo actually turns the hair deep black, and has been used to do so for thousands of years. Indigo requires a firm commitment; once you've use it you can't go back for some time until it wears off.

If your hair is a lighter color than brown, it is advised that you henna hair first, then apply indigo.

For more on indigo, check out Shelli of Hairscapades and her 2-step henna/indigo process.

next page: SheaMoisture Ammonia-Free Hair Color

shea moisture hair dye

Shea Moisture Moisture-Rich Ammonia-Free Hair Color System

Shea Moisture is everywhere these days! When they decided to launch a hair color system, the entire natural hair community was thrilled. Finally, a hair coloring solution that catered to the concerns of kinks, curls, and coils!

Since many textured beauties already have challenges retaining moisture and porosity issues, the fact that this color system is ammonia-free is a huge deal.

Ammonia is the ingredient in most hair dyes that lifts your cuticle so that the peroxide can penetrate and zap your natural pigment. The ammonia-peroxide duo can leave hair dry, straw-like, brittle, and of course, with irreversible cuticle damage (leading to more porosity and dryness issues).

next page: Ion Color Brilliance

ion hair color

Ion Color Brilliance Semi-Permanent

If you used to get your hair professionally done back in the day, you might remember having your stylist do a super conditioning and tinting treatment on your hair, known as a cellophane. In high school I lived for the cellophane color because it was the only color my parents would allow me to have --because it was non-damaging, not permanent, and not "too grown" (haha).

There are tons of brands out there, such as Jazzing by Clairol that serve the same function-- but the Ion Color Brilliance line is my personal favorite pick. Because I henna my hair regularly, I have no particular need for colored cellophane. But what I do enjoy is that brilliant shine that a dose of this product in clear gives. Ion Color Brilliance is ammonia and peroxide free, making it ideal for non-damaging coloring.

next page: Manic Panic Cream Color

amplified hair coloring cream

Manic Panic Amplified Cream Color

If you're into hot hues and bright colors without the commitment, Manic Panic is definitely worth considering. This semi permanent hair color comes in shades ranging from Cotton Candy (hot pink) to After Midnite (deep navy blue). Lighter color hair will always yield the best results, but you can always take some inspiration from the wonderful Evelyn From the Internets on how to get bright colors on dark hair.

next page: DIY Hair Lightener

lemon juice recipe

DIY Hair Lightener

Of course, no article about hair color is complete without a DIY recipe. Check out this homemade mix to gradually lighten your hair.

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2-3 cups of strong chamomile tea

Directions

  • Mix one cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice with three cups of strong chamomile tea.
  • Soak your hair with this mixture.
  • Air dry on the sun then rinse out and condition well.
  • Repeat this 2-3 times per week for best results.