Coloring your Hair, Naturally – Earth911

Looking to change up your look by trying a new hair color but don’t want to use harsh chemicals on your hair? Try natural products and DIY green hacks to lighten and change your hair.

Dyed hair is a popular form of self-expression. An estimated 64 million Americans dyed their hair in 2019, according to Statista — far more people than are registered with either U.S. political party. But there are drawbacks to this using commercial hair coloring products. The chemicals used in many products can damage hair as it strips the natural color and, sometimes, its strength and texture. Then, there is the cost of maintaining the color over time. If you color your once a month at a salon, the average annual bill will be between $600 and $840.

When hair dye goes down the drain and into the water supply, the chemicals that damage hair can also harm nature. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that Paraphenylenediamine (PPD), which is found in dark hair dyes, can cause severe dermatitis, eye irritation, asthma, kidney failure, and convulsions. PPD in the environment harms fish and wildlife. Another common ingredient, Hydrogen Peroxide, is toxic to aquatic life, including algae and phytoplankton, and reduces the oxygen level in water. Wastewater treatment facilities do not effectively filter out these chemicals, so they inevitably reach rivers or oceans and often ends up in drinking water.

What can we do? Certainly, it is a good idea to avoid products containing PPD, hydrogen peroxide, and other chemicals that harm the environment, including endocrine-disrupting parabens. We can start by switching to natural and environmentally-responsible products when we want to make bold changes to our look.

But for many touch-ups, natural options are available over the counter or in the refrigerator.

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The Natural Ways

A variety of natural hair dyes are available. Look for vegan, ammonia- and paraben-free coloring products. Remember to test the dye on a patch of hair before committing, as some people’s skin can be sensitive to natural ingredients like dyes.

  • Lemon Juice combined with sunlight is a natural bleach that makes it easy to lighten up your hair for summer. Mix one cup of water with two tablespoons of lemon juice, then spray onto the hair with a spray bottle. Sit in the sun for an hour or two, then wash and condition as usual.
  • Chamomile blended with lemon juice is vlogger Jessica Lee’s choice for natural hair lightening. Mix 2 cups of very strongly brewed chamomile tea with ¼ cup of lemon juice, then sit in the sun until your hair dries. This method can leave you with dry hair, so be sure to condition it well after washing your hair.
  • Carrot Juice can give redheads added sizzle or turn brunette hair toward auburn. Use store-bought or homemade carrot juice blended with a carrier oil such as coconut to give your hair a reddish tint. Apply to hair and wrap in plastic; let it sit for at least an hour before rinsing with apple cider vinegar.
  • Beet Juice is another option if you’re looking for a deeper red. Like carrot juice, you must mix it with a carrier oil before applying it to the hair. Let it sit for an hour before washing your hair as usual.
  • Coffee is a tonic for graying or dark hair needing a deeper tone. That’s right; your favorite drink can dye your hair. Mix half a cup of dark-brewed coffee — you can drink the other half — and mix with two tablespoons of coffee grounds and one cup of leave-in conditioner. Apply it to clean damp hair, let sit for an hour, then wash it out. Repeat this method multiple times to achieve the desired shade.
  • Henna is well known as a natural hair dye for darkening hair to brown. Mix ½ cup of henna with ¼ cup of water and stir until it’s completely blended. Add more water as needed until the texture is like mashed potatoes. Let that mix sit for 12 hours before you apply it; you may need to add a bit more water to apply it to your hair. Make sure your hair is clean and unconditioned before applying this, and apply coconut oil along your hairline and use a bandana to ensure you don’t stain your skin. Apply in small sections until your hair is covered, then wrap in plastic and allow your hair to sit in the mix for two to six hours before washing.

Choose Hair Colors that Keeps Nature Beautiful,Too

Suppose you’re still looking to use box dyes. In that case, we recommend Naturtint or Clairol Natural Instincts. Both reputable vegan brands minimize environmental harm when you color your hair. Another smaller brand to try out that you likely will not find locally is Khadi, which uses traditional methods to create dyes of varying colors. Khadi does not offer any lighteners, meaning the result will be based on the color you start with, not necessarily exactly what is on the box.

We know many people want to go with brighter colors, in shades that may not be achievable naturally. If you’re dying your hair a natural color, try natural products and methods first. Let’s not sacrifice healthy ecosystems for our self-expression.


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