Hair Color Active Ingredient Types And Descriptions

A brief article mentioning various natural ingredients in hair coloring as well as the active chemicals in synthetic versions.

Hair is made mostly of keratin. Keratin is the same substance found in skin and fingernails. It is a protein. Hair color is determined by a ratio of proteins. Darker hair has a higher percentage of melanin.Hair color is inherited. Melanin and phenomelanin are responsible for giving hair strands their color.

Before synthetic coloring chemicals were invented, people used a variety of natural substances to color their hair a different color. Examples of hair dyes have been found throughout history. Henna is one of the more popular and widespread pigments used for hair coloring. It is a semi permanent color under certain conditions. It comes in powder form and is mixed with other ingredients to modify the red shades. It is mixed up to form a paste and spread on the hair. Since henna shades are mostly from plant material, their additive ingredients have been tested for safety according to Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requirements.

The other popular vegetable dye is chamomile. Two species, Anthemis nobilis and Matricaria chamomillae, are used in hair tinting. Chamomile is used as a hair brightener. It is an ingredient in many brightening shampoos and rinses. The actual agent in chamomile is apigenin or 1,3,4-trihydroxyflavone. To darken hair, use equal portions of sage and raspberry leaves or walnut shells. Darkening blond hair should involve saffron. There is a growing market for natural hair coloring products that do not change the hair shaft itself using chemicals. A few of the ingredients you will find are coffee bean, rhubarb root, woad, elderberries and beet root. They are mixed with natural conditioners such as jojoba to give extra care to your hair.


These natural pigments typically work by coating the shaft of the hair. Research the various ingredients and their chemical names if you are concerned about allergic reactions. Always do a patch test whether you are using natural or synthetic coloring. Allergies can develop even after several applications or at any time. Read the box and instructions thoroughly for any warnings from the manufacturer. Because many products for hair coloring are not regulated by the FDA, a natural product could be as harmful as a chemical version. The more natural the hair dye, the less effective it is for coloring gray hair.

Aniline dyes are chemicals that were developed from coal tar and are used in semi-permanent hair colors. For permanent hair color, products will contain paraphenylenediamine or PPD. It is the only known permanent coloring at this time. There are many different names for this product but they are similar enough that you should be able to spot them. Most allergic reactions are a result of using PPD.

In order for semi-permanent and permanent hair colors to be effective, the hair shaft must first be opened. The most common opening agent is ammonia. After the hair is opened, the hair color can then go into the shaft. Hydrogen peroxide is also part of the mixture for permanent hair coloring. These dye products that use dye ingredients such as PPD and hydrogen peroxide are called oxidation dyes. A higher amount of peroxide in the dye will give a faster and lighter result.

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