Avoid These 7 Toxic Chemicals Found in Most Hair Dyes

April 26, 2016 Updated: April 26, 2016

After writing my article about harmful chemicals found in most commercial shampoos, it was only natural that I would want to investigate the health hazards of using commercial hair dyes.


Dangers of Hair Dyes Chemicals-Young woman applying hair dye
Young woman applying commercial hair dye (Shutterstock)


Lo and behold, my suspicions were correct—according to a European Commission report of 2006, not one hair dye brand has proven to be consumer safe. In fact, the EU Commission has already banned 22 ingredients that may still be found in many products sold outside of Europe, and the commission is in the process of investigating another 115 potentially harmful ingredients.

The side effects of those banned-in-Europe chemicals range from severe allergies, skin, eye, throat and lung irritation, and rheumatoid arthritis to cancer of the bladder.

I will post the full list at the end of this article, but thought I should introduce to you some of most dangerous culprits:

1. PPD

PPD is short for para-phenylenediamine. It is used as a dye for dark color shades and is made from coal tar, a petroleum-derived chemical that includes benzene,naphthalene, phenols, aniline, and other chemicals. It is also used as a wood preservative, and contact with skin is best to be avoided. Research states PPD in combination with Hydrogene Peroxide is very toxic and can lead to cancer.

2. Hydrogene Peroxide

Hydrogene Peroxide is mostly used to stip the natural color away, before applying the hair dye color. It is said to change the hair structure and make it brittle stripping it of its natural luster.

3. Ammonia

Ammonia is used to open up the hair’s cuticle (the outer layer of the hair) so the dyes can come into the shaft (the inside of the hair). It may produce caustic burns and lung irritation. 

4. DMDM Hydantoin

DMDM Hydantoin is a preservative that slowly releases the toxic formaldehyde chemical, the longer it sits on the shelves. It may cause tissue irritation and affect the immune system. DMDM Hydantoin kills off fungi, yeasts and bacteria and it’s also used in herbicides, floor waxes, polymers, color photography, latex paints, cutting oils, adhesives, copying paper, and inks.

5. Parabens

The two most common parabens preservatives are Methylparabens and Propylparabens. They are widely used in hair care products and can produce severe allergies and skin irritation.

6. Lead Acetate

Lead Acetate is used as a color additive for the dark shade hair dyes. It is said to cause anemia and produce neurological problems.

7. Resorcinol

Resorcinol is a toxic dye that can cause scalp irritation, and is an allergen affecting the endocrine system. 

Henna has been used as a natural hair dye for millennia (Shutterstock)


The best way to avoid these harmful chemicals is to buy brands that use 100% natural hair dyes. One needs to read the label carefully though, as some brands may still mix natural dyes with chemical preservatives and other chemical dyes for a faster and longer permanence.

You can also make your own using herbs and other products found at home. But this requires time and you may need to apply it frequently before achieving a darker shade of color.

The third best option is to buy semi-permanent hair dyes, as those only coat the cuticle and will not penetrate the hair shaft. 

One good tip I heard of for reversing grey hair is to eat 1 tablespoon of unsulphured blackstrap molasses every day with a glass of water in the mornings. Molasses are full of iron and potassium, which also helps hair growth.

You can also apply it directly to your hair starting from the roots, and leave it on as long as possible. It is quite messy as it will melt with your body heat, so it is recommended to wrap your hair in cling film and put a shower cap on.

As for myself, I have decided to embrace my age for what it is, and leave my white highlights in peace. For now that is. I will be venturing into the alchemical world of natural hair dyes shortly, so stay tuned.

Business woman with natural grey hair
Business woman with natural grey hair (Shutterstock)

Here is the list of 22 hair dye chemicals banned by the European Commission.


6-Methoxy-2,3-Pyridinediamine and its HCl salt





4,5-Diamino-1-Methylpyrazole and its HCl salt

4,5-Diamino-1-((4-Chlorophenyl)Methyl)-1H-Pyrazole Sulfate



4-Methoxytoluene-2,5-Diamine and its HCl salt

5-Amino-4-Fluoro-2-Methylphenol Sulfate


N,N-Dimethyl-2,6-Pyridinediamine and its HCl salt


N-(2-Methoxyethyl)-p-phenylenediamine and its HCl salt

2,4-Diamino-5-methylphenetol and its HCl salt


3,4-Diaminobenzoic acid

2-Aminomethyl-p-aminophenol and its HCl salt

Solvent Red 1 (CI 12150)

Acid Orange 24 (CI 20170)

Acid Red 73 (CI 27290)