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Dying your hair is a small change that can make a huge impact, both on your look and your mood. A bold red feels like a fresh start when some aspect of your life has stalled. When you highlight with a sunny blonde in early spring, it’s like summer has already arrived.
Unfortunately for vegans, hair dyes are particularly notorious in the beauty industry for animal testing. Because many dyes contain harsh synthetic chemicals—ammonia, lead acetate, parabens—many manufacturers feel that animal testing is necessary to ensure their products are safe for human use.
L’oreal, Garnier, Clairol, Revlon, John Freida, and Vidal Sassoon dyes are all tested on animals, for example.
Thankfully, we vegans don’t have to stick with the hair color nature gave us. However, the different offerings of veggie hair dye can be a little confusing, so let’s start with some definitions.
What are cruelty-free hair dyes?
Companies label their dyes cruelty-free to denote that the products are not tested on animals. However, you should be aware that a cruelty-free hair dye can still contain both animal products and/or by-products and synthetic chemicals that research suggests may not be good for you. (1)
Pregnant women especially need to avoid resorcinol as it may be harmful to baby’s health and development. If you’re pregnant, it’s a good idea to do a little extra research or talk to your doctor before dying your hair.
So while the label “cruelty-free” is a good start, health-conscious, vegan customers should dig deeper to find out what’s really in the product.
What are vegan hair dyes?
“Vegan hair dye” and “vegetable based hair dye” are products that contain plant-derived ingredients. However, “vegan” or “vegetable based” doesn’t mean that the dye contains ONLY plant ingredients. Nor does it necessarily mean the product has not been tested on animals. Ridiculous, I know!
Here’s the thing: the FDA does not regulate cosmetics in the same way it regulates food products. Therefore words like “natural,” “organic,” and “vegan” shouldn’t be taken as absolute indicators of a product’s ingredients or quality. A company can call their dye “natural” or “plant-based” even if it still contains potentially harmful artificial chemicals.
Again, you really have to dive deep to know if a product is 100% vegan, natural, and ticks the cruelty-free box too. If you don’t have time to research the best vegan hair dye brands, just check out our reviews below.
What if I want to go to the salon?
If you’ve found a vegan-friendly colorist who will give your tresses the salon treatment, then you are a lucky girl indeed. Most salons use hair dyes that are definitely not cruelty-free or plant based.
Aveda salons are the exception with their line of cruelty-free hair dye. However, you should know that their parent company, Estee Lauder, continues to animal test their products sold in China.
If you want both a veggie hair dye and a salon experience, some stylists recommend simply calling a salon to see if they will let you bring your own vegan hair color.
Is vegan hair dye best if I have allergies?
Anyone with allergies knows that you can still react to the most natural foods and skin products. Everyone should always test a new product on a small patch of skin at least 24 hours before you start dying your hair. To learn how to properly do a hair dye allergy test, check out this video from eHow Style.
The absence of harsh synthetic chemicals may reduce your chances of reacting to a hair dye. If you have allergies, organic hair dyes may work better for you, but you should still exercise all the usual precautions.
What about henna?
If you’re looking for natural hair color, at some point you will run across henna. Henna was first used by Ancient Egyptian beauties to color their hair. Today, most hennas are still made only from natural plant ingredients. (4)
So what’s the difference between dye and henna? In brief, dyes and henna affect different parts of the hair. Dyes lift the hair’s outer cuticle and integrate into the inner cortex. Henna does not pass into the cortex; it binds to the proteins in the cuticle, which are called keratin. (5)
Even though henna binds to the surface of your hair, it’s permanent. As in, you will need to shave your head to get rid of it. Also, depending on the products you use, you may not be able to dye your hair after using henna. Henna can be a great natural color option for some women, but you should do some research first to make sure.
Finding the best vegan hair dye: Our Reviews
All of this is a lot to consider. Fortunately, we’ve done the hard work for you! Here are our top picks for vegan hair dyes that can add gorgeous color to your locks.
Naturtint Permanent Hair Color
Naturtint Permanent Hair Color comes in 28 permanent shades, including honey-kissed medium blonde, coppery red, and shiny mahogany brown.
Don’t see the shade you want? Naturtint dyes are easy to mix to produce exactly the color you’re after.
Naturtint does not contain any lighteners, so it works best for going darker than your current shade. If you want to go lighter, you will have to use a vegan hair bleach first. Naturtint also recommends picking a shade lighter than you want for your first application and adjusting as needed.
One possible downside is that Naturtint colors are not strictly 100% natural. The dye contains the synthetic substances propylene glycol and tetrasodium EDTA. While both of these chemicals are considered safe by the cosmetic database Skin Deep, their presence in Naturtint may be an issue for those who want a purely vegetable based dye.
- Mixable colors in natural hair shades
- Great for going darker
- Contains synthetic ingredients
- No non-natural colors
Herbatint Herbal Permanent Hair Color
Herbatint has been around since 1970, and they seem to have put their experience to good use with their herbal permanent hair color. This vegetable-based dye comes in 36 colors, from the deepest natural blacks to “sand” blondes. There are also fun shades of red, purple, and orange.
Women love Herbatint Herbal Permanent Hair Color for its nourishing properties, pleasant smell, and consistent color. Some claim that Herbatint not only replaces chemical-laden brands but actually yields better results than a salon dye job. People with sensitive scalps report being able to use Herbatint even though other dyes irritate their skin.
Most women can put on the dye without an applicator, but some curly-haired girls thought having one would make their lives easier. A few people also felt the included gloves weren’t of good quality and substituted their own.
The Herbatint website proudly states that their dyes are “free from Ammonia, Resorcinol, Parabens, Fragrance, and Alcohol”. However, resorcinol is clearly listed as an ingredient in some of the colors. Read carefully before you pick your shade, particularly if you are expecting.
- Lots of natural color choices with some fun colors
- Leaves hair soft
- Consistent color and gray coverage
- No applicator included
- Some colors contain resorcinol
IroIro Premium Natural Semi-Permanent Hair Color
If you want to turn heads, you should definitely check out IroIro’s natural semi-permanent hair colors. The shades range from bubblegum pink to mermaid blues to vivid reds. There are even some gray options for girls who want to try out the “granny hair” trend. (Is that over yet?)
IroIro is adamant about the vegan pedigree of their products. They advertise that their formulas contain no animal ingredients and no harmful synthetic chemicals. However, the company recommends that for best results you lighten your hair before use. Be sure to find a cruelty-free hair bleach that does not include peroxide or ammonia.
The bold devotees of IroIro say this brand produces the best vegan hair dye. However, in terms of being long-lasting, IroIro gets mixed reviews. While some swear the color lasts and lasts, others say it comes out in just a few washes or never takes to begin with.
- All organic ingredients
- Super fun, vivid colors
- No natural shades
- You may need to lighten your hair for best results
- “Semi-Permanent” is up for debate
Special Effects Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Another option for eye-popping colors, Special Effects’ vegan-friendly formulas will leave your hair soft and vibrant. Some of the colors—like “Cupcake Pink” and “Bright as F@ck Yellow”—glow under the blacklight, which is guaranteed to get you plenty of attention at your next rave. If that’s not quite your style, Special Effects offers plenty of non-florescent colors in every rainbow shade. Special Effects has some seriously devoted customers—women who’ve rocked these colors for more than a decade. Though some colors seem to take better than others, most Special Effects dyes last at least 3-6 weeks with minimal fading. Though Special Effects hair dye is not tested on animals, it does have a few questionable ingredients. These semi-permanent dyes contain propylene glycol which, though probably not harmful, isn’t a natural ingredient. Even though most customers feel the dye is conditioning, the Special Effects formula does contain several types of alcohol which may not work for everyone.
Super bright fluorescent shades Color holds well for 3-6 weeks
Contains alcohol and synthetic ingredients No options for those wanting a natural look
Light Mountain Natural Hair Color and Conditioner
Light Mountain hair color is technically henna, not dye. (There’s a quick guide to henna in the introduction in case you missed it.)
The shades of Light Mountain products include chocolate brown, auburn, and light dusty red. Henna will not yield a drastic color change; instead, the tone of your natural hair will be deepened and enhanced.
If you are going to use henna to dye your hair, go ahead and clear your schedule for an entire day. Henna needs to sit after being mixed and should be applied to the hair for at least a few hours to get the best results.
Besides the time-intensive aspect, some users of this henna found the color to be much darker than they expected. A few others were turned off by the smell. (Mix henna with cinnamon for a nicer scent.) Overall, Light Mountain Hair Color seems to work best for women looking for a subtle, long-lasting change to their ‘do.
The entire line of Light Mountain hair color contains only three ingredients: henna, indigo, and senna leaf powders. The kit comes with the henna powder, cap, gloves, and instructions.
With 12 colors on offer, Light Mountain’s range gives you a decent amount of options to choose from.
- Truly all-natural with just 3 ingredients
- Covers grays and enhances natural color
- Takes a long time to apply
- Somewhat limited color options
- Not a big change, if that’s what you’re looking for
So which is the best vegan hair dye?
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Since these product lines provide a range of offerings, what works for one woman won’t do it for another. A trendy twenty-something eager try out mermaid hair will love IroIro, but a lawyer who needs to cover a few grays will be happier with a medium brown by Naturtint.
However, we think the product that is most likely to please everyone is Herbatint Herbal Hair Color. The brand’s 36 shades include both natural and funky colors. Customers love how Herbatint gives them soft hair and long-lasting semi-permanent color.
Herbatint also seems to be great for people with sensitive skin and allergies. The ingredients are vegan and mostly all-natural. Before you pick your shade, however, you may want to check the list for resorcinol.
Trying a new hair color comes with a unique sort of excitement: the anticipation of the moment you remove the towel or finish drying your hair and see the new color. Whichever vegan hair dye you pick, no two women who apply the product will have exactly the same results.
That color is uniquely yours!
About The Author:
Lisa Williams is a committed vegan, passionate animal welfare advocate, and keen follower of too many v-friendly food blogs to mention. She started happyhappyvegan.com back in 2016 because she felt there was a need for more straightforward information on plant-based living.
Back then, too many sites seem to either concentrate solely on recipes or be too intimidating or inaccessible for the v-curious, and she wanted to change that. The landscape is certainly a whole lot different now!
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- PETA – Kim | What Does ‘Cruelty-Free’ Really Mean? | https://www.peta2.com/vegan-life/what-does-cruelty-free-mean/
- NCBI | Chemical Agents and Related Occupations: 4-AMINOBIPHENYL | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK304408/
- Campaign for Safe Cosmetics | Resorcinol | https://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/resorcinol/
- Iram Moazzam | A brief history of henna | https://tribune.com.pk/story/741476/a-brief-history-of-henna
- Barbara Olioso | Why Henna Hair Dye Is Great And How Best Apply It | https://thegreenchemist.com/why-henna-hair-dye-is-great-and-how-best-apply-it/