Skip to Content

6 Natural Ways To Color Your Hair At Home + Why You Should Never Use Chemical Dyes

6 Natural Ways To Color Your Hair At Home + Why You Should Never Use Chemical Dyes

How often do you go to the salon to get your hair colored? For most women, once they start, they go routinely every six or eight weeks, some even more frequently. Perhaps you go to hide your advancing gray around your roots and temples or even to get a little lift of color in the form of highlights or lowlights.  

For whatever reason, a 2008 study found that 75% of women color their hair – that is a lot of hair dye. There is even an increasing number of men who use hair dye to change their hair color or to cover up grey. Another study found that as many as 10% of men over 40 use some kind of hair dye.

Dangers Of Chemical Hair Dyes

The dangers of chemical products are something that should not be ignored, especially if you frequently visit a salon to color your hair or buy a boxed product and do it yourself. Today’s hair dyes come in there forms, permanent, semipermanent and temporary. The permanent dyes make up 80% or so of the products available on the market today.

There are some 5000 different chemicals used in hair dyes, many that have been found to be carcinogenic in animal studies. It has been thought for a long time that hair dye may cause cancer, especially in those who used colored frequently and used darker colors. Some startling studies even showed that hair dye frequently could increase the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

In 2004, conclusive evidence published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found a  link between hair dye and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, an aggressive cancer of the lymph system. The highest risk was found in women who used permanent dyes (browns, reds and blacks) and who dyed their hair eight or more times a year for at least 25 years.

Phenylenediamine appears to be one of the main chemical hazards found in permanent hair dye. Although the FDA has not banned its use, it did propose that manufacturers put warning labels on products that contain this dangerous substance that causes cancer in laboratory animals and also that salons who used these products warn their customers. However, industry lobbyists successfully defeated the proposals and no warnings were ever seen on hair dye packages or in salons.

In addition to phenylenediamine, hair dyes also contain coal tar colors which are extracted from the tar found in bituminous coal. This gooey tar contains toxic contaminants such as benzene (banned from household products in the 1970’s because it increases the risk of leukemia). In addition, many coal tar colors contain heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. Both of these substances have been shown to cause cancer and disrupt hormones.

Sadly, it has also been found that hairdressers and barbers who use hair dyes have an increased risk of bladder cancer. A 2008 report published by the Working Group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer ( IARC) found that some of the chemicals that hair professionals are exposed to occupationally are “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Another problem with hair dyes occurs when hydrogen peroxide is mixed with ammonia (which it is with hair dye), this combination creates dangerous new chemicals that may increase the risk of cancer.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), skin contact with phenylenediamine should be avoided – however, it is next to impossible not to touch skin when applying hair color.

As scary as cancer is, it would be remiss not to mention the fact that hair dyes also cause allergic reactions, plenty of them. Allergic reactions to the chemicals used in hair dyes can, and have been deadly. However, most frequently those who sustain an allergic reaction to a dye present with such things as dermatitis of the eyes, scalp, face, and ears. These are all pretty uncomfortable to say the least.

Europe Ahead of America

When it comes to potentially dangerous chemicals in personal care products, Europe is well ahead of the United states. This includes hair dyes. The European Commission has actually banned 22 hair dye substances. The bulk of these substances have been linked to bladder cancer.

In America, there is no one regulating  body watching out for chemicals in personal care products. The FDA merely makes recommendations about unsafe chemicals and the companies themselves must do the research into an ingredient’s safety or possible dangers.

So, just how dangerous are hair dyes?

The Environmental Working Group has declared that 400 of the 456 hair colors ranked in the Skin Deep cosmetics database are a high hazard. This means, they contain toxic ingredients that have been somehow linked to cancer, reproductive problems, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity and immunotoxicity as well as allergic problems. This is serious news indeed.

How To Dye Your Hair Naturally Without Harsh Chemicals

So, the million dollar question that you might be asking is, how do you do it without chemicals? How do you get that rich, lasting and near perfect color and blanket over gray without chemicals. Well, just as you can clean your home with a little white vinegar and some lemon juice, you can also dye your hair with a few toxic-free gifts from nature.  

These optional hair dyes are free and clear of any dangerous chemicals. They will not strip your hair of nourishment and leave a chemical residue that builds up over time to a toxic overload. They feed you hair and scalp with vital minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins that will leave your locks gorgeous and fresh. So, what are you waiting for? Time to toss the toxins and embrace the natural.


Henna is not new. In fact, this tall shrub or small tree native to tropical and subtropical areas in Africa, southern Asia and northern Australia, has been used since antiquity as a dye – skin dye, hair dye, fingernail dye, leather, silk and wool dye.

Specifically, henna has been used as a hair dye for around 6,000 years. Cleopatra was known to have used it as have countless other beauties down through the ages. Today, henna is a widely accepted alternative to commercial hair dye and is experiencing a sort of rebirthing here in the west.

Henna hair dye is totally natural and gently colors hair while strengthening the hair shaft, conditioning the scalp and pulling impurities from hair follicles. If you have a chronically dry scalp and suffer from dandruff, henna will help to bring your scalp back into balance.

The pigment in henna is called lawsone. It binds with protein hair and keeps natural highlights and undertones. It fuses into but does not cover up existing hair variations (which all of us have).

Henna works along with your present hair color to bring out its best while conditioning your scalp and fighting off bacteria.

Be sure to read the directions thoroughly before using henna color and only purchase your color from a high-quality distributor.


Now your favorite morning pick-me-up can double as your hair’s best friend. IF you are looking to take your hair a shade darker or cover gray, coffee can do the trick. Brew a very strong up of coffee and let it sit till it cools. Mix one cup of coffee with two cups of leave in conditioner and 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds.

Put the mixture on clean hair and let it sit for about one hour. Rinse with apple cider vinegar. You may need to repeat a couple of times to really see a difference.


Black tea helps to darken hair naturally and cover up gray. If lighter hair is what you are after, there are a number of different teas that can help with this. Chamomile tea is suggested for blondes or people who want to bring out natural blonde highlights. Rooibos works well for those with red hair. You can enhance the work of the tea by sitting in the sun while the tea is in your hair.

The longer you leave the tea in your hair and the more often you use it, the better results you will get.

The key to success when using tea on your hair is to make the application very concentrated. Use 3-5 teabags for two cups of water. Let the tea cool and mix it with your usual conditioner. If your objective is to cover gray hair, mix in some fresh or dried sage – this will help open up hair follicles.

Leave the mixture on your hair for at least an hour. You can even put on a shower cap and leave it on all night.

If you want a lift, mix equal parts turmeric, calendula, and chamomile together in 2 cups boiling water. Let the mixture steep for twenty minutes and strain. Apply to your hair and leave on for about twenty minutes. Rinse and repeat as desired.

If you desire a light reddish tint – try brewing a strong cup of herbal tea from dried rose hips. Boil two cups of water and one cup of rose hips. Allow the mixture to steep until he water turns a dep red. Cool the mixture and strain it. Apply to your hair and let it sit for about twenty minutes before rinsing. Repeat as desired.

Carrot or Beet Juice

If you want to add natural red tints to your hair, use either carrot or beet juice. You can use them separately, or mix them together. The more beet juice you use, the redder the tinge will be. Carrot juice on its own will make a softer reddish orange tint.

Add one cup of juice to your hair and mix with some coconut oil to condition. Work the oil and juice through your hair and wrap for at least an hour. Be careful as these juices can stain your skin and clothes. Rinse the juice out and spray your hair with apple cider vinegar to “fix” the color. Repeat until you see the color you desire.

Walnut Shells

Using walnut shells as hair dye will give you a rich dark brown color. Crush the shells and hold them for thirty minutes. cool and strain the liquid. Apply it to your hair and be sure to use a cotton ball to color the areas where you have gray. If you want a more intense dye, heat the juice until it boils and allow it to simmer to about one-fourth its original volume. Let the mixture cool and pour on hair.

You can also get walnut powder that is less messy and just as effective as crushing the shells on your own. Let the powder sit on your hair for at least an hour. Rinse the powder using warm water.

Lemon Juice

Lemons are a great way to bring out some highlights in your hair. Spray the juice from a freshly squeezed lemon on your hair. Allow it to sit for at least three hours. Go out in the sun if you can for a more dramatic look. If you have blonde hair, try mixing the lemon with chamomile tea,

Be sure if you are going to get your hair colored at the salon that you ask questions, plenty of them. There are a few commercial products that are safer than others and even some beauty salons are beginning to go organic with their hair color. On the same note, be sure that you know exactly what is in the products you may use at home. Remember, the more informed you are the better decisions you can make for your health.