Salons across the country may be open (and hopefully, in light of COVID-19, taking the proper safety precautions), but for many, hair dyeing at home still feels like the safest option. If you’re new to coloring your hair, all of the choices available can sometimes feel paralyzing. Thinking about picking a brand that’s cruelty-free, vegan, and also good for your hair (and the planet) is just one more thing to look out for. Here’s our guide to the best cruelty-free hair dyes whether you like natural hair colors or pastels and vibrant rainbow hues.
What Makes a Hair Dye Vegan or Cruelty-Free?
A lot of the top home hair dye brands aren’t vegan nor are they cruelty-free. When choosing a hair dye, keep an eye out for the cruelty-free logo or a note that the product wasn’t tested on animals. Thankfully, most brands will also indicate that the product is vegan somewhere on the packaging. On top of that, there are a few other ingredients that you might want to look out for. A lot of the ingredients used in conventional hair dyes were not only tested on animals, but they’re also harsh on the skin. These ingredients include:
Ammonia: This alkaline chemical is used to raise the hair’s pH level during the coloring process or to lighten hair color. But, it can make your hair dry and brittle over time and it can irritate sensitive skin.
Hydrogen peroxide: This chemical is used to lighten hair, but it can leave hair looking dry and dull. A study found that too much hydrogen peroxide use can cause hair loss. It can also irritate sensitive skin and cause scalp burns.
Resorcinol: In hair dyes, this chemical reacts with a developer to lighten hair tone. It can irritate sensitive skin and studies suggest that it may be an endocrine disruptor. The European Union classifies it as an irritant and both Canada and Japan have restricted its use in cosmetic products.
Persulfates: Ammonium, potassium, and sodium persulfates are used in hair products to help lighten the color. CLP Regulation, which the EU uses for the classification, labeling and, packaging of cosmetic products, classifies them as skin and respiratory sensitizers.
Lead acetate: This additive in hair dye products is used to gradually darken hair over time. It’s banned from use in Europe and the FDA banned it from use in hair dyes last year. Lead is a known neurotoxin, even in small amounts.
Paraphenylenediamine: Also known as PPD, this chemical compound is used in permanent hair dyes. It can irritate the skin if you’re allergic.
What Are the Best Hair Dyes for At-Home Coloring?
How do you pick the best hair dye for you? The brands included on this list are suitable for all hair types, so it comes down to what you want from your color. Want colorful hair without the commitment (we can relate to constantly changing hair color)? Pick something semi-permanent, which fades with a few washes. If you’re set on what you want, go for something permanent. Before you dye, consider picking up color-depositing shampoo and conditioner to extend the life of your new shade; most brands on the list make their own. Last, but not least, it’s a good idea to use a sulfate-free shampoo. Sulfates strip moisture from your hair, which can make color fade faster.
1. Good Dye Young
Good Dye Young is a vegan and cruelty-free semi-permanent hair dye brand founded by Hayley Williams, the lead singer of the band Paramore. The brand makes vibrant blues, greens, purples, and more for those who love to rock colorful hair without animal-derived ingredients. It’s also free from ammonia, formaldehyde, peroxide, and PPD. It’s infused with sunflower extract, which helps protect hair from UV rays, bergamot essential oil for a relaxing fragrance, and the ultra-creamy formula conditions your hair as it deposits salon-grade pigments. Good Dye Young also makes a lightening kit to make colors appear more vibrant, plus vegan hair care for colored hair. This brand is suitable for all hair types.
A favorite of vegan “Riverdale” star Madelaine Petsch, cruelty-free salon brand Aveda uses naturally-derived ingredients. Its Fullspecturm Protective Permanent Hair Color is formulated with organic sunflower, castor, and jojoba oils, which condition the hair as it takes on color. Colors range from natural options like blonde and light brown, pastel blue and purple, and vibrant colors like pink and green. Aveda manufactures everything with wind power and it uses post-consumer PET for its packaging. It’s suitable for all hair types.
Need to give your hair color a refresh or add some subtle shade to your locks? OVertone is a cruelty-free brand that makes color-depositing conditioners for every hair type. It’s free from ammonia, parabens, and sulfates and formulated with hair-healthy ingredients including organic aloe, avocado oil, jojoba oil, and coconut oil. The brand also makes toning conditioners to smite the brassiness right out of bleached hair.
Founded in 1970, Herbatint is a semi-permanent, natural vegan hair dye brand. It contains organic herbal extracts like aloe vera, witch hazel, rhubarb, and walnut and without ammonia, parabens, alcohol, and fragrance. Colors range from blonde to black and it’s suitable for sensitive skin. The company is also Certified B Corp, meaning it adopts standards and practices that lessen its impact on the environment.
5. Unicorn Hair
Cruelty-free brand Lime Crime’s Unicorn Hair range features ultra-pigmented colors and a gentle, conditioning formula. It comes in two types: full coverage for long-lasting colors and tints for people who like to change it up more often. Lime Crime also makes color-depositing shampoos, conditioners, and spray to make your dye job last longer.
Want to go plastic-free? Lush’s Henna hair dye is cruelty-free, vegan, and it comes in bar form. Like all Lush products, it contains fresh ingredients, including fair trade cocoa butter, clove bud essential oil (which has a stimulating effect on the scalp), and henna, which softens, conditions, and adds shine. The natural, semi-permanent hair colors range from red to black.
7. Maria Nila
Need to give your hair color a refresh or add a tint of color? Cruelty-free brand Maria Nila’s Colour Refresh range deposits non-permanent dye on your locks to extend your color. It also contains conditioning argan oil and it’s free from sulfates and parabens.
Not only is Maria Nila vegan, but the brand also works with the Plan Vivo Foundation, an Edinburgh-based charity that plants trees to offset its carbon footprint. It also donates to charity; this year, it’s giving back to the Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary through the Perfect World Foundation.
8. Manic Panic
Making hair vibrant since 1977, Manic Panic is a cruelty-free and vegan brand best known for its semi-permanent hair dyes and bleaching kits. Today, the brand also makes longer-lasting colors, pastels, styling gels, and shampoos (and there are more than 70 colors to choose from). Products are free from parabens, ammonia, resorcinol (which can irritate sensitive skin and disrupt the endocrine system in high doses), and phthalates.
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