The colorful secret of organic hair color

Jessica’s colorful question: What makes hair color “organic” and how does it compare to regular box dye and professional haircolor? If organic color is still able to lighten natural hair color, would it need to have ammonia and/or peroxide in it?

The Right Brain’s black and white response:

As we’ve blogged before, right now there is no specific industry-wide definition of what makes a cosmetic “organic.” Different companies approach organic in different ways: some add organic extracts, others try to limit “harsh” chemicals. So when we saw Jessica’s question about organic hair color we were intrigued. It sounded too good to be true, so we asked her to let us know some specific brands that she had seen. Two of the names she came up were EcoColors and Organic Color Systems. Let’s take a closer look at each.


Jessica, even though you cited this brand as being organic, we can’t find anything on their website that actually states that. But they do claim their products are designed for people who are worried about the chemicals used in “regular” hair dyes. They also claim that EcoColors are based on soy-derived ingredients. The impression their website gives is that their colors don’t use the same harsh chemicals that “regular” dyes do. Is this true? Not exactly.

It is true that one of the key ingredients, dihydroxyethyl soyamine dioleate, is soy-based. But the rest of the formula is a pretty standard combination of ammonium hydroxide and oxidative dyes with a hydrogen peroxide developer. So basically it looks like they’ve formulated their soy ingredient into a standard hair dye base.

Organic Color Systems

The name of the product says “Organic” but from what we’ve seen on their website, this brand never says that their product is organic. It does, however, contain organic extracts.

Ok, so they don’t claim to be organic, but they do claim to be ammonia free. In most coloring products ammonia comes from ammonium hydroxide (even Ecocolors as noted above.) Organic Color Systems is also an oxidative hair color system but they don’t use ammonia to raise the pH, they use a lower pH base in combination with heat. While this can still be damaging to your hair, if you’re sensitive to ammonia, this could be a good option for you.

The Beauty Brains bottom line:

These two hair coloring lines are trying to appeal to your fear of chemicals by being “Eco” and “Organic.” They may be perfectly fine hair colors, but don’t be fooled into thinking they’re better because they’re organic. To our knowledge it’s impossible to formulate a hair dye that is truly organic. (Henna dyes are about the closest you’ll ever get and those don’t lighten color.)

Do you color your hair? At home or in the salon? And what’s your favorite brand? Leave a colorful comment for the rest of the Beauty Brains community.