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The Truth About Ammonia In Hair Dyes

Call it hormonal imbalance, dietary dysfunction, inheritance or simply the dawn of old-age. The dire need to colour grey hair comes in uncalled. When you choose the right shades and the right product for your hair, the hair-dying adventure takes up a routine spot in your lifestyle. Experimenting with your hair can be fun but you’re never too young to be cautious and sustainable with your product choices.

Since the rise of ‘natural’ and ‘ammonia-free’ hair dyes, there has been an uproar in the beauty industry about the use of safe and natural hair coloring products. This is because synthetic hair dyes strip the hair of its natural coloring agent called melanin.

Synthetic dyes have a strong effect on the hair shaft. This is primarily to increase the penetration of color molecules into the hair strand and keep it trapped for at least 10-12 hair washes.

However, the use of ammonia for this purpose has been severely criticised.

Frequent users of hair-dye have reported the loss of texture and unruly frizzy-ness in their hair. Several studies have inferred that ammonia could be the reason behind this.

In this article, we take a closer look at how ammonia works in synthetic hair dyes.


What Is Ammonia And Why Is It Used In Hair Dyes?

Ammonia is a chemical alkalizer gas that does the real job of changing the color of each hair strand.

The normal pH level range of the hair is 4.5-5.5. This makes our hair naturally acidic. After applying hair dye, the ammonia in the mix increases the pH of the hair, making it more alkaline.

It then opens up the hair cuticle. With the help of its other chemical companions, the colour molecules cut through the innermost layer of the hair strand.

Darker dyes use an even higher concentration of colouring agents.


Why Is This Bad?

Your hair may look red-carpet ready and feel silky smooth for some time. However, ammonia refuses to put back together what it opened up, making the chemical reaction on the hair, irreversible. The increased pH levels of 10-10.5 tend to leave your hair cuticles open and eventually invite uncharacteristic frizzy-ness, hair fall, brittle strands along with a dull appearance.

‘Ammonia is one of the worst offenders found in the beauty business’- suggests award-winning beauty school, Avant Gard

To put things into perspective, here are some other similar uses of ammonia owing to its chemical composition:

  • 80% of manufactured ammonia is used as a fertilizer
  • Majority of house-cleaning solutions and smelling salts contain concentrations of ammonia.
  • Ammonia is also used to make synthetic fibre, plastics, and glue.
  • Used in the treatment and refining of metal.

Now, it is well considered that the concentrations used in hair dyes are much more controlled than that used in the above processes but the effects remain the same. To be precise, serious thought needs to be given before applying a chemical of such potential on our hair.

Other than its irreversible effects on the hair, ammonia in hair-dye can also have adverse effects on the health of an individual.

Allergies and rashes: Experts suggest that people with dermatitis or other skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, should refrain from using hair dyes. Ammonia alone can cause skin and lung irritation, eye infections, hives and blisters on the scalp. If you’re pregnant, take extra hair-dye precautions during pregnancy.

Chronic illness: The Natural Cancer Institute has a detailed article on the limited study done to establish a link between prolonged use of ammonia-infused hair dye and chronic illnesses related to cancer.

‘When ammonia enters the body as a result of breathing, swallowing or skin contact, it reacts with water to produce ammonium hydroxide. This chemical is very corrosive and damages cells in the body on contact’- Reports the health department of New York state.

You may not have been subjected to any side effects of Ammonia just yet. This does not mean that you won’t have one in the future. With the added frequency of hair processes, there is an added risk of adverse effects.

Ammonia and ammonium hydroxide is on the European Union’s list of substances that cosmetics must not contain: states a report by Cosmetic Ingredient Review Experts


What Next?

Cheers to natural hair growth, the newly growing hair may not show the damage that has been done previously. Here’s how you can avoid it altogether.


Take a good look at the ingredient list

The chemical compositions of hair-dyes across brands may vary. Go through the ingredients to determine which one is the best of the evils. For example, Atbro Safexx hair colors replace PPD with TDS which has a low cross-allergic reaction.


Use ammonia-free products

When a product is labelled ‘Ammonia-free’, chances are high the product is devoid of ingredients like ammonia, paraben, Resorcinol, PPD, SLS and silicones. Check for ingredients like Argan Oil, Cocoa Oil, Jojoba Oil, and Keratin that can induce a smooth and shiny texture to your hair.


Safety of Application

  • Studies have shown that nitrile gloves are safer than latex gloves while applying hair dye.
  • Make sure areas like the back of the neck, forehead and hands are well covered during the process.
  • Refrain from using disposable gloves repeatedly.

While usage of natural or ammonia-free hair dye is vox populi among the experts of the beauty sector, the ultimate choice of products can be very subjective to the user’s skin behaviour.


Get Atbro Safexx's Ammonia-free Hair Dye With Free Nitrile Gloves


Takeaway: Whatever the case may be, make sure to do a thorough check on the ingredients of your preferred hair dye and be sure to use a shampoo and conditioner that helps restore the pH value of your hair as a part of quality hair care.