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Ammonia-Free Is Not Harm-Free: Effects Of Paraben In Hair Dyes

You’ve truly acquired a winning spot if you find yourself a hair dye that gives your hair a taming volume, a smooth finish and the highlights of a Disney princess.

What makes it better? The product is ‘ammonia-free’. While it may feel like you found salvation, that may not be the case.

Before thanking the beauty gods of your favourite brand, let’s take a quick look at the ingredients list on the back of the packaging. That tiny list with the tiny font is where some of the biggest enemies of your hair may stand exposed.

Ammonia-free hair dye is not necessarily ‘harm-free’.

It may still contain some damaging ingredients.

While it may give you the mane of your dreams, the short life of the results may cost your hair long-term damage.

Here are some ingredients that should trigger the red flags:

  • PPD- This is the ingredient that allows color compounds to bond with the hair shaft.
  • Resorcinol- This ingredient can interfere with normal hormone production
  • MEA- It damages the hair and effaces the cuticle
  • Ammonia- Ammonia can have adverse effects on the hair and the skin
  • Persulfates
  • Propylene glycol- It can cause dermatitis if not used in regulated concentrations
  • Nickel
  • Parabens

People with sensitive skin should especially stray away from PPD and resorcinol. People may have varying tolerance levels against various ingredients and their concentrations.

Compositions may also differ in various products across various brands. Even if you may not be sensitive to a particular ingredient per se, it’s concentration can cause irritable rashes and allergies.

It also comes down to mindful purchase and proper usage of the product.

It is important to be well-informed about the micro-ingredients that are applied onto your hair, your face and for this matter, even your food. In this article, we’re particularly talking about one such offender that is widely used in the beauty industry.


It is all the more important to discuss the aftermath of its consumption because parabens are extensively used in shampoos, conditioners, make-up, face creams and even food products. There has been quite a stir about its harmful repercussions but due to lack of evidence, the fate of the ingredient has been in debate.

Before we jump into this rather debatable topic, let's understand what parabens are and why they are used.

What Are Parabens?

Paraben is a generic term used to classify certain chemical compounds found in cosmetic products. They are common category, widely-used preservatives added in deodorants, lotions, lipsticks, shampoos, scrubs, and more.

They mimic antimicrobial agents in plants that help inhibit the growth of fungi or any other bacteria, giving it its pre-acclaimed shelflife. They safer, cheaper and widely available as compared to other alternatives.

Why the buzz?

Well, for starters, parabens like any other chemical compound can be absorbed into the skin and thus, into the scalp- which is an extension of the skin. Once it is inside the body, it may disrupt the normal hormonal cycle.

Parabens are known xenoestrogens, which means they have estrogenic activity in the body, states Dr Trevor Cates, leading naturopathic doctor, in an interview with The Independent.

In women, parabens can be confused by the body as estrogen, This causes a reduced level of estrogen production. This can put women into high risk of breast cancer.

In a recent study, parabens also made an appearance in the urine and blood of healthy males after using paraben-based products. This led to a temporary disclosure of the fact that parabens may cause low sperm count and testicular cancer.

Even though the human body is capable of identifying and flushing out parabens from the body. There are no proven studies to validate the adversity of its effects on the body but its effects on the hair are well-discussed

Parabens don't cause any build-up in the hair and can be easily rinsed off when used in hair dyes and shampoos. However, its molecular weight causes evaporation and subsequent water loss from the hair. This can lead to frizziness and dry hair.

The Cosmetic Ingredient Reviewrecognizes sulfates and parabens safe up to a maximum concentration of 50 per cent provided that they are properly rinsed off the skin of the scalp. Although, until it is proven that Parabens are safe to use, preventing them fully can be a significant choice for well being.

How do I prevent the use of Parabens?

Prevention is better than cure and in this case, prevention may just be a scrutinized peek at the ingredients list of a product.

Well, to make things more layman, if you see methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben, it has parabens.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) lists methylparaben as being a low to moderate health hazard. However, the hazard is only in regards to allergic reactions or product usage exceeding the recommended level.

Better safe than sorry

A hair dye routine may be inevitable for quite some people. Just like that, some nasty chemical compounds in hair dyes are also inevitable. On the bright side, brands are actively working on shunning the usage of these ingredients by using more amicable ingredients.

Take, for instance, Atbro Safexx hair colour which is devoid of ingredients like ammonia, paraben, resorcinol, PPD, SLS and silicones. Additionally it contains Argan Oil, Cocoa Oil, Jojoba Oil, and Keratin to keep the hair soft, shiny and smooth.

If you must use products that aren’t natural, make sure to do a thorough patch test and keep an eye on the ingredient lists!