Here’s What Experts Want You to Know About Gentle, Ammonia-Free Hair Dye

Say goodbye to dry, fried hair.

Women have been dyeing their hair color for as long as we can remember, and according to a recent study, more than 50% of women currently color their hair. Whether it’s a new brunette shade or a bright pink hue, we know how fun switching up your look can be. However, some hair dye ingredients can be particularly harsh and lead to side effects such as redness, an itchy scalp, hair loss, breakage, and headaches.

Ammonia is one of those harsh chemicals, and it’s commonly found in many permanent hair dyes. Ammonia is very effective in depositing dye as it opens up the cuticle, or the outer layer of your hair, which helps deposit the color into the inside of the hair shaft. While it’s undeniable that ammonia is a great coloring agent, after several dyes, the chemical can compromise the integrity of your strands—leading to brittle, dry, and overall unhealthy hair.

Thankfully, many ammonia-free hair dyes are just as effective for people looking for gentler formulas. Here, we interviewed three hair experts to ask them all our questions about ammonia-free formulas and their favorite formulas for stellar hair color.

What is ammonia-free hair dye?

“Ammonia-free dye is (devoid of ammonia) less aggressive and features other ways to deliver the dye into your strands,” explains Paul Labrecque of Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spas. “The ammonia-free dye formula we use at my salons incorporates an oil delivery system,” he explains. By utilizing enriching ingredients (like oils) instead of ammonia, you can achieve great color without drying your hair.

What are the benefits of using ammonia-free hair dye?

As new developments in hair color arise, there are more options to choose from than ever before. “The benefits of using ammonia-free dye is that it won’t damage the hair’s cuticle or cause scalp irritation,” explains celebrity hairstylist Cynthia Alvarez, adding that it helps retain the moisture and protein during the coloring process. So, you can achieve smooth, shiny, and vibrant hair at home or between salon visits.

Does ammonia-free hair dye wash out faster than conventional hair dye?

Instead of damaging the hair, ammonia-free hair dyes coat the outer layer of your hair with color in addition to the added conditioning agents like coconut oil, flower oils, or keratin. “Ammonia-free hair dyes are typically as effective as most other hair formulas, but ammonia formulas may be needed for more resistant hair types and stubborn greys,” explains Alvarez. Ammonia-free dyes can range from permanent to semi-permanent to temporary, so always check the instructions and do a bit of research before purchasing any at-home coloring kits.

No matter your color, choosing hair dyes infused with nourishing ingredients is always recommendable. There are plenty of hair dye options that are ammonia-free, organic, and gentle on your scalp. So whether you’re going blonde, going to the dark side, or simply want to touch up your roots, these are the best ammonia-free hair dyes for amazing hair days.

1. Best hydrating ammonia-free dye: L’Oréal

ammonia-free hair dye

L'Oréal Professionel INOA

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“I use this dye daily at my salon because I believe these colors are superior in pigment and shine,” says Labrecque of his product pick. This oil-based product gives a permanent, hydrating, and long-lasting color in a little over a half-hour.

2. Best ammonia-free color booster: Schwarzkopf

ammonia-free hair dye

Schwarzkopf Color Boost Vibrancy Booster

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“If you’re looking for an ammonia-free color, Schwarzkopf Color Boost is a great option to boost the vibrancy of your color in between salon visits. It’s easy to use and will last up to 20 washes,” says Alvarez. Plus, it doesn’t contain peroxide or alcohol, meaning you’ll have dimensional, glossy, and healthy hair.

3. Best ammonia-free drugstore dye: Garnier

ammonia-free hair dye

Garnier Olia Ammonia-Free Brilliant Color

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Celebrity hairstylist Nikki Lee recommends this product, saying that it smells great and leaves hair looking shiny and feeling silky. The formula is made up of 60% flower oils and leaves the hair shiny and reversing roughness for more vibrant color.

4. Best colorful ammonia-free dye: Manic Panic

ammonia-free hair dye

Manic Panic Cream Hair Dye

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Manic Panic has been a long-time cult classic since it hit shelves in 1997. This semi-permanent color cream gradually fades in four to six weeks and comes in every color of the rainbow. The best part about this product, however, is that it’s vegan as well as ammonia, cruelty, and paraben-free.

5. Best semi-permanent ammonia-free dye: Clairol

ammonia free hair dye

Clairol Natural Instincts

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This ammonia-free formula contains 100% pure aloe, chamomile, and ginseng to condition your hair during the coloring process. From warm blonde to midnight black, this is a great option for those looking to try a new shade that isn’t platinum blonde. What you’ll achieve is a fabulous fresh color and a head of strong, healthy hair.

6. Best ammonia-free natural dye: Lush

ammonia-free hair dye

Lush Henna Hair Dye Rouge

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For those looking to cross over to the dark side, Lush’s henna dyes are a great bet. It uses all-natural ingredients like henna leaves, cocoa butter, and clove bud oil for a super nourishing formula. These henna blocks are easy to use and come in four different colors ranging from red to dark blue-black. While the color fades in a few washes, this dye is so hydrating that it can be used over and over again without the fear of compromising your hair’s health. *Toss-toss*