4 Less Toxic Hair Coloring Solutions To Cover Your Grays

Ammonia Free Hair Coloring
What options do you have if you need to cover your gray hair regularly without using noxious, chemical-loaded hair dye that makes your head smells like horse pee? Well, you have a couple of choices—from store-bought henna powder to salon-based hair coloring treatments that promise lasting, vibrant colors while completely covering gray.

With the exception of henna powder, all of the other options aren’t 100 percent non-toxic. Typically, they are all ammonia-free and some are even formulated without a couple of other toxic chemicals like peroxide, PPD (para-phenylenediamines), coal tar, lead, toluene and resorcinol that are suspected to be possible carcinogen or a human immune system toxicant.

1. Henna Powder
Henna is a non-toxic natural plant-based permanent hair dye and comes mostly in power form. To use it, you’re supposed to mix it into a paste with water. I’ve never tried using it because there are no other color ranges for henna except for red-orange. If you have come across henna of other colors, they aren’t 100 percent henna but are made with other chemicals.

Other than the limited color, I understand that henna is drying. I’ve a colleague who used it for a period of time and the dryness was telling. That plus the fact that it didn’t cover her whites and the color faded off after just some washes. If I’m not wrong, henna needs a couple of hours to color well. Based on what I’ve read, many users actually leave the mixture overnight to achieve their desired color. Even then, the color would still fade off after some shampooing.

Less Toxic Hair Coloring Kit
2. Henna Cream
While I haven’t tried henna powder, I’ve tried using henna cream. Surya Henna Cream is a product I was using for two years or so every month. The cream hails from Brazil and is a semi-permanent hair color said to not contain peroxide, ammonia, resorcinol, PPD, heavy metals or parabens. Instead the product uses both plant dyes and gentle hair dyes, including 15 high quality herbs and fruits to add conditioners to the hair.

Obviously, this is not 100 percent natural and so is available in a range of colors. However, it is a gentler alternative for those looking for a more natural alternative. Take a look at the full ingredient list:

Water, Dipropylene Glycol Methyl Esther, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetrimonium Chloride, Orbignya Oleifera (Babaçu) Seed Oil, Glycerin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Essential Oils (Rose Flower, Cananga Odorata, Jasminum Officinale and Santalum Album), Achillea Millefolium (Aquiléia) Extract,Aloe Barbadensis(Aloe Vera) Leaf Extract, Arnica Montana Extract, Bertholletia Excelsa (Brazil Nut) Extract, Chamomila Recutita (Camomila) Extract, Corylus Rostrata (Avelã) Seed Extract, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carriot) Root Extract, Euterpe Oleracea (Açaí) Fruit Extract, Lawsonia Inermis (Henna) Leaf Extract, Malphigia Punicifolia (Acerola) Fruit Extract, Malva Sylvetris (Malva) Extract, Paullinia Cupana (Guaraná) Fruit Extract, Phyllanthus Emblica (Amla) Fruit Extract, Ziziphus Joaseiro (Juá) Extract, Genipa Americana Extract, Aminomethyl Propanol, Sodium Citrate, Benzyl Alcohol Dehydroacetic Acid, Disperse Black 9, HC Red 3 HC Yellow 4, HC Blue n.º 2.

Because this is a semi permanent color, I needed to use it every month. The color lasted longer when I left it for a couple of hours on my hair. However, I haven’t been too happy using it of late. The color no longer last and I find myself needing to color every two weeks to cover my whites. Either my hair cannot absorb the cream as well anymore or the formulation has changed.

But this product doesn’t dry out my hair. In fact, it kept my hair soft and manageable even though I was using it every month. In addition, a bottle last me through a few applications so the cost was affordable.

3. Home-Based Hair Coloring Kit
Since I wasn’t too happy with Surya Henna Cream, I started scouting for other alternatives. There are a couple of hair coloring kits in the market that boast of being free of toxic chemicals. They work the same way as the chemical-loaded hair dye as you will need to mix the solution prior to application.

I picked one from Tints of Nature earlier in the year. It is made with up to 60 percent certified organic ingredients and is free from ammonia, resorcinol and parabens, and with the lowest possible level of PPDs. The product also promises 100 percent coverage for gray hair.

Well, that promise is true. I used this once and the coverage was excellent. The color turned out very rich and seemed to fare better than Surya. But it didn’t last and I noticed the color started fading in week three. So it’s not really better than Surya Henna Cream. In fact, I found my hair rather dry after using this just once.

Also, application isn’t as easy as Surya Henna Cream. This one works more like the conventional hair dye where the color gel needed to be mixed with the colorfix prior to usage. Plus it’s more expensive considering I’m paying the price for a one-time usage as whatever the solution but it can’t be kept.

In terms of ingredients, this product consist a lower content of PPD. Here’s the ingredient list: Color Gel: PEG-2 soyamine, aqua, PEG-4 rapeseedamide, *alcohol denatured, **propanediol, oleic acid, ethanolamine, parfum, **hydrolyzed wheat protein, p-phenylenediamine, 4-chlororesorcinol, sodium sulphite, ascorbic acid, sodium hydrosulphite, tetrasodium EDTA, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate, *aloe barbadensis (aloe) leaf juice, *symphytum officinale (comfrey) leaf extract, *citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) peel extract, *citrus grandis (grapefruit) fruit extract, 2-amino-4-hydroxyethylaminoanisole sulphate, n-phenyl-p-phenylenediamine sulphate, m-aminophenol, 4-amino-2-hydroxytoluene, tocopherol.
Colorfix: Aqua, hydrogen peroxide, *anthemis nobilis (chamomile) flower extract, phenoxyethanol, benzyl alcohol, potassium sorbate, tocopherol, etidronic acid, polyquaternium-10.

I noticed that Watsons has brought in a series of natural hair dyes that are free of some toxic ingredients. You may want to check those out. If you purchase at iHerb like me, then try reading reviews to determine which hair color kit might work for you.

Salon Hair Coloring
4. Salon-Based Natural Hair Coloring
More and more, salons are offering ammonia-free hair coloring treatments and even “organic” hair coloring options. Truly, there are no such thing as an organic hair color; it just means the product contains some organic ingredients.

Anyway, my discussion here will be limited to what is available in Singapore since I’m based here and I can’t possibly discuss treatments offered outside of my country.

Simply Organic Oil Emulsion Hair Color
One of my most natural hair coloring in-salon experience was at Ecorganics (click to read my review) which uses a safer permanent hair color with Simply Organic Oil Emulsion Haircolor. Simply Organic Oil Emulsion Haircolor is a hair color that is much gentler to the hair, scalp, the stylist and the general environment of the salon.

Instead of ammonia, Simply Organic Oil Emulsion Haircolor is formulated with less toxic ingredients and offer rich, vibrant colors including reds and coppers that do not fade. As a result, customers can color their hair more often because their hair would not become dry and damaged over time.

Although this product is free of ammonia, it contains PPD and resorcinol. Here’s the full ingredient list: dihydroxyethyl soyamine dioleate, aqua, isopropyl alcohol, ethanolamine, propylene glycol, oleic acid, peg-3 cocamide, sodium sulfite, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, p-phenylenediamine, phenyl methyl pyrazolone, m-aminophenol, p-aminophenol, 2-methylresorcinol, sodium erythorbate, resorcinol, tetrasodium edta

If I remember correctly, the hair color turned out well. The price is quite good but the product is only available at Ecorganics.

L’oreal iNOA Ammonia-Free Permanent Haircolor
The latest I’ve tried is L’oreal iNOA Ammonia-Free hair dye at a Korean hair salon. iNOA is short from Innovation No Ammonia and uses an oil-based delivery system that maximizes the effectiveness of the permanent hair color process.

I had popped by the hair salon and opted for this treatment because it seemed better than the conventional hair coloring. At least, there is no ammonia. But I realized that that’s where the line stops because the other ingredients are also found in most other hair colors:

Mineral Oil, Water, Glycerin, C20-22 Alcohols, Ethanolamine, Oleth-20, Cetyl Palmitate, Deceth 5, Oleth 10, Toluene-2,5-Diamine, Rescorcinol, Sodium Metabisulfate, EDTA, m-Aminophenol, Ascorbic Acid, Carbomer, Hydroxybenzomorpholine, 2,4 Diaminophenoxyethanol HCl, Ceteareth 60 Myristyl Glycol, Thioglycerin

This product is nothing natural. It is just ammonia-free. But so far, I am pleased with the results. The only thing is this treatment is more expensive and I experienced some itch while my hair was being processed with the color. In addition, I find my hair texture feels a tad rough whenever I shampoo.

Aveda Hair Color
I’ve come across a couple of hair salons carrying Aveda Hair Color, which is made of 93 percent botanicals and non-petroleum base minerals that promises long lasting colour results and intensity for Asian hair petrochemical counterparts. I don’t have the full ingredient list to know if this product contains any of the usual toxic ingredients. If the result is rich, vibrant colors than last longer than those home-based kits, then I suspect it would include a trace of less-than-clean chemical ingredients.

Nature’s Organic Sense
You might have come across a chain of salon offering “organic hair coloring” treatments. The price seems reasonable. I found out that they use hair coloring products from Nature’s Organic Sense and are ammonia-free and paraben-free. The product also contains certified organic and natural ingredients such as organic extra virgin olive oil, organic argan oil, organic aloe extract, organic jojoba oil and hydrolysed wheat protein. Again, I can’t see the full ingredient list to know what it actually includes. My suspicion is that it might contain PPD as there are no mention of that being excluded.

4 Less Toxic Hair Color Solutions To Cover Gray Hair
What I’ve just shown is just a sampling of what is available in the market. My point is, there are less toxic options but they are not completely free of all nasty chemicals. Otherwise, the products would not yield you the desired color or even cover your grays. Please know that there are no such thing as natural or organic hair coloring. Yes, there are some natural remedies to help with hair coloring but those don’t really work where white hair is concerned.

But these less toxic treatments are suitable for those allergic to ammonia or PPD, as well as pregnant and nursing moms although I’m more incline to advise the latter group to refrain from coloring your hair if possible. If you have to, just read the ingredients very carefully before proceeding. Don’t just go to a salon that promises you organic hair coloring and think it’s 100 percent safe. It is not a given!

Well if you are using a cleaner hair coloring kit or treatment, do share with us your thoughts or recommendations. Nothing beats learning from real life testimonies!


  1. Crow says:

    Henna is permanent and does not wash out!

  2. Sesame says:

    Yes, permanent but it does fade off and I think more so where white hair is concerned. My colleagues’ hair was a mix of faded off red that looked more orange on her white strands. Her dark hair remained red though. Anyway, even permanent chemical dyes fade off after washes.

  3. Alyaka says:

    A lot of women use hair colour and do it regularly to stay in style or to have a much improved look. I agree, it is best to use less toxic haircare solutions to ensure that results will be achieved without dealing with toxic side effects.

  4. Julia says:

    Henna with Indigo can be used to create colors from brown to black. Henna with cassia can create golden-red to auburn tones. It all depends on how you mix it. You can also make it moisturizing by adding honey or oils. It was a great alternative for me.

  5. Sesame says:

    Oh that’s good to know! How do we get hold of Indigo or Cassia? Is it something easily available for home use?

  6. Hem lata says:

    Hi, i am very allergic to hair dye, i get rashes and swollen lymph nodes behind my neck and ear.

    Please kindly suggest a die without any ppd in it. My hair is grey and is very ugly. please help me.

  7. Sesame says:

    You might want to try henna or henna cream. But no guarantees. You should do a patch test.

  8. Vivienne says:

    Thank you for the info. I have tried different off-the-counter hair dye products and nothing seemed to work well. I need to colour my hair every 3 weeks or so. I am looking for a less toxic alternative when I came across your blog. And I am glad to learn that the so claimed organic hair dye is not organic in its entirety.
    May I ask what is the name of the korean salon you just went for the l’oreal hair colour?

  9. lotus says:

    Hi Sesame

    Covering your grey hair is possible by henna powder.

    I am asian and have grey hair, and I dye mine with henna powders for 2 years now.. I do not want cream texture as producers add some chemical ingredients.

    How you can cover grey hair with powders ? By using the “2-step”

    Step 1: dye your hair with henna only. Pose during 2 hours or more if you want Grey hair.

    This step consists of applying a 1st layer on the grey hair. Grey hair becomes red/orange.

    Step 2: To “neutralize” the red/orange shades, you have to use the 2nd step.

    mix henna with indigo (or katam) powders, and apply on hair. Pose 1:30. This second step will allow your orange hair to be darker.

    To avoid dry hair, instead of using water to prepare the mix, I use yoghurt + oils + vitamins.

    How you can fix the color ?

    The first 2 shampoos are made with sidr powders. Sidr has the property to fix indigo/katam. Then the color will not fade that much during the next shampoos.

    And as long as you dye your hair with henna, do not use chemical shampoo. Sulfates are aggressive and tarnish your colour.

  10. Mary says:

    EXCELLENT, HONEST REVEW. Thanks, Sesame I agree: Henna is permanent but does fade off. Also: I have had no luck at all covering my white hair with henna. However, I understand that it is possible to color white hair and cover greys/whites nicely with a mixture of henna and indigo. They usually mix the henna the day before application (sometimes using black tea to mix), let it sit overnight, then mix the indigo in the next day and apply. I gather that, if you do it that way, the indigo will color your hair black, not blue (which indigo is naturally BLUE). I myself have had some luck with Colora Henna, Black. I plan to try that again.

  11. Mary says:

    Sesame: Indigo is available on Amazon.com (for instance)

  12. Joyce Han says:

    These solution really does damages your hair. Like me i suffered hair loss due to excessive dying of my hair, so now I’m undergoing hair loss treatment at Laofoye because they only use natural herbs on their product.

  13. TN says:

    Has anyone tried Hairprint? Please share experience. Thanks.

  14. Zara says:

    Have you tried the henna blocks from Lush? The one for black hair has indigo. I tried it and it did nothing for my grey roots, but other people have tried it with much better results (as some of the reviews reveal). Lush does not tell its customers to keep the henna paste you make from the blocks overnight and nor does it recommend mixing tea or coffee (coffee has been traditionally used in India to darken the colour of natural henna, and this was before the indigo thing hit the market). Anyone used the Lush henna with success and found out a way to make it more effective?

  15. Susan says:

    Dear Sesame,

    I am a cancer patient. Could you please help to suggest which hair color products contain no peroxide and amonia?

  16. Sesame says:

    I think Henna contains none of those. The other products claim they do not but I can’t vouch for them.

  17. Sesame says:

    No…I’ll try to check it out. But generally not fond of henna.

  18. Vickie Bingham says:

    I have broke out with hives, swollen lips, eyes etc from Wella,Euthora, Madison Reed.
    I have ran across something called HAIRPRINT but haven’t used it as deciding if I just want to live with what I have or what . But all the stuff out their is toxic and they are not telling you the truth and saying organic which they can do as not regulated by FDA.

  19. Chris says:

    Hi, i have used Hairprint for a year. It will not cover all my white hair and the color always turned out black with red highlights. I tried everything they told me to do. I gave up. Also the process takes too long. If you use the dark brown or black it may work for you. I wanted light brown and got black.

  20. Chris says:

    forgot to say. I did like the way it made my scalp and hair feel. Just wish they could perfect the color and time it takes. I do like the product.

  21. Dreg Navarro says:

    Awesome thanks for information

  22. Hair Loss Solutions says:

    Here are some Hair Loss Solutions details which you might need for preventing hair loss, some natural remedies and some natural born vitamins and food with that you can stop hair fall.

  23. Cheri says:

    Yes just tried Hairprint and it didn’t work for ME. I actually hated the process, as it took a long time only to be disappointed with the results..ugh. Didn’t cover gray and my hair felt like STRAW until I used a really strong organic hair mask to bring it back to life…soooo disappointed as I was very excited about this…back to the drawing board…ugh!! Frustrated I’m out the almost 50.00 it cost me.

  24. Cheri says:

    Skip the Hairprint…$$ and it didn’t work for me…no gray coverage and my hair felt horrible afterwards….blah!!

  25. Cheri says:

    Agree totally…what a waste of money and a lot of time…ugh!

  26. Ashley says:

    Hello Sesame, I found your site whilst looking for comments or reviews on Hairprint. Sad to read the posts from Cheryl and Chris that it doesn’t cover gray hair ? From the Hairprint website it sounded like they’ve miraculously solved this issue but obviously not! There was a light brown version on their website but if that turns white/gray hair to black like Chris’ experience then it won’t help me. Anyway thanks Sesame for even having this very informative website on natural hair colours, it really brought me to the realisation that henna will not stay for long unless I go through the long process mentioned by Lotus (sorry I couldn’t identify some of the items/terms) which may not work for me either. Also, that note that not all ingredients in a product may be natural. Disappointing to hear that! Well I’m off again on my search for a light brown natural hair product that covers grays/whites…wish me luck! ?

  27. Ann says:

    I had a terrible allergic reaction to my hair dye that I always use but I over did it. Ended up in er. I tried just my roots this time and got a screaming headache. I th I k I will get hairstrand clips and just clip some blonde in my hair. I hate grey but I hate risking my health more.

  28. ARPIT says:

    I am really very disappointed by my grey hair, I really need a good hair color to make my hair look good. love this product, I will use it for sure.

  29. pictame says:

    Thank you for posting with us. I really appreciate for this great information

  30. Yova says:

    Same an fed up with Grey hair recently am usi g godrej creme hair dye and it works well 4 me

  31. Karen says:

    Henna does not wash out or fade, in fact it deepens as it “matures” after a week. It grows out, you only retouch roots. Because henna is a protein it is necessary to add moisturizer to your mix before applying. Some add olive oil or mayonnaise.
    Henna should be applied to clean hair, shampooed but no conditioner and rinsed out with conditioner, and not washed for at least a week. I have used henna for decades and my hair is soft, shiny, and It is not dry

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