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Conventional hair dyes have been at the center of debate in recent years, with awareness of the potential harmful effects and incidences of serious adverse reactions to the products steadily rising. A turning point for many came in 2012, after the widespread news of 38 year old Julie McCabe’s massive allergic reaction to a chemical in her regular hair dye from a well-known brand, which eventually resulted in her tragic death. McCabe’s extreme reaction is thought to have been triggered by the large quantities of Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) in her system from a Black Henna tattoo she had had painted on her body previously. PPD is also found in virtually every chemical hair dye on the market and is known to be highly toxic. The combination sent McCabe into anaphylactic shock, followed by a year-long coma and her eventual death.

Growing awareness of the dangers of chemical hair dye prompted many to make the transition to natural hair dye, which they believed to be free from harmful chemicals such as PPD, Ammonia and synthetic bleach agents like Peroxides. Unfortunately, many companies began to take advantage of this newly popular market, selling products which claimed to be all natural while in fact bargaining on people’s lack of knowledge of the harmful processes and ingredients that make these dyes unsafe. Truly natural, safe and effective hair dye can be difficult to come by, especially in South Africa. The best and most trustworthy we have come across is the Logona 100% Herbal Hair Colours range, which contains only natural, botanical colorants like certified organic henna, walnut shells, buckthorn, cassia, indigo, hibiscus, coffee, rhubarb, curcuma & beetroot.

How to use natural hair dye

Natural hair dye works quite differently to conventional hair dye, as it doesn’t rely on harmful chemicals to alter the chemical balance of hair. Chemical hair dye works by opening up hair cuticles, removing the natural colour molecules and depositing synthetic colours in their place. This damaging process is the reason why most people who have used chemical dye will complain of their hair never feeling as soft or healthy as it did before.

Natural hair dye works differently, and is considered to be only semi-permanent. As it contains no chemicals, natural dye does not penetrate the inner shaft of the hair, remove the hair’s natural colour molecules, or fill hair with synthetic colour. Instead, natural hair dye forms a colour coat over each hair, sometimes letting the natural colour of hair shine through slightly. Dramatic colour change and lightening is therefore not possible with natural dye, as this requires chemicals that ultimately damage the integrity of the hair.

For the best results, especially when dyeing to cover greys, you may want to apply the dye more than once over a few days. First, apply the natural hair colour only to grey areas and leave from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on which shade is used and the desired result. Lighter shades will have to be left on the hair for about 30-40 minutes, while darker shades will need to stay longer. Follow up with a protective natural conditioner, like Africa Organics Mongongo Conditioner for Colour Treated Hair or Argan and Vanilla Hair Conditioner (Victorian Garden) to help keep your hair soft and healthy after dyeing. The next day, apply the dye to the whole head and follow the same process. A third application will give deeper colour, if desired. If your hair has been chemically dyed, it is recommended that you wait about four to five weeks before using a natural hair colour.

Although it may take one or two more applications than chemical dye, 100% natural hair dye is safer and carries no risk of damaging your health through exposure to harmful toxins. Natural dye is also not destructive to your hair, meaning that you won’t experience the straw-like texture that results from chemical dye. Your hair will remain soft and healthy, as its molecules will not be affected. Make the switch to natural hair dye and with a little perseverance, you’ll never look back!