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Natural, Organic and Ammonia Free Hair Colour - THE FACTS !

Ammonia free hair colour has become a major trend in the hair colour industry.

"Ammonia free" sounds - good, healthy, natural and above all - safe.

BUT, is it? 

And what is used instead?

It's time we asked the question - instead of assuming that because a hair product is "ammonia free" it has to be better for your health.

Remember when fat free was the best thing ever for our ever-growing overweight community - then we found out that the fat was replaced by chemicals, and sugars, both of which had the potential to cause other adverse outcomes.


Image courtesy of http://www.bioxet.com/eng/d/medulla--cortex.html

We'll start by looking at hair under a microscope - The hair cuticle is made up of 6-10 outer layers of flat cells that overlap like scales, completely surrounding and protecting the hair  The cuticle layer is colourless and allows light to shine through and reflect - hence shiny healthy hair. The cuticle is easily damaged by rough treatment, harsh shampoos and chemicals, when damaged these scale layers will tear and at times expose the cortex of the hair. The hair becomes porous, rough and straw like to feel - it has no shine because the uneven surface does not reflect light.

The ultimate goal in hairdressing, and hair products is for a smooth tight cuticle. Conditioners and treatments help to fill gaps, to flatten and seal down the cuticle for a smoother result. In badly damaged hair this is only temporary.

The Cortex cells contain the melanin (pigments) of the hair colour. It is interesting to note that grey hair  actually has no pigment or melanin at all.

The Medulla is not always found in hair and is rarely found in fine Caucasian hair.

So let's look at the basics here - for hair to change colour permanently some form of chemical reaction of some kind has to take place.

Semi-permanent colour adds colour without changing the natural colour dramatically. It's colour molecules are small, and enter the hair cuticle and, then leave the hair shaft after several shampoos (usually 6 - 12 shampoos) - without changing the hair in any way. This form of colour will not lighten as it contains no ammonia or peroxide.

Demi-Permanent Colour - enters the cuticle and the cortex, and will partner to create larger molecules and therefor take longer to wash out (24 -28 shampoos). It does contain a small amount of peroxide which accounts for a noticeable enhancement of colour and blending of grey. Demi colour will not lighten hair.

Permanent hair colour is used for a significant colour change - especially for covering grey hair. 

There are three main ingredients that will make a hair colour permanent 

1. Pigments and or aniline derivatives

Aniline derivatives are uncoloured dye molecules (pigments) that can easily penetrate the hair shaft - and once oxidized are trapped in the hair cortex. 

2. An oxidizing agent (developer or peroxide)

Activates the colour forming process.

3. An alkalizing agent (ammonia or ammonia substitute)

The PH levels of the hair needs to be lifted to sensitize,soften and lift the cuticle to to allow the pigments to penetrate into the hair cortex, and replace the pigment with the new pigment. Once the cuticle is disturbed the damage is started because the cuticle is not meant to be lifted. The longer the cuticle is lifted the more it weakens. After processing time is reached the colour products must be rinsed completely from the hair, Any particles of alkalizing ingredient left in the hair can further lift the cuticle causing more damage. The cuticle is then closed down by conditioning.


Ammonia is one of the products used in hair colour that allows the colour pigments to enter the hair shaft.

Ammonia has been the subject of bad press, much maligned as the "bad boy" in the colouring process, unqualified claims and general misinformation by, and to, a believing public - encouraged by those who stand to gain the most from ammonia free products.

Most people do not react to the ammonia in hair colour - they react to the PPD's in hair colour. PPD, and PTD are the ingredients to avoid!

Wikipedia states - The toxicity of ammonia solutions does not usually cause problems for humans and other mammals.

Ammonia is produced in the body and is commonly found in nature. It is essential to the body as a building block for making proteins and other complex molecules. In nature ammonia occurs in soil from the bacteria processes.

CIR expert panel - The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) includes Ammonium Hydroxide on its lists of direct food substances affirmed as Generally Recognised as Safe.

In the US the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel conducts independent safety reviews of ingredients as part of the cosmetic safety process with the results published in the International Journal of Toxicology.

Ammonia is listed in the Cosmetics Directive of the European Union (see Annex III, Part1). It is allowed for use at a maximum concentration of 6% as NH3, and must be labelled "contains ammonia) if the concentration is above 2%.


Depending on the brand of the colour you can find varying degrees of these ingredients used instead of ammonia.

- Aminomethylpropanol (AMEA)

Works to adjust PH levels. It's been shown to cause mild dermal (skin) irritation and sensitization, may contain DEA. In its pure form Aminomethyl Propanol is irritating due to its high level of alkalinity, but is buffered when used in cosmetics. It is classified in the EU as irritating to the eyes and skin, and harmful to aquatic organisms and may be contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines. Generally acceptable in low doses.

Wikipedia states: used for the preparation of buffer solutions.[2] It is also used in cosmetics.[1]

- Cocomide DEA & MEA

Derived by reacting the mixture of fatty acids from coconut oils with diethanolamine. Acute exposure can cause nausea, breathing difficulties, vomitting and diarrhorea. Occupational asthma has been reported after prolonged contact with this chemical.

Wikipedia states:

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists coconut oil diethanolamine condensate (cocamide DEA) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen, which identifies this chemical as possibly carcinogenic to humans.[3]

In June 2012, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment added cocamide DEA to the California Proposition 65 (1986) list of chemicals known to cause cancer.[4]

Cocamide DEA has a high irritation potential.

- Monoethanolamine (MEA)

Wikipedia states: also called 2-aminoethanol or monoethanolamine (often abbreviated as ETA or MEA), is an organic chemical compound that is both a primary amine and a primary alcohol (due to a hydroxyl group). Like other amines, monoethanolamine acts as a weak base. Monoethanolamine is a toxic, flammable, corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid with an odor similar to that of ammonia.

It is believed that this product does not rinse completely from the hair - therefore remaining residue had been claimed to cause darkening of colour and weakening of the hair cuticle and shaft.


p-Phenylenediamine is known to cause health concerns, such as skin irritation, and severe allergic reactions. PPD is commonly used in hair dyes and is a form of aniline dye. Exposure to phenylenediamine can occur during manufacturing or during the use of hair dyes. According to the Product Safety Summary Sheet by DuPont, Para-Phenylenediamine (PPD) is labeled as toxic and can cause adverse effects on aquatic organisms and could cause long-term effects in aquatic environments.[21]



For the scientists at the B-spot research laboratories the results are clear : "Ammonia still remains the only colouring agent which has been tested for over 40 years. Unlike its substitutes currently in vogue it dissipates rapidly and its residues disappear completely with rinsing. For this reason we prefer to rely on a tried and tested method using extremely low doses (1.3%) rather than following trends".

Ammonia is a volatile substance (meaning it is easily evaporated into the air at normal temperatures) so it can be ensured that it is completely removed from the cortex and cuticle after the colouring process. The Ammonia substitutes however are liquid and are therefore at risk of being trapped inside the cortex and or cuticle and not completely rinsed - therefore causing ongoing damage to the hair.

010Plus contains the smallest almost negligible percentage of ammonia -1.3% as compared to traditional hair colour creams which range from 4-9%

The patented pure latest generation nano-pigments in 010Plus only require the cuticle to open very, very slightly to allow the minute pigments to enter, therefore only the smallest amount of softening is required of the cuticle - causing far less damage, and therefor, far less processing times required (10 minutes), compared to any rival colour processes.


010Plus does not contain any element of PPD (p-Phenylenediamine)


Don't assume that because a hair product is ammonia free it is better for your health, or the health of your hair. The importance of private research by individuals on hair colour products can not be overstated.

Chemical doesn't always mean bad, and natural doesn't always mean good.

Ammonia --free does not mean damage free.

Some form of chemical reaction has to take place for hair to change colour.

There is nothing organic about the hair colour process, - organic is a term for food and the soil it grows in - not hair colour.

Ammonia alternatives are purported as safer because of their low odor properties, if this was true then carbon monoxide which has no odor should not be deadly!

Organics is a whole other topic for another post : An interesting article on organic hair colour can be found here: https://ireadlabelsforyou.com/organic-color-systems/








"US food and Drug Administration (FDA)" Ammonium Hydroxide"


​"Cosmetics ingredients review"




Monoethanolamine (MEA)


Aminomethylpropanol (AMEA)


Cocamide DEA/MEA

California Proposition 65



Chemical Review Publication:
Current Trends in the Chemistry of Permanent Hair Dyeing




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