Photo: Choose hair dye without PPD

DIY-ers can find nontoxic options in health food stores(Credit: Angelina :) via Flickr)

Eco-friendlier hair dyes exist!

Avoid ammonia, petrochemicals, sulfates, phthalates, parabens and P-phenylenediamine (PPD). It's hard to find permanent colours that don't contain PPD. PPD-free products often use aminophenols—people allergic or sensitive to PPD may react to those, too. Find a hairdresser educated in the prefixes of these chemicals.

Before you book, ask the salon about ingredients. The more of us that ask, the quicker they'll catch on! It's for their own good — PPD can cause cancer and be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain.

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Many eco-friendlier dyes are henna- or vegetable-based (from roots and fruits), others are oil-based. Some are paired with hydrogen peroxide to help the colour last longer.

Note: Many hennas don't disclose ingredients, but labels may list leaves of aslawsonia inermis and indigoferae tinctoria, walnut, or pure indigo. So-called "black henna" may be derived from indigo (from the plant indogoferae tinctoria), but may also contain PPD. Those sensitive to PPD should avoid black henna.

Most vegetable-based colours are called "stains"—they coat the hair but aren't absorbed below the cuticle of the shaft. Ingredients will be similar to henna but may contain dispersed inks (like pigments used in tattoos).

Greys need a small percentage of chemicals to have true permanent coverage. Most '"natural" colours are grey-blending more than grey-covering.

DIY-ers can find nontoxic options in health food stores or organic grocers. If you like bright reds, violets or gold and have naturally lighter hair; lily stamens or belladonna flower, turmeric or even beet juice can do a wonderful job of tinting the hair and even refresh older highlights. Always wear gloves!

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