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Ammonia-free Hair Dye: What’s the Difference?


Hair color trend changes, but one thing remains constant; damage-free dyes are always hard to find. If hair dyes are giving you dry hair, oil application can undo the damage to some extent.

Ammonia is a much-maligned chemical substance that is held by hair experts as permanently damaging the scalp. To know if ammonia-free dyes are any different, read on.

What do ammonia-based hair dyes mean for your scalp?

Some years ago, it was difficult to believe that hair dyes that did not have ammonia, could offer good coverage. However, alternatives for the same have been discovered. To understand the difference between dyes with and without ammonia, it is necessary to understand why ammonia is used in the first place.

What ammonia does?

Hair coloring is essentially a chemical reaction, and ammonia acts as a hair follicle swelling-agent. Once the follicle swells, it easily absorbs the dye. In permanent hair dyes, this helps hair color to go deep and last long, actually connecting it to the hair, inside out. Ammonia aids in hair lightening as well, working with melanin in the whole process.

The Ammonia molecule evaporates in no time due to its small size. This is what is responsible for the strong smell released by your hair dye when you color your hair. Ammonia’s molecular structure also makes it easy rinsing when you wash after coloring.

The side-effects of ammonia-based hair dyes

Ammonia has been linked to a number of health problems, besides burning sensation in the scalp and damage. When it enters the cortex and swells the cuticle, it triggers significant moisture and protein loss which also caused pH imbalance. For dry hair, try using a moisturizing agent like the ADV Argan Oil to smoothen out your hair.

The moisturizers that come in ammoniated box dyes can lead to oil buildup if they get to the scalp which could also clog your scalp’s pores. So seeking timely oily scalp treatment as a prevention could save your hair and scalp!

How are ammonia-free dyes different?

Ammonia-free hair color typically uses monoethanolamine (MEA) that contains alcohol as well which works as an alternative pH adjuster in hair dyes. It is used in a less concentrated form and in combination with emollient oils and that makes it less damaging.

Disadvantages of ammonia-free dyes

Ammonia alternatives have larger molecules, and the result is less saturation and a weakened ability to infuse itself into hair follicles. Also, the penetration of the dye is superficial, and the results are comparatively short-lived. The larger size of molecules also leads to residue formation on the scalp. The lack of a strong smell is desirable, but it means that the chemicals take longer to evaporate. Slow evaporation makes the coloring agent a lot more difficult to rinse off.

Botanical salon hair dyes are a popular alternative to damaging box dyes, since they are free of ammonia, parabens, or animal products. PHS HAIRSCIENCE offers premium botanical hair colors to give you a safe and satisfying hair coloring experience.