Plant-based hair dyes – Safe or toxic?



What are plant-based hair dyes? Are they toxic? Will plant-based dyes cause rashes? Can you blend them yourself? Please allow me to explain to you clearly and concisely so that you have the information on hand to help you decide if the best plant-based dyes are right for your scalp.

Little history lesson.

Hair dyeing goes way back as far as the Paleolithic period. Archaeologist discovered that people at that period used iron oxide to dye their hair. The Egyptian cut their hair and make it into wigs. They then dyed them with Henna, Indigo and other plant-based products. Yes, Egyptian also used Henna to cover their greys! Around 300 BC, prostitutes were required to dye their hair yellow or blonde to help identify their profession.

Fast forward to the 1800s, a chemist William Henry Perkins was the first to synthesized dye. Soon after, professor August Hoffman discovered para-phenylenediamine or better know now as PPD.To this day, this remains the building block for permanent hair dye.

Since then, many personal -care and cosmetic product manufacturers have used different chemicals and synthetics to make you look healthier and younger. The industry continues to justify that the chemicals used are of low toxicity and will not harm your body. If that was the case, then why is that the European Union has banned more than 1,300 ingredients used in the cosmetic and hair industry. Interesting to note that in the United States, only 11 or so chemicals were banned by FDA

Plant-based products

There are more than 10 plant-based products like Jatamansi power, Beetroot, Cinnamon powder, Tea, Coffee, Lemon and many more that you can choose from. I have only selected a few to discuss here.


The most well-loved plant-based hair dye is Henna. It comes from dry leaves of the Lawsonia Inermis plant that are pounded into a paste and used as a dye or “Henna” as it is popularly known. This product was used in India for a long time as a temporary dye for hand tattooing and hair colouring. Henna is also used today to dye, condition, straighten hair and control oily scalp. Other non-hair benefits include treating jaundice, smallpox and other skin diseases. You can buy good quality Henna products from reputable health shops or Make sure you check that it is 100% pure and not those that are mixed.

Cover greys.

Experts believed that there are between 25 to 100 species of coffee plants. Some of the popular ones are Coffea Arabica, Robusta Coffea, Coffea Liberica, just to name a few. Coffee is rich in a black compound known as Tannins. Tannins are a bitter compound and found in other places like wood, bark, leaves and fruit of plants such as oak, rhubarb, walnut, tea, cacao, grapes and coffee. Yes, you can use organic coffee by itself or mixed it with Henna to cover your greys.


Preparation and Application

  1. Brew a strong cup of organic coffee for a few minutes. Non-organic coffee may contain a preservative or chemical additives.
  2. Once cool, add 2-3 teaspoon of your favourite thick conditioner. A thick conditioner will make it easy to apply later. The quantity required will depend very much on the length of your hair. Longer hair would need twice the amount of mixture mentioned.
  3. Cover yourself with an old shirt or towel and use gloves.
  4. Apply the mixture with your hands and use a comb to spread the mixture over your head.
  5. Cover your hair with a plastic bag or shower cap and leave it to soak for 1 hour or more.  Once the mixture is dry, the conditioner will harden.
  6. Rinse your hair with lots of water without using a shampoo.
  7. You may need to do this a couple of times to get your desired colour shade.

Darker shade.

As I mentioned earlier, tea also contains Tannin. Brew 5 bags of black tea into a cup. If you want a darkening shade, add sage leaves to the mixture and let it cool. I prefer to mix it with a conditioner as well and apply it to my hair. If you do not have a conditioner, you can apply it to your hair by spraying or using an applicator bottle. Leave it under wraps for 1 hour or so and rinse without using a shampoo.

Redheads or highlights.

Boil a small pot of fresh or dried hibiscus flowers. The concentration of the colour depends on the number of petals you put into the boiling water. If you want it darker, you could leave the petals in the water longer. Once cool down, strain the liquid into a spray bottle. Before you begin, cover yourself with an old shirt or towel. Spray the mixture to target areas you want to highlight or the whole area. Comb your hair to spread the mixture evenly. Rise your hair thoroughly and blow dry it to help bring out the highlights. If you wash your hair often, the dye will eventually fade.

Reddish or orange tint.

Mix some organic carrot juice with olive oil. Apply or spray it onto your hair. Cover your hair with a plastic cover or shower cap. Leave it on your hair for an hour or so. Rinse with apple cider. For stronger colour, dye the hair the next day. If you want more details go to my references below and click on -” A Review of Natural Resouces” website.

Bleach hair with the help of essential oils.

Use lemon juice to bleach your hair. This is permanent as compared with the other colours mentioned. What happens is lemon juice removes the pigment from your hair slowly and in time it will lighten it. As this is permanent, the easiest way to remove it simply cut your hair!

Preparation and Application.

  1. Squeeze ½ a lemon into a spray bottle.
  2. Drop 10-15 drop of lemon or tangerine essential oil.
  3. You may want to try other citrus essential oil as it will work as well.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of fractionated coconut or Argan oil.
  5. Add 10 drops of Roman Chamomile essential oil.
  6. Top up the bottle with distilled or filtered water.

Spray your hair with the mixture. Comb it to spread it evenly. Cover your hair with a shower cap and sit out in the sun for 30-60 minutes. Rinse it thoroughly. You may have to repeat this process a few times to get the desired shade.

Caution: possible sun sensitivity.

Maintenance of naturally dyed hair.

To ensure your naturally dyed hair colour last longer, here are a few tips.

  • Try not to use a hairdryer, curling irons or a straightening iron that often.
  • Install a water filter to remove all nasty minerals.
  • Wash your hair less often and use a lighter shampoo.
  • Stay out of the sun or use a hat instead.
  • Don’t swim in a swimming pool (Chorine) that often. If you do, wash your hair thoroughly.

Take Away.

Many sceptics insist that using plant-based products does not work at all. Others suggest there is no alternative but to use products that have fewer chemicals. Our exposure and usage of cosmetics including hair dyes increase every year. According to some scientific studies found that an average woman now uses around 12 cosmetics and up to 25 different products with more than 25% of women using 15 or more a day. They are all exposed to more than hundreds of different toxic chemicals every day! The average men only use 50% less cosmetic than women every day.

There is sufficient research done to suggest that exposure to these chemicals may cause cancer, hormone disruption, hair loss, genetic mutation, reproductive defects etc. Fortunately, there are increasing numbers of manufacturers that offer safer products. As a consumer, you must do your own due diligence to find safer products, ethically manufactured.

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Disclosure: Just a Heads Up: My posts may contain affiliate links! If you buy something through one of those links, you won’t pay a cent more, but I’ll get a small commission, which helps to keep the lights on. Mank thanks!

Disclaimer: These statements are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease. They are for information purposes only. They have not been evaluated by the FDA. You should read carefully all product packaging. If you suspect that you have a medical condition, seek help from your doctor. 

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