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  1. Hi Irina,

    I would love to see a hair color rating based on cancer risk that includes semi-permanent options. Thank you so much for all you do to provide such detailed information so that we can make good decisions.

  2. Hi Irina, Thank you for posting this. Can you please tell me where to email to purchase the most current list of least toxic products? Thank you!

  3. I switched to Rainbow Research henna about 3 years ago and am so glad I did. I had serious concerns about the cancer risks and found the dangers not worth it. The henna is messier and takes longer, but the color is beautiful and I no longer feel like I’m hurting my body. Thanks for the piece!

  4. Hi Irina,

    I just wanted to say thank you again for all your research and sharing your knowledge with us. I have been trying to “give up” coloring my hair for the last couple years. I used to only do it occasionally for a change but after having my second child it feels like all the new hairs that grew back are grey. So, I fell into the hair dying cycle. I have been battling my own internal struggle of why I can’t just let my grey hairs be and embrace them and a big part of me feels that at 35 I shouldn’t have grey hairs peeking through my dark hair. I am now 2 months out from using any color and trying to hold strong. I do believe that as a society, if we saw more women with grey hair, it would be SO much easier to embrace the natural change and that it really isn’t something that just happens when we are elderly. I also find it interesting how guys can embrace the grey change in their mid 30s, and many even find it attractive on men, but the same standard (as a whole in society) doesn’t seem to apply to women. I think I’ll finally give Hairprint a try now that I’ve been able to let my hair grow out some. Again, thank you for all you do.

    1. Hi, Kendra: I know it is so unfair. Somehow wrinkles and grey hair look great on men but society has created a different standard for women. We should talk to people who are in charge of setting fashion trends and explain to them the beauty of grey hair and health. But seriously I sometimes stop and look at how some grey hair looks beautiful. I truly believe the change is coming, and we just need to come together on this. Thank you for your bravery! ~Irina

  5. Hi Irina and other readers.

    First for other readers who worry about how they will appear with grey hair. I never wanted to take the time necessary to color my hair as more strands became more noticeable to me in my thirties, I considered changing the grey but worried that I might like the color all one tone, and I definitely wouldn’t like having to continue coloring repeatedly because of the roots. I stuck with the grey strands. My hair was a medium brown which had a blonde undertone.
    I did do highlights once and was surprised at the time and cost. I couldn’t notice much difference but a coworker complemented me. However as I got more grey, particularly at the temples, I would only see it when I washed my hair. As grey sprinkled throughout my head, I was complimented by another coworker. Obviously this is your decision to make, but I found a shorter hair style made my hair more attractive because it changed the fall of my hair around my face. My sister had lovely dark hair as a small child. When she was 17 she decided to lighten her hair by spraying it with a product that said the sun would lighten her hair. It did and she had a chestnut red undertone that was her color for awhile. She has changed colors quite a bit. She continues to dye or color her hair which looks really dry and unnatural. I don’t know if she just doesn’t want to face the grow out period or if it is vanity.

    For Irina,

    I would purchase two gift copies of the hair dye/ coloring cancer causing chemicals rated from bad to worse. Thank you for offering to do the research and publication of this information. You are quie wonderful.

    1. Thank you, Vanessa, for letting us know. It sounds like the consensus is that the majority wants to continue using hair coloring products and is looking for guidance to find the safest ones. ~Irina

      1. I purchased your permanent hair color guide and have started using Goldwell Elumen. I am confused now because in your article it appears that the increase in cancer risk was greatest with semi-permanent hair colors and technically that is what Goldwell Eluman is. What are your thoughts?

        Thank you!

        1. Thank you for the question, Amanda! The mentioned study was epidemiological, based on a survey, and did not look into ingredients of any specific brands. Ultimately, the cancer risk is tied not to the technical term itself, i.e., “permanent” or “semi-permananenet,” but to the ingredients used in a product. That is why we looked into the ingredients of all the hair colors on our Permanent Hair Color Rating list and created a table for your convenience to see which ingredients a hair color has and has not, so you could rule out those products that can cause a sensitivity for you. Our goal has never been just to tell people what to do or what to purchase. Our goal is to educate our readers so they make their own informed decisions.

  6. Hi, I’m so glad I came across your site! I’m a hairstylist and 7 years ago switched over to a brand of hair color that has some natural, some organic, and some of the worst chemicals traded for less harsh ones. I also use pure natural plant dye powders-Henna, Indigo, Cassia & Amla. I trust this henna company that these dyes are chemical free as they have them tested for purity by a third party with each new batch they receive from India. The process I do is different than the one you mentioned you had done. The touch up process takes about 3 1/2 to 4 hours each time. But I’ve seen very damaged hair become soft and healthy with a beautiful shine. I’ve been doing my own now for 1 1/2 years. I love the results on myself and my clients. I would love to only offer this color option in my salon, but at least half of my clients are not ready to commit to this permanent type of a color. An authentic henna process cannot be lightened without a harsh bleach product and then the results are uncertain. So you have to let your roots grow out to get rid of the color. So I still offer the conventional color line that has the somewhat better ingredients. I’m looking again for another color company and I found one that has a complete list of good ingredients and I’ve contacted and heard back from them on pricing, but I’ve sent them a list of questions and haven’t heard back with answers. Yes please keep looking!

  7. I am 38 and have significant grey hair. I cannot imagine growing it out and not using hair color. I’m just not there. My hair also grows quickly, so I color my hair every 2-3 weeks. I use Goldwell Colorance color plus with their NN demi color. I thought this was a healthier choice since it’s not permanent. Now I’m second guessing. I’d be interested in a new guide rating cancer risks of permanent, demi and semi permanent. Thank you Irina.

  8. I have been using Hairprint for two plus years. I agree that the application is difficult and time consuming, but I am so pleased with the final results and no allergic reaction. The hairdresser that cuts my hair asked if I had highlights applied at another salon. As the color fades my greys have a hint of golden tone and seem to blend in well.
    So rather then apply myself, I plan a Pajama party with a friend and we color each other’s hair. 🙂

    Thank you Irina, for your time and excellent research. 🙂

  9. Irina, you are so wonderful to do all this research! I tell everyone about your site. I would DEFINITELY be interested in buying a book about hair dyes if you do the research. I dye my dark brown hair to color my grays. I tried Elumen with reasonable success after reading what you wrote. I know it’s still not great, but seemed better than the alternatives so I will suffer a few greys peeking through since it’s not AS toxic as others. Thanks for the wonderful work you do.I am truly grateful!

  10. I have read that darker dyes like brown & black are linked with cancer. And still I decided to become a redhead. I’ve considered going blond again using foils so I can keep the product off my scalp. Reading this post convinced me it is time. No more color product on my skin! I love to change my color but I’ll be 50 in 2 years & my goal is to give up coloring my hair then! I love it when I meet women who embrace the gray. It is so gorgeous & empowering!

  11. I was using Naturigin thinking that it was a pretty safe option until I came across your site and read your hair color rating list. I tried Elumen last time I got my hair colored but it didn’t cover well. I’m currently sitting in the waiting area at the salon and saw this article in my inbox. I started getting gray hair when I was 17 and am now at least 75% gray in my 30s. As much as I would love to quit coloring my hair for my health I am super self conscious about the gray. I’m completely with all those who commented…it’s a vanity thing. I spent most of my 20s researching and trying different nutrition and supplements that people reported reversed gray hair. I was holding out hope that premature graying was the result of some imbalance I could correct. Anyway, I would love another guide that goes into cancer risks. At this point I just want to use whatever is the healthiest option. And 10ish months without dying my hair if I decide to get pregnant…yikes!

    1. Justine, oh my, I understand you so well!!! Same here, in my 30’s probably 75%+ gray at this point. I’ve been coloring since I was about 18-19 years old… spent my 20’s trying to figure out why I was going gray! Tried all kinds of diets and vitamins, supplements etc. Currently I touch up my roots every 2 weeks :((
      I also recently tried Elumen and was not happy with the results, so the search continues … off to Wella Innosense next.
      Getting pregnant terrifies me, not only being totally gray for 10+ months (which I don’t think I’ll be able to do), but also how will the damage that I’ve done to my body coloring hair for 15 years translate into being able to give birth to a healthy baby.

      1. We are totally in the same boat Natalia! I go every 3 weeks to touch up my roots though I probably could stand to go every two. I tried Elumen again this past Wednesday night and it didn’t cover well at all. We also used the color lock and it really irritated my scalp. I’m going to go back to Naturigin until I find something else. Would love to hear your thoughts on the Wella after you try it!

        1. Hi Justine, so I finally tried Wella and I liked it! I will be ordering more. It’s made for salon use, so you need to buy a big bottle of developer and tubes of color. I bought both on Amazon, N3 color and level 3 developer (the most mild one).
          When I mixed the color (1:1), it came out pretty thick, thicker than other ones I tried. I only mixed 2 oz. I applied it and then mixed another 2 oz (to use up the tube) and applied it again. There was a tiny bit of ammonia smell, but really not much at all. I think next time I’ll just do 3oz right away. Long story short, waited ~25min, washed my hair twice, conditioned it. The color came out great, colored all my grays, even the stubborn ones on my temples. There was no scalp staining and the small patches I got on my ears came off right away. Overall, very happy and will be ordering again! I’ll experiment with applying coconut oil to protect scalp from exposure (it works amazing with ethanolamine-based colors) and maybe we’ll try to dilute the color with something to make it more runny and easier to apply.
          I’ve been using madison reed for a bit with good results, but it has ethanolamine and I’ve been looking to switch either to something natural or ammonia.
          Good luck! ;))

          1. Hi Natalia, did you end up trying coconut oil with the Wella dye, and how did it turn out?

  12. I purchased your e-book on hair dyes and, since then, have decided to try going grey (I think i’m almost totally grey now). I was hoping that once I got rid of the colour I could use Hairprint but, the more I read about it, the more convinced I became that it will simply not work for me. I haven’t determined yet whether or not I can live with all the grey and, if not, I thought I might try Goldwell Elumen since it seems to be much less harmful.

    1. Hi, Janet:

      Thank you for letting us know. Just want to make sure that we are on the same page. Goldwell Elumen is rated the safest from the standpoint of hair damage, allergic reaction potential, and endocrine disruption. I can’t speak about its carcinogenic risks with a good level of confidence until I dissect every ingredient and compare them across the board of other brands. I am not sure what I am going to find. Do you see what I mean? It would be a lot of work for me to venture into carcinogenic research, but I would love to do it if a lot of you are interested. ~Irina

      1. Hi Irina,
        when you looked into Elumen, did you rate just the color? Because there’s a “lock” product that is supposed to be used afterwards to make sure the color doesn’t bleed. I did try that product, it has a very strong chemical/ammonia smell … and the color still bled .. a lot! I read online some forum threads, seems like for many, the color doesn’t stay on without the lock product.

          1. Here’s a link to their site with instructions on how to apply it
            and here are the ingredients for “Lock” product:
            Aqua, alcohol denat., PEG-8, Benzyl Glycol, Sodium Isethionate, Butylene Glycol, Lactic Acid, Carbomer, Dimethicone Copolyol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Hydroxide, Parfum, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Amylcinnamyl Alcohol.

            I kind of did both – family friend, who is a hairdresser, applied it at her house.

          2. Natalia: Thank you for the ingredients. By looking at the ingredients of the Elumen Lock product, it appears to me that this formulation is supposed to coat the hair, which makes sense, and produce fragrance (that is linked to an allergic reaction). I do not see any ammonium-related compounds in it. Ammonium is only needed to open up the hair cuticles to push the hair dyes in during the hair dying process. Obviosly, that would be the job of the lock product. So I am not sure why it smells bad. ~Irina

          3. Really interested to hear the answer to this. I believe they used something like that at my salon…

          4. Hi Irina, thank you for quick and informative analysis! I went to smell the Lock again, and i guess the smell is similar to the product that is used to get a perm – it reminds me of going to a salon with my mom back in the 1980-1990’s and smelling that in the air. The colors themselves smell nice though .. it’s just the Lock that has that chemical smell. I’m happy I tried it, but unfortunately won’t be sticking with it.

          5. Thank you, Natalie, for all your help and research! I believe you were the one who gave me the idea to create the Permanent Hair Color Rating List. 🙂 While you are doing research, please let me know if you find a permanent hair color that uses 2-methoxy-methyl-p-phenylenediamine instead of PPD, PDS, or NNPPD. Despite its scary name, it has been classified only as a moderate sensitizer, versus extreme or strong. Currently, there is only one brand that is included in my Permanent Hair Color Rating ebook that uses this new hair dye ingredient. Thank you!!! ~Irina

  13. Thanks so much, Irina! I always appreciate your conscientious efforts! I also really appreciate your bringing this info into the light and your encouraging us to have a discussion about how to effectively move forward. I have tried Hairprint with ok results. I stopped using it because it was so time consuming and expensive (because of what my hair stylist would charge) with just so-so results. I have now switched to just highlights and sometimes lowlights. Is this the same as using foils? I am happy with the results, but I am still always evaluating how much longer I want to continue even this! (I have light brown hair with lots of waves and frizzy grays). More and more I see women my age and thereabouts (50) with gray/natural hair, and I am so happy to see them – they look beautiful!

  14. This is fantastic information to have, albeit really unfortunate. Yes, can you please, please continue doing research on hair dyes on behalf of all of us grateful women and publish as you learn. Thank you! The sad reality is that women want to cover their gray, but if we can do it as safety as possible, it’s a win win. Thank you!

  15. Thank you for your research! I am 62 and using hair color. I tried the HairPrint for about 6 months but it is so time intensive I could simply not continue. I would be very interested in a Hair Color Rating List. I am continuing to use color with the hopes of transitioning to gray. In the mean time i have spaced out appointments so at least i’m getting exposure less frequently.

  16. Irina it would be useful to know which hair colors are most cancerous. I tried Wella Innosense last week and it didn’t cover grey very well, but there was no smell or burning and my hair felt so healthy and shiny afterwards. I will try it again, adding a bit more of a brown color to see if it covers grey better. I would rather not color my hair at all, but I look a lot older with grey hair. The grey washes me out and makes me look tired and I don’t want to look like my younger husband’s auntie. Haha. Oh alright, I am just vain, okay? The whole hair coloring thing is ridiculous. The fact that I do it and know it’s bad for my health is sad. The more information about this frustrating issue, the better choices we can make. The nearest Hairprint salon is a 2 hour drive. It’s time consuming and very expensive. None of the local hairdressers that I have spoken to have even heard of Hairprint, still. I have a tiny apt bathroom. It is messy and stains easily. I really wish it was an easier process to do at home. Thanks for your good work.

  17. Hi Irina,
    Thanks for all that you do! I’ve been using Hairprint thanks to your research. It is a daunting process but my hairdresser agreed to put it on for me so now I’m back to just enjoying getting my hair done. Do you know if it’s safe to use Hairprint while trying to conceive & during pregnancy? Also, Natalias post made me think about the coconut oil. Do you think Hairprint would still work if I applied the coconut oil several hours before hand? My scalp is always covered with the Hairprint product when the process is complete and even after using shampoo. I wonder if the coconut oil will work but I’m doubtful because I feel like the prepare packet would just wash it away. What do you think?

    1. Hi Tabitha, I don’t think coconut oil will work with Hairprint. I believe it’s in their instructions or FAQ that no oil should be used prior to application, even if you shampooed after using oil. They tell you to stop using any oil-based products several weeks before application.

      Part of the reason why I stopped using hairprint is that it colored my scalp (and that color stayed on my skin through several washes, probably 3 or 4), it did not look good at all … made my scalp itchy and then every time I would scratch it (which I wanted to do every minute), I would end up with ugly dark color under my fingernails (I work in the office and having that happen during a meeting for instance is just unacceptable … I trained myself to use a pen to scratch me head – yes, I was that determined to make it work for me! But then again, even if hairprint is safe to eat (or so they claim), I don’t want it sticking around on my skin for such a long time.

      1. Ew, I know, it gave me the look of dirty fingernails all of the time because it made me itch, too! Hairprint leaves a lot of residue on the scalp.

  18. Since I was pregnant (and now my daughter is 3) I stopped getting my roots done (I have dark blonde hair and have dyed it blonde since I was 21 ) I was too paranoid when I was pregnant to let the dye touch my scalp so I didn’t do my hair again until my daughter was 6 months old or so. But I still don’t do roots anymore. I just use foils and get high lights and low lights. I’m sure that cuts out a lot of the toxic stuff absorbing in my head but I hope it’s still safe. Thanks for the article!
    Ps. I do get my brows tinted darker. Now I’m wondering what’s in that tint. 😩

  19. I used hair dye/bleach since my teens. I am now 55 and am a breast cancer survivor. My hair is quite gray and I tried to go natural but I guess I’m too vain. Some people have pretty gray hair and it doesn’t seem to age them but mine is not a pretty gray and I look a lot older. So I am using your list of colors you’ve rated and have decided to go with the Wella Innosense for the next round. I will wait til my hair is back to mostly gray before coloring so it will be a good 4-5 months in between. After that I’m planning on trying the Goldwell Elumen just to keep it fresh looking.

    1. Hi Laurie, I’m about to try Wella Innosense as well, fingers crossed it works well! I’ve tried Elumen and unfortunately did not like it at all ;(

      Irina – have you considered adding a discussion board to your website? It will be super helpful for people to post their comments/questions and for others followers to weigh in.

    2. Ditto the request for a discussion board on your website, Irina.

      About the hair colors, I have lost my 2018 Rating List and only have the Table 3 page I printed. Can someone refresh my memory on the rating system? Is the lower the number the better? And is ammonium hydroxide preferable to ethanolamine?

      I used Wella Innosense and like it fine but would prefer a liquid rather than a tube.

      1. Hi! I update the Permanent Hair Color Rating List every year. Some brands change their ingredients. And I add new brands. It is a lot of work. I charge for the update a half price. If you are interested in purchasing the 2019 list, please email me for the discount code The Wella Innosense has become now Wella Koleston Perfect and the ingredients are different. Thank you for letting me know about the forum. I think it is a good idea but I can’t afford to do it for free. I would have to charge a membership fee. Would you pay for it? ~Irina

  20. Hi Irina, another great and informative post!
    As much as I’d like to embrace my grays, when you start getting gray hair in your early 20’s, it’s not really an option to not color if you want to continue looking your age. So unfortunately, I will continue to color my hair.
    However, I have been looking at safer alternatives (hated Elumen btw), trying out safer rated colors from your list and trying hairprint (not a fan at all, of the product and of the company ;(
    That being said, I would love to see a list of colors from you that are rated based on cancer risks! I’ve purchased both of your lists and I find them very helpful. It’s not just the rating of certain brands, it’s a detailed explanation of the main ingredients and their safety info. It would be great to know if there are any extreme sensitizers that are slightly better than others, assuming PPD is the worst offender.
    You briefly mention using an ointment to protect skin contact from color and I have a solution! I’ve been meaning to share this info for a while and this is the perfect opportunity. I read online that applying coconut oil to your hair and scalp at least 40 min before coloring has great effects – it serves as a hair mask and nourishes hair, but it also protects skin from hair color. I was a little skeptical – thinking that oil would just coat my hair and color won’t penetrate. However, the results were great! I applied (very generously) coconut oil to the length of my hair and to my scalp and left it on for a couple of hours while I did other things around the house. When it was time to color, the hair color was a bit easier to apply with oil on my hair as it was spreading easier and hair didn’t get tangled (I have long, past bra strap, hair). Left the hair color on for the usual 20-25 min. I did have to shampoo twice to make sure all the coconut oil was gone from my hair and I used just a tiny bit of conditioner on the ends. The result – great looking color and NO skin stains! I was so excited  I’ve done this process 3-4 times already and it works great every time. Just to note – I used Naturcolor that contains PPD and uses ethanolamine as cuticle opener. I do not know how it would work with other/no extreme sensitizers and cuticle opener (but I’m going to try doing with Wella Innosense soon!).

  21. Irina,
    I’ve stopped using any hair dyes since I was pregnant with my first child- it’s been 4 years now. It was hard at first seeing an awful regrowth, however, later on it looked like a fashionable at that time “ombre”:) By now you can’t tell I’ve ever dyed my hair which is unusual nowadays… Recently, looking at my old photos, I started hesitating and thinking of changing the color following your list of the safest on the market. I must say, after reading it, probably I won’t!! I might just go for a haircut.
    Thank you Irina for looking up the topic and warning all of us! You are making a change- keep up this hard work!

  22. Yes, please do a guide on which hair dyes are the least toxic. I currently have my stylist use Aveda permanent color but only have it done every 13-14 weeks. I have medium brown hair. Also wondered if it is better to use semi-permanent Aveda hair color but I would have to have it done every 6-7 weeks.

  23. Thank you for the article. I have blonde hair so the hair printing does not have a solution. I do have darker blond but I do have gray hair. Do you have a safer way and your tips were very good about capping, etc.