In this post, you will find out what happened after I wrote a post about Natulique hair color. Additionally, you will learn about Natulique hair dye ingredients, so you can make an informed decision about their safety. We will also discuss cocamide MEA and cocamide DEA, since one of them is on the Natulique ingredient list. Read on to find out how the safety of Natulique compares with many other permanent hair color brands in my Permanent Hair Color Rating List e-book.
Natulique hair color is not certified organic.
In 2017, Natulique seemed to describe their hair color as an organic hair color. Additionally, their logo used to say “Natulique Certified Organic,” which I found rather misleading. Indeed, as a consumer, I would understand that as a statement that their products, including hair dyes, were certified organic. With the help of my attorney husband, I discovered that both the certifying “agency” and the organic standards seemed to have been created by the company itself. In other words, they created their own “organic” certification and certified their own product to it.
Since I want consumers to make informed decisions based on the safety of ingredients, not advertisements, I wrote a post about Natulique. Their response sounded like they were planning to sue me. They said they had never claimed Natulique hair dye was organic. In fact, before contacting me, they had changed their logo to “Natulique Certified Organic Beauty.” Plus, they started describing their hair dye as “natural” instead of “organic.” Luckily, I had screenshots to prove my point.
On the one hand, it was an unpleasant situation because they threatened me with a lawsuit. But on the other hand, it was exciting because they read my post and made changes to their website! Besides, my attorney and I gathered the proof of my claims before we published the post (as we always do). Read on to find out how an “organic” permanent hair color differs from a non-organic permanent hair dye.
The terms “organic” or “natural” describing permanent hair color are misleading, in my opinion.
To start with, no permanent hair color can be organic – period, and Natulique hair color is not an exception. Can it contain organic ingredients? Yes, it can. How many organic ingredients must it contain to be able to apply for a USDA organic certification? 95%. In other words, 95% of the product must be of agricultural origin, which is impossible for a permanent hair dye. Read more about that and some popular so-called organic hair dye brands in my post about Organic Hair Color.
As of today, chemicals make a bigger portion of permanent coloring products, without which the product will simply not work. It is great that Natulique hair dye now openly admits it saying, “We are not a 100% organic hair colour: We still use some chemicals to ensure lasting and covering results.” Keep reading to find out what chemicals they use.
Some companies claim their ingredients are “natural” or “naturally derived.” Let me give you some perspective on this claim.
First, the word “natural” is virtually meaningless when it comes to safety criteria. Indeed, lead, petroleum, and snake venom are natural, but it does not mean they are safe or good for you. Second, it is true that some substances can be “naturally derived.” That is, the manufacturer may start from a natural source. However, the derivation process involves a multi-step procedure with additional chemicals used along the way. In the end, the “naturally derived” product does not resemble much the original ingredient, in my opinion.
Some naturally derived ingredients in “organic” beauty products result from the process of ethoxylation.
Some hair color companies derive ingredients through a process called ethoxylation. One example is Sodium Laureth Sulfate (NOT an ingredient in the Natulique hair color). When you understand the manufacturing process, “naturally derived” does not sound so healthy anymore.
Indeed, sodium laureth sulfate is “naturally derived” from healthy coconut oil. Then, during the derivation process, the coconut oil is turned into fatty acids used to derive lauryl alcohol. Next, the lauryl alcohol is treated with sulfur trioxide gas or chlorosulfuric acid to produce sodium lauryl sulfate. Finally, sodium lauryl sulfate is treated with carcinogenic ethylene oxide to make sodium laureth sulfate. This process forms carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane and is called ethoxylation. Traces of 1,4-dioxane can contaminate the final product unless it is properly removed with the vacuum stripping method. Still, sound wholesome and healthy?
Thus, it is important to understand the derivation process of an ingredient to know what byproducts it may have. The problem is that you will not see these byproducts, or contaminants, on the list of ingredients. Moreover, it is not that common for hair color manufacturers to disclose their ingredients. I have to walk through thick and thin to pull the ingredient information out of them. Therefore, I applaud Natulique hair dye for posting their ingredients, which other brands, e.g., Oway Hair Color, fail to do.
Now, to the ingredients of the Natulique hair color themselves. This is my favorite part. Let us look at the ingredients together.
Natulique hair color ingredients
As of December 2022, the ingredient list of Natulique permanent hair color is as follows:
Specifically, we will focus on the cuticle opener – ethanolamine, and the colorants: p-phenylenediamine (PPD), resorcinol, 2-methylresorcinol, 4-chlororesorcinol, 4-amino-2-hydroxytoluene, p-aminophenol, m-aminophenol, 2-amino-4-hydroxyethylaminoanisole sulfate.
Ethanolamine as a cuticle opener is an ingredient of concern.
To start with, the role of a cuticle opener is to open the hair cuticle to let the hair color in. That is to say, it is a necessary component of hair color. Unlike many other hair colors that use ammonia for this purpose, Natulique hair color uses ethanolamine.
The production process of ethanolamine involves a reaction between a mole of ethylene oxide and a mole of ammonia. Hence, it has an ammonia-like odor (source). For your information, the Skin Deep database rates ethylene oxide 10 (the most toxic) because it is a human carcinogen.
According to the FDA, ethanolamine may also be contaminated with diethanolamine (DEA), which is linked with cancer in lab animals. The Skin Deep database rates ethanolamine 5-6 and ammonia 2-6 depending on usage.
Doing research for my Permanent Hair Color Rating List, I discovered that there is limited evidence that ethanolamine is a teratogen in animals. (Teratogens are agents that interfere with fetus development.) The New Jersey Department of Health states that “until further research has been done, it should be treated as a possible teratogen in humans” (source). Also, the European Chemicals Agency database says that it is suspected of damaging fertility or the unborn child.
Further, this study found that there was more hair damage from ethanolamine than from ammonia. In some extreme cases, the damage was as much as 85% more. Read my post about ammonia-free hair color brands to find out if they are really better.
Some colorants in the Natulique hair color are strong or extreme sensitizers.
I consider colorants, or dyes, to be the main ingredients because they do the actual job of coloring. In other words, without them, a permanent hair color cannot exist. They may also cause skin sensitization, an allergic reaction that can happen after repeated uses of the same product.
The European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) assessed hair dyes for skin sensitization potency. They assigned either extreme, strong, and moderate sensitization potency to them, and the Natulique hair dye colorants have the following:
|Strong||p-aminophenol, m-aminophenol, 4-amino-2-hydroxytoluene|
|Moderate||resorcinol, 2-methylresorcinol, 4-chlororesorcinol|
|Insufficient testing||2-amino-4-hydroxyethylaminoanisole sulfate|
So, four out of eight dyes in the Natulique hair color are strong or extreme sensitizers. The SCCS concluded that “hair dye substances which fulfill the criteria for classification as R43 may not be safe for consumers. This is particularly so for hair dye substances categorized as extreme and strong sensitizers.”
Now, I do not personally know of anyone who has had an allergic reaction to Natulique. Neither am I saying that you will have an allergic reaction to this or any other hair dye. Nevertheless, some of my blog readers shared that they had suffered an allergic reaction after using a hair dye. Also, this case describes an allergic reaction to a hair dye ingredient that resulted in 90% hair loss. And yes, one of the consequences of an allergic reaction can be hair loss.
From the perspective of safety, there are some controversial ingredients in the Natulique hair dye.
Other ingredients in this permanent hair color formulation are water, skin conditioners, foaming agents, emulsifiers, and fragrance. In my Permanent Hair Color Rating List, I rate fragrance 8 because it is a mixture of multiple ingredients. Many of these ingredients are known allergens, so I prefer fragrance-free products. And the “natural” fragrance is not much better, even when it comes from essential oils. Read my post about natural fragrance to learn the difference between natural fragrance oils and essential oils.
Another controversial ingredient in the Natulique hair color is a surfactant called cocamidopropyl betaine. Suffice it to say that the American Society of Contact Dermatitis lists it as an allergen. The society even named it Allergen of the Year in 2004. A common substitute for cocamidopropyl betaine, especially in “natural” shampoos, is cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine. Also, oftentimes, cocamidopropyl betaine is confused with coco betaine. You can find a comparative analysis of these three ingredients in my post about the safety of cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine.
Finally, I want to talk a little bit more about cocamide MEA because of its notorious relative cocamide DEA.
Cocamide MEA vs Cocamide DEA
First, cocamide diethanolamine (DEA) is considered a “naturally” derived surfactant because of its source ingredient – coconut oil. How come then that the state of California classified cocamide DEA as a carcinogen in 2012?
As we discussed above, the manufacturing process of an ingredient is a multi-step process and involves addition of chemicals. At the end of the process, the new ingredient has nothing in common with its original source (in this case – coconut oil).
Indeed, cocamide DEA is a derivative of diethanolamine (DEA) and may contain DEA as a contaminant. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluates DEA as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (IARC carcinogenicity Group 2B).
Further, the European Union and Canada Health prohibit DEA in cosmetic and personal care products. However, the EU allows derivatives of DEA (the “fatty acid dialkylamides and dialkanolamides” group), including cocamide DEA, with restrictions to minimize the possibility of carcinogenic contaminants. One of the restrictions is for them not to be used with nitrosating ingredients.
Likewise, the US Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel expresses a concern that diethanolamine (DEA) contaminant in cocamide DEA can be converted (nitrosated) into N-nitrosamines that may be carcinogenic. Consequently, they do not recommend using cocamide DEA in cosmetic products that can potentially form N-nitroso compounds.
Fortunately, Natulique hair dye does not contain cocamide DEA. But it contains cocamide MEA. Let us see if it is a safer option for Natulique hair color.
Cocamide MEA may be safer than cocamide DEA, but it is not ideal.
To begin, cocamide monoethanolamine (MEA) belongs to the group of ethanolamides and is a mixture of ethanolamines of fatty acids derived from coconut oil.
Unlike DEA that breaks down readily in a product and forms N-nitrosodiethanolamine, a known animal carcinogen, MEA does not form a stable nitrosamine. Therefore, cocamide MEA is not considered a carcinogen. Further, in clinical tests, cocamide MEA even at concentrations of 50% was not irritating in a single-insult patch test. Alternatively, cocamide DEA caused irritation at concentrations as low as 2%.
There is a concern, though, that cocamide MEA may contain small amounts of cocamide DEA. Therefore, the CIR panel warns manufacturers not to use cocamide MEA in body or hair products containing nitrosating agents. It is because they can provoke the formation of a stable nitrosamine.
Unfortunately, the CIR panel does not specify what those nitrosating agents are. Over the years, I have looked into that and still do not have a complete list of them. It seems that testing a product is the only way to ascertain whether it has carcinogenic nitrosamines.
In sum, I believe that while cocamide MEA is safer than cocamide DEA, it is far from ideal.
Conclusion about Natulique hair color
I wholeheartedly believe that together we can demand and receive safer consumer products! In my career, I have already seen many positive changes. Thus, Natulique hair dye does not claim to be organic anymore. Plus, they disclose their ingredients on the website, which is not very common. Though small, these changes are steps towards collective awareness of the risks coming from using hair dyes. So please, ask questions and knock on doors.
As for Natulique hair color, I cannot declare it safe because it contains ethanolamine and extreme, strong, and moderate sensitizers. However, no permanent hair color is safe, in my opinion. I have seen about 40 brands and none of them were safe hair color brands because they contained sensitizers. On the other hand, some hair dyes are safer than others.
In my Permanent Hair Color Rating list, Natulique takes roughly a middle position in comparison to other permanent hair colors. I think there are safer permanent hair colors, and they do not even claim to be organic or natural. You can also find my suggestions on how to protect your hair and health in this e-book. To see what product I used to color my hair (currently I love my hair the way it is), read my review of Hairprint hair color restorer.
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