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What is in Aveda Hair Color Ingredients?

Written by Irina Webb
Health-related claims have been reviewed by Myrto Ashe, MD, MPH, IFMCP

Do you agree with the saying that nobody likes change, but everyone likes improvement?  When it comes to women, we long for a change from time to time, especially in appearance.  One of the simple ways to do it is to change the color of your hair.  Hence, finding a safe hair color becomes a vital task.  However, I must tell you right away that there is no such thing as a safe permanent hair color.  Read on to find out why it is so, as we look into Aveda hair color ingredients.  Searching for the relatively safest hair dye, I compare the hair color ingredients of the major players in the industry.  So, let us dissect Aveda hair color Pure Tones to answer the question, “Is Aveda hair color safe?” 

What is in Aveda Hair Color Ingredients. A photo of a woman's hair dyed with Aveda hair color. Hair color ingredients.

I study hair dye ingredients to help you buy confidently.

To begin with, I have been researching consumer goods ingredients since 2012 when I was expecting a baby.  That year was a turning point for me because I wanted to find safe products to use on my baby.  So, I started reading the ingredients of products before buying them, and my first product was a baby shampoo.  Sure enough, most of those ingredients did not make any sense to me, especially the long unpronounceable ones.  The presence of several plant extracts did not comfort me either.  Therefore, I looked for proof of the safety of the ingredients in the available scientific literature.   

It turned out that I really enjoyed doing research, and it became my full-time occupation.  Moreover, I have published my findings in several e-books which I update annually.  For example, consider buying the diaper and baby wipes rating lists if you are expecting or have a baby.  Additionally, my shampoo and conditioner rating lists will help you find non-toxic care for your hair.  Plus, there are body lotion and nail polish rating lists, and an e-book on mattresses.  And if you are into hair color, my Permanent Hair Color Rating List e-book is a must-have for you.  The purpose of all these books is to provide you with knowledge to help you make informed decisions.

Before we dive into Aveda hair color ingredients, I would like to give you some tips about permanent hair color.

Look for dyes among hair color ingredients.

When we look at the Aveda hair color later, we will focus on the long words that look like chemicals.  Some examples are p-phenylenediamine, toluene-2,5-diamine sulfate, resorcinol, 4-amino-2-hydroxytoluene, and such.  To clarify, these are hair dyes or colorants. 

Along with other ingredients, every permanent hair color formulation has hair dyes that do the coloring job.  As for other ingredients, they include water, emulsifiers, plant extracts, oils, and an alkaline agent.  The latter opens the hair cuticle for the dye to enter and color the hair.  Most hair colors contain fragrance, too, something that is not innocuous even when it is “natural.”  Read my post on natural fragrance to discover the truth about this ingredient.

The reason you should look for hair dyes first is that there may be extreme sensitizers among them.  Keep reading to find out more about sensitizers.

organic hair color

Want to make your hair color choice easier?  

Forget about permanent non-toxic hair color.

As I mentioned earlier, there is no such thing as a completely safe, or non-toxic, permanent hair color.  When I looked for the Aveda hair color ingredients, I noticed that the website described it as “93% naturally derived.” 

The photo and description of Aveda hair color

However, the presence of such words as “natural,” “naturally derived,” or even “organic” does not change the fact that hair colors must contain chemical hair dyes.  It is hair dyes that can cause allergic reactions and are also associated with an increased risk of cancer.

Therefore, how important is the fact that your “natural” or “organic” permanent hair color uses botanical oils and extracts?  When you are allergic to one of your hair color ingredients, it matters little that jojoba oil was among them.

Additionally, it is not clear how helpful natural oils and herbal extracts are in permanent hair coloring products.  A hair color damages hair by design because of the alkaline agent that allows the color to penetrate the hair.  Every permanent hair color, including Aveda hair color, must have this agent.  Alternatively, I have found no studies on the healing powers of tiny amounts of oils and extracts, especially in the presence of harsh alkaline chemicals.

In general, a hair color can hardly be organic.  An organic certification can only apply to a product whose ingredients are 95% of agricultural origin.  So far, I have not found a permanent hair color that would consist of 95% of plant-based ingredients.  Read more about organic hair color to protect yourself from misinformation.

What is in Aveda hair color ingredients?

Among Aveda hair products, there are two kinds of hair color, both of which I evaluate in my Permanent Hair Color e-book.  For several years now, as I have updated my findings, there have been no alterations in Aveda hair dyes.  Although the ingredients are not available on their website, I appreciate Aveda emailing them to me.  Thus, as of October 2020, the ingredients of Aveda hair color Pure Tones were as follows:

I know they are not easy to understand – it took me years to figure out hair color ingredients.

Does Aveda hair color contain PPD? No, but …

To begin with, PPD stands for p-phenylenediamine.  It is considered an extreme sensitizer by the European Union Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS).  According to the SCCS, there are extreme, strong, and moderate sensitizers.  To clarify, a sensitizer is a chemical that may cause an allergic reaction in a person after several uses.

Although there is no PPD among the Aveda hair color ingredients, there is another ingredient – toluene-2,5-diamine sulfate (TDS).  In fact, this is a common substitute for p-phenylenediamine and is also an extreme sensitizer.

While they are both extreme sensitizers, PPD is more likely to cause an allergic reaction than TDS (source).

Additionally, there was a patch test study conducted on 26 people who were allergic to PPD.  57.1% of them were not allergic to TDS.  Moreover, in most patch tests conducted in Europe over the years, PPD caused on average twice as many cases of an allergic reaction (source).

Thus, the use of TDS is some improvement in the Aveda hair color over the use of PPD.

Most of the other hair dyes in Aveda permanent hair color are strong sensitizers, as classified by the SCCS.  The exception is 2,4-diaminophenoxyethanol hydrochloride which has been classified as a moderate sensitizer.

organic hair color

Want to make your hair color choice easier?  

Do small amounts of dyes in hair color ingredients matter? Yes.

Sometimes manufacturers claim to use “only” 2% PPD or TDS.  In other words, they imply that we should not worry about such a small amount.  Well, I have two concerns about that.

First, when the SCCS evaluated hair dyes for sensitization, they used very small amounts, too.  For example, they determined PPD as an extreme sensitizer when it was tested in a concentration of 0.06%.  Further, TDS, which is among the Aveda hair color ingredients, was pronounced an extreme sensitizer in a concentration of 0.31%.  So, as you can see, tiny amounts do matter.  (By the way, the SCCS limits its use to 2% when mixed with hydrogen peroxide.)

Second, as consumers, we do not know the concentration amounts of these chemicals.  Moreover, I still struggle to get a full list of ingredients from some hair dye companies.  As I have mentioned above, I got the Aveda hair dye ingredients by email.  I really appreciate their transparency in this regard.  It stands in stark contrast to the practices of other companies in my experience and opinion. 

For example, Kevin Murphy and All-Nutrients refused to provide them to me.  I included Kevin Murphy in my Permanent Hair Color e-book because I found their hair color ingredients on the box.  By law, they must list them on the packaging, but you will not find them on their website. Neither did they provide them to me when I directly asked them to.

Is Aveda hair color ammonia free? No, but …

To be more accurate, there is ammonium hydroxide among the Aveda hair color ingredients.   While Aveda is not a completely ammonia-free hair color, it contains an ammonia solution with water content.  This is what ammonium hydroxide is – a household ammonia in water, so the amount of ammonia is rather small. 

The point is, however, that ammonia and ammonium hydroxide are compulsory agents in a permanent hair color.  That is to say, they serve as hair shaft openers and allow the dye to penetrate the hair.  Hence, a hair dye without ammonia or ammonium hydroxide must have a replacement for them.  Otherwise, the hair dye will not perform its function of hair coloring. 

The common replacement for ammonia is ethanolamine, which is a corrosive chemical, too. (Aveda hair color does not have it.)  Most importantly, is ethanolamine safer than ammonia?  The short answer is no. 

For instance, this evidence says that ethanolamine may increase the risk of birth defects.  Therefore, if you are pregnant or planning, avoid ammonia-free hair color because it will contain ethanolamine instead. 

Also, this study found that permanent hair color with ethanolamine versus ammonia is more likely to cause hair loss.  Yes, permanent hair dyes may cause hair loss.  If you are experiencing this problem, read my post on Eight Overlooked Hair Loss Causes

In sum, for a permanent hair color to be ammonia-free is not necessarily a good thing.  Please, read more about it in my post Are Ammonia-Free Hair Color Brands Better?.

Conclusion about Aveda hair color ingredients

In conclusion, I reiterate that, by definition, there is no completely safe permanent hair color.  Thus, chemical hair color ingredients affect both hair and general health in many harmful ways.  Personally, I encourage you to avoid using permanent hair colors and embrace your hair as it is.  However, if you do not want to give up coloring your hair, consider purchasing my Permanent Hair Color Rating List e-book.  It will help you find a color brand that is tailored to your health condition, risk tolerance, and convenience.

As for Aveda, it is good that it uses TDS instead of PPD in the Aveda hair color Pure Tones.  However, there is a lot of room for improvement.  I urge Aveda to consider eliminating all extreme sensitizers and to disclose the amounts of hair dyes as a percentage of all Aveda hair color ingredients.  You can do it!

Lastly, browse my shop for non-toxic products including plant-based hair colors.  Also, book a consultation with me if you need help with healthy living.  I will be happy to assist you!

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41 thoughts on “What is in Aveda Hair Color Ingredients?”

  1. Ive been using Hairprint for a 2 years now, but it’s so messy and not very happy with the results. I’ve been reading your reviews of the various hair color products ingredients, etc… So sad, there seems to be no other close recommendations next to Hairprint. Or do you have a recommendation next to Hairprint? Which one?

  2. Hello,
    I just wanted to thank you for the info on Aveda hair color!!!! Its a big deal for me. i really am at odds about where to go next. please tell me is there any hair color out there that does cause cancer?

    1. Amy,
      did any one reply to you regarding this question you asked: please tell me is there any hair color out there that does cause cancer?

        1. After being diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, I have changed all my products to completely natural. It does take work yo find them but that are out there. I started dying my hair with strictly henna. I bring the package to my salon and my regular colorist does it for me. It a thusly colors my grey better than any other product and lasts 5 weeks instead of the 4 it use to with others. I do have to condition my hair a bit more but the trade off is well worth it. There’s too much research out there connected fair due to breast cancer. We can do this.

          1. Hi, Roseann: I’m so glad that you switched to henna. I’m wishing speedy healing from cancer. ~Irina

  3. You mentioned Kevin Murphy color, but didn’t say much about it. I have been looking forever for SAFE COLOR FOR MYSELF AND MY CLIENTS!!HELP is Kevin Murphy 👍🏻Or👎🏻

      1. Have you evaluated a brand named “Mayraki”? They claim to have a patent on their formula for gray coverage… I have been looking for the actual proof. I am wondering if it’s legit…? It suppose to work like Hairprint does (restores your hair from inside out), by spraying/rubbing into the roots, supposedly far less messy than Hairprint. I’m just a teacher looking to cover my grays and get my black hair back. Thanks for any leads!

  4. It’s been awhile nce I had a severe reaction to hair dye and now I have again. Revlon medium brown that I use on roots only for grey hair kicked my butt last week and kicked some of my hair to the curb. It bears testament to the info you provided about sensitivities suddenly flairing up again. It’s a humbling experience to lose one’s hair. I am off hair dye. Beware these chemical reactions are not worth it at all.

  5. Really thanks for sharing this useful post. I Have got very good information about hair color ingredients. Keep sharing !!

  6. I have gotten sores on my scalp for the last 10 yrs. I seem to be sensitive to lots of things. My face also breaks out and is quite sensitive. I no more get sores healed and get more. I’m a hairdresser and have colored my hair for a long time. Any advice?

    1. Deb, I’m sorry to tell you but you have to stop coloring your hair at very least with permanent hair colors. Have you considered semi-permanent options, henna hybrids or henna? ~Irina

  7. Hello,

    My mom had a color reaction back in 2017 using Just For Men Mustache and Beard color, hasn’t color since then everytime she color it reacted worse mosquito like bumps dryness nothing else..

    I’ve bought henna indigo combination but it really did not turn mom hair strand brown only orangy brown. Not great.

    I’ve been searching since then can’t find a PPD Free Hair Dye… It’s either the Toluene Diamine Sulfate which I am not sure how safe it is.

    Please help me! It’s frustrating for mom to keep her hair gray it’s now at least 50% gray hair…

    Most natural organic hair dye either have too many ingredients or contain Toluene Diamine Sulfate frustrated. Or if you know any other natural ways to color gray hair would be great. I’ve tried black walnut didn’t work, tried activate charcoal, coffee and conditioner almost everything on the websites.

    Thanks Again.

      1. Hi Irina,
        I’ve looked at the list but what am confused that most of them have Toluene Diamine Sulfate! Is it better safer then PPD? Tint of Nature has PPD for instance.

        Eco Colors is it any safer?

        My mom has smell sensitivity too. So trying to limit to alcohol, perfume, PPD and Toluene Diamine Sulfate…

          1. Hello Irina,

            I’ve looked at the eBook hair dye you have recommended.

            There’s lots of options but am confused that so many have so many ingredients Toluene Diamine Sulfate, etc.. I’ve tried the henna it’s work sometimes not so much other times hard to tell the indigo and henna mix.

            Tint of Nature has PPD.

            My mom suddenly had a reaction when she colored her hair, no more coloring
            She hasn’t done the patch test because they want to put everything that is on the panel plus scared it might cause rash etc

            Been to allergist Dr Bernstein.

            Doctor wasn’t much help or told us any hair dye.

            If we use hair dye with Toluene Diamine Sulfate I don’t know if it’s safe to use.

            Thanks Again.

          2. Salman, the hair dyes listed on the sales pages are rated, not deemed safe or the safest. And yes, you are right that hair dyes with TDS are not safe. In fact, there are no safe permanent hair dyes. The safest choice is henna, which is not challenging for people with a lot of grey hair. ~Irina

  8. I have been dealing with an allergic reaction and I wonder if it is my Aveda hair color. Can you still react to it being in your hair months after it has been applied?

  9. Jennifer, I am a hair stylist. I am educating myself reading these posts. I use CHI, because it is “ammonia free”, however. I had a client on STATIN drugs for cholesterol. She started losing her hair. I was checking into Aveda color and found this site. I am at a loss! All this info. is blaring!!! Stop coloring your hair and clients!!!! I don’t think there’s any hair color that’s not going to cause a possible reaction. One lady stylist I know, who works with Aveda color has contact dermatitis, I suspect, due to the color. Henna MAY be safe, IDK!

  10. Hello Irina,
    I was wondering brand of henna you use. Your hair is a nice brunette. I was looking into Surya Brasil but there were various comments and also you can’t go back to regular color I heard after henna or it can break off. Do some henna brands cause shedding?Right now I use Kevin Murphy.

    1. Hi, Alison: Pure henna powder is not known to cause hair loss. By the way, Surya Brasil is not pure henna. It is a chemical dye with a henna component. ~Irina

  11. There is a product hair mayraki hair serum that restores gray hair to natural color. Have you heard of that? What brand henna powder is best? Is Kevin Murphy somewhat safe?

  12. Actually I just saw that you like Radico Henna powder. I’m just hesitant with Henna because if you don’t like it and want to go back to regular color I heard it may break off. Sometimes I use Framesi Eclectic I believe same as Kevin Murphy.

  13. Hello, Irina:

    Since you reviewed WELLA KOLESTON PERFECT hair color,
    could you also review WELLA ILLUMINA, too?

    And may I suggest adding BIGEN to the list as well?


      1. Thank you and you’re most welcome, Irina! 😀

        By the way, have you included REVLON COLORSILK
        to your Permanent Hair Color Rating List?


  14. Hi Irina,
    I have been using Light Mountain Natural Color the Gray for years and have liked it. Recently I ordered some more Henna on line from Lotus Brands like I usually do. I noticed that they changed the box. The ingredients are the same (Lawsonia Inermus (Henna) Leaf Powder, Indigofera Tinctoria (indigo) leaf powder,except one other was added; Cassia Auriculata (senna) leaf powder). The directions are the same, etc., however, I noticed my hair was “orangie.”
    My grandaughter is an Aveda Salon hairdresser. She told me that she’d like to try an all natural color (chocolate) on my hair. Well it kinda stung for a little (15 minutes) then went away. It seems like my hair is a little thinner and doesn’t have the natural highlights.
    My question is: Is it okay to switch from Henna to Aveda? And is it safe to go back to Henna?
    Thank You!

    1. Hi, Bonnie, I think you have to wait for a few months for the henna to come off. But you should talk to your hairdresser about that. ~Irina

  15. I am looking for semi permanent hair dye to cover grays. I had to stop henna after using it for many years, as all my gray became orange. There is any semi permanent natural hair dye exist in the market please? I did try a few powder mixed with water, liquid etc did not work. I was looking Arctic Fox Color Dye but checking their ingredients felt pretty disappointed…could you advise please? Many thanks

    1. Thank you for trusting me with your product decisions. ☺️ As a small business owner, I don’t have the resources to provide effective free advice/consultation in the comments. I already provide a ton of free resources on my blog. Please use my website menus and type your keyword in the website search engine to locate the information you’re looking for. For further assistance, please book an email product review or phone/Zoom consultation. Thank you for respecting my time and supporting our mission to improve the safety of consumer products. 🙏 🙌 💗

  16. Hi

    I am surprised that no one has mentioned Goldwell Elumen . I am allergic to coal tar, I.e. PPD or TDS and my dermatologist recommended this brand. It is a bit opaque , and you have to apply it a few times for coverage, but it makes your hair very shiny and does not dry it out. There are many reviews of the product. I think it is worth taking a look at.

  17. I am with so many of you, looking for a safe hair color, but frustrated with how orange my grays are after henna. I started mixing henna with indigo powder and I now get a really nice, natural brown. Probably will just let my hair go gray eventually. Can’t take the roots every 2 weeks.

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