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What Does Hydrogen Peroxide Do to Hair?

Color Treated Hair

What Does Hydrogen Peroxide Do to Hair? What Does Hydrogen Peroxide Do to Hair? What Does Hydrogen Peroxide Do to Hair?

Let’s be honest—when it comes to changing up our beauty look, there are few things more instantaneously satisfying than a new hair color. And while you may be a pro when it comes to knowing the different types of hair dye, chances are you haven’t done much research on the ingredients each one consists of. More specifically, how much do you know about hydrogen peroxide in hair dye? For real, what does hydrogen peroxide do to hair? Below, we’re breaking down everything you need to know—including what hydrogen peroxide does to hair—so you can make an informed decision the next time you reach for a new hair hue.


Like we mentioned above, among other things, hydrogen peroxide is a popular hair dye ingredient. More specifically, according to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s one of the most common chemicals included in hair dyes to alter your hair color, along with ammonia, lead acetates, and paraphenylenediamine (PPDA). Plainly, it’s a bleaching agent that helps to remove the natural pigment of your hair, allowing a new color to easily replace it.


We touched a little on what hydrogen peroxide does to your hair, but what happens to your hair during this lightening process? As with many things, too much can be hazardous. That means if you're using hydrogen peroxide to lighten hair (via a hair coloring kit) it’s a must to make sure you follow the directions on the packaging precisely and steer clear of using pure hydrogen peroxide to color your hair. Below, learn about some of the effects hydrogen peroxide hair bleach can have on your mane and scalp if used incorrectly.


Too much of anything isn’t a good thing, and that’s especially the case when it comes to hydrogen peroxide. According to a study from the Journal of Dermatological Science, many patients visit dermatologists complaining of hair dye–induced hair loss with increased usage. The study notes that this is due to its cytotoxic (toxic to living cells) effects and ability to induce oxidative stress. This is one of many reasons to always pay attention to hair dye usage instructions and warning labels.


Dermatitis is a general term used to describe inflammation of the skin. Exposure to hydrogen peroxide, when used incorrectly, may result in rashes or allergic reactions. A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found results that suggest hydrogen peroxide, along with monoethanolamine, may be key causative ingredients for hair dye-associated dermatitis. Yikes!


Hydrogen peroxide can also result in scalp burns if used improperly. According to the NCBI, chemical burns can be caused by caustic chemicals, like hydrogen peroxide. The study states that a caustic reaction can result in irritant dermatitis, superficial chemical burns, and deep burns depending on how the ingredients are used and in what quantities.


There are certain types of hair dye that don’t contain hydrogen peroxide. If you prefer an alternative, consider one of the following.

Option #1: Ammonia-Free Hair Dye

As their name suggests, ammonia-free hair color products are formulated without ammonia—but they also typically don’t contain hydrogen peroxide. These colors are sometimes less permanent, but they can be a great option for those who aren’t quite ready to commit to making a more permanent change to their strands. For a semi-permanent hair color without ammonia and hydrogen peroxide, try the L’Oréal Paris Colorista Semi-Permanent Hair Color.

Option #2: Temporary Hair color

Temporary hair colors, otherwise known as wash out hair colors, don't need to be formulated with hydrogen peroxide because they don’t require lifting your hair color. Instead, they’re sprayed or brushed onto your strands to temporarily switch up your hue, then they can be washed out at the end of your day. Two of our favorites are the L’Oréal Paris Colorista 1-Day Spray and the L’Oréal Paris Colorista Hair Makeup 1-Day Color.

Option #3: Henna Hair Dye

Henna hair dye is another hydrogen peroxide-free hair color option. Henna is a plant that naturally contains red pigment, and can be used to color your hair. Want to learn more? Here’s Your Introduction to Henna Hair Dyes.

Phew! That’s a lot of information. Now that you know all about hydrogen peroxide hair dyes, perhaps you’d like to learn about another ingredient that’s commonly found in hair products. Head over to our article, Is Coconut Oil Good for Your Hair?, to do just that.