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Our Best Ammonia-Free Hair Dyes for Healthy-Looking, Gorgeous Color

Try a new hair color with less damage and irritation.
  • Leann Garofolo
February 09, 2024

There are a lot of options to choose from when you dye your hair at home, and we’re not just talking about color. Besides deciding between a buttery blonde and a brilliant brunette—or another color entirely—there are many different types of formulas to consider. Each serves a different purpose and has its benefits, but one that’s often misunderstood is ammonia-free hair dye. You might initially think that a hair color without ammonia wouldn’t be effective, but they’re a great way to color your locks with less damage. Ahead, discover some of the best ammonia-free hair color products that you can use at home, plus learn more about the function of ammonia in hair dye.

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The Best Ammonia-Free Hair Color Products from L’Oréal Paris

For decades, L’Oréal Paris has been a leader in the at-home hair color category, offering innovations that address a variety of consumer’s needs. The following hair color options are all ammonia-free and can be the perfect pick if you’re searching for a new hair color.

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L’Oréal Paris Excellence Creme Universal Nudes

This line proves that ammonia-free hair products have come a long way since they first hit the market. Past hair dyes without ammonia were mainly temporary, semi, or demi-permanent, meaning they faded faster. This range provides the rich intensity and vibrance of permanent hair color for lasting color with 100% gray coverage. Each of the seven colorways was co-created with professional colorists using a customized blend of dyes designed to suit all complexions. Bonus: Caring agents and a Pro-Keratin Complex to protect hair as you color it.

How to use it: Application instructions vary by shade, so be sure to check the directions on the packaging before getting to work.

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L’Oréal Paris Colorista Semi-Permanent Hair Color

This semi-permanent hair tint without ammonia comes in 14 hues, including a range of fantasy shades like purple, pink, and blue. It’s perfect for those who want a vibrant hair color without using ammonia or peroxide. You don’t need to bleach your hair to use this dye, but the lighter the hair, the brighter the result.

How to use it: Simply apply the color to the desired sections of your hair, then wait 15 to 30 minutes. After the time is up, rinse it out and style your hair as usual. The color will gradually fade after four to ten shampoos.

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L’Oréal Paris Colorista Hair Makeup Temporary 1-Day Hair Color Spray

Hair color sprays are a temporary option (without ammonia) that are saturated enough to show up on even the darkest of hair. Our wash-out spray allows you to quickly experiment with color, so you can make a bold change and then switch it up again after one shampoo. The line features eleven colors, including trendy metallics like rose gold and silver.

How to use it: Take your chosen shade and shake it well, then hold it about 4-6 inches from your hair and spray it onto the desired area. Wait a few minutes for the color to dry, as the shade will become more vibrant once it's no longer wet. After it dries, you can either spray more temporary color or stop there if you’re satisfied with the results.

Editor’s tip: Dyeing damaged hair with temporary hair color can make your strands appear stained with continued use. We recommend using a deep conditioner to help mend your hair and make future color rinse out more easily.

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L’Oréal Paris Magic Root Cover Up

It can be frustrating to notice visible root regrowth in between touch-ups. Fortunately, this root cover-up spray lets you tackle mismatched color in a pinch. The spray provides gray hair coverage sans ammonia or peroxide and lasts until your next shampoo. It comes in nine shades to accommodate blonde, brown, black, and red hair, including a Vibrant Red color for bold and unapologetically faux redheads.

How to use it: Shake the can well and hold it 4-6 inches from your hair. Mist it onto your roots and about two inches down the length of your hair. Comb it through to blend it all together and let it dry for one minute—just like magic, no visible roots.

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L’Oréal Paris Le Color Gloss One Step In-Shower Toning Gloss

Correct faded, brassy tones in the shower with this toning hair gloss. The ammonia-free hair color helps to enhance and tone color, add shine, and deeply condition your strands. Hair will look unbelievably healthy, with a fresh hint of color—sans the pricey salon visit. You can find it in 15 stunning shades that range from silver and bronde to copper and rich brunette.

How to use it: Evenly distribute the product on clean, damp hair using a wide-toothed comb, then wait 5-15 minutes (depending on the shade you’re using) for the formula’s glossing powers to kick in. Finish with a thorough rinse. If you want to build a deeper color result, use it again after seven days.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Ammonia?

Ammonia is a colorless gas that can be dissolved in water, creating an alkaline chemical. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), it occurs naturally and is produced by human activity. It’s used in household cleaners and detergents, as well as fertilizers of various kinds.

The chemical is also typically found in permanent hair dyes and is known for its stark, pungent odor. (If you’ve ever thought your hair dye smelled a little too strong, this may be why). Ammonia works to raise hair’s pH levels, opening up the cuticle layer to deposit color deep into the cortex of hair. This penetration is what classifies ammonia dyes as permanent and longer-lasting.

What Is the Difference Between Hair Dye With Ammonia and Without Ammonia?

As we mentioned, in hair dye, ammonia serves the purpose of opening the hair’s cuticle so that the color can penetrate it. If it sounds aggressive, that’s because it can be—especially if you don’t take the proper haircare precautions. Moisturizing color-treated hair is essential since the chemicals in ammonia can dry and potentially damage your tresses if you indulge in the dyeing process too often. Additionally, you could experience some irritation to ammonia; therefore, patch tests are key.

Hair dye made without ammonia is typically gentler on your hair (and your nose). You can use ammonia-free hair color more often while reducing the severity of split, dry, or ravaged strands. Just keep in mind that some ammonia-free hair dyes don’t last as long on the hair and can fade more quickly over time.

Why Should You Use Ammonia-Free Hair Color?

There can be a number of benefits to forgoing hair color that contains ammonia; the three below may be enough to convince you to make the switch for your next hair color transformation.

1. Ammonia-free hair color is easier to apply

Dyeing your hair at home can sometimes be intimidating, but ammonia-free dyes tend to be super easy to apply—especially temporary and semi-permanent options. This is because they tend to be premixed and don’t need to develop, meaning you’re free to apply the formulas directly onto your strands with no fuss. And since you’re less likely to experience irritation, you can often skip the patch test with these formulas. However, those with sensitive skin may still want to consult a dermatologist first.

2. Ammonia-free hair color is great for quick or temporary changes

Except for a few permanent formulas on the market, the majority of ammonia-free hair dyes don’t fully penetrate the hair shaft. Rather, temporary, semi-permanent, and demi-permanent dyes temporarily coat the surface of your hair with pigment that gradually fades or rinses out. Temporary color lasts the shortest (one day), whereas demi-permanent lingers the longest—up to 24 washes. Semi-permanent color can give you a happy medium of about 6-8 washes, right when you may be itching to try something new.

Also noteworthy: There are lots of temporary, semi-permanent, and demi-permanent options that won’t require you to alter your natural base shade to get in on the coloring fun, making it easier to be spontaneous and experiment with your hair.

3. Ammonia-free hair color is gentler on your hair

Ammonia-free hair color doesn’t lift or strip your hair of pigment, which means it can be less damaging compared to dyes made with the chemical.

Editor’s tip: For those who enjoy the ammonia-free hair coloring experience, keep a few boxes of your chosen hair color at your disposal. This makes it easy to touch up your hair as soon as you see signs of new growth or fading color.

Are Ammonia-Free Hair Dyes Better for Hair?

Hair dyes with no ammonia can be a great option, but it ultimately depends on the state of your mane and what you want to achieve with your color. If you’re a frequent dyer looking to minimize future damage, ammonia-free products can let you experiment with new and trendy shades with less damage. Or, if you already have extensive damage but can’t part ways with your favorite hue, ammonia-free dyes deposit color without further raising the pH of your hair (which is where issues like breakage and split ends can come into play).

Ammonia-free formulas may also be better for anyone sensitive to pungent scents or who has known allergies to ammonia. With so many options available, there’s no need to let the latest color trends pass you by.

Can Ammonia-Free Hair Dyes Cover Gray Hair?

Yes, some ammonia-free hair dye can cover gray hair, but that doesn’t mean that every formula will. According to a 2018 study in the International Journal of Trichology, natural grays have a different structure than pigmented hairs. If you’ve ever noticed that your silvers are more wiry than the rest of your hair, it’s not your imagination: Grays are often coarser and drier than pigmented strands, making it harder to absorb and retain some hair dyes. To ensure full and lasting coverage on every stray silver, look for permanent ammonia-free hair dyes that explicitly state “100 percent gray coverage” on their packaging (like the Excellence Creme Universal Nudes collection).

If your goal is to blend your grays, then ammonia-free demi-permanent dyes are the way to go. These formulas temporarily darken your grays so they appear like subtle highlights in your hair. They can also help prevent harsh-looking root regrowth, blurring the line of demarcation between your base color and incoming grays.

Ammonia-Free Hair Dyes: The Bottom Line

Knowing the benefits of ammonia-free hair products is the best way to decide whether or not these formulas are right for you. They tend to inflict less damage on your strands, allow you to express yourself with bold colors, and can save you time during the application process. On the other hand, unless your chosen formula is permanent, ammonia-free products usually don’t last as long as dyes with the chemical—though this may be a sacrifice you’re willing to make. Always check the packaging instructions so you know what to expect from your hair color, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of products until you find the most effective ones for you.

Next Up: How to Dye Hair at Home Successfully

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