hair color application 4 Ammonia-Free Hair Dyes That Should Be On Your Radar

Trying a new hair color doesn’t have to include scalp irritation or hair damage.

April 17, 2023
ammonia free hair color loreal

When it comes to coloring your hair, you have a lot of options, and that doesn’t just involve color. Besides deciding whether you want to be blonde or brunette — or another color entirely — there are also many different types of formulas you can choose from. They all have their pros and cons, but an option you may not have considered is ammonia-free hair color. And while you might immediately think that a hair color without ammonia may not be effective, you may be surprised at the hair dye gems that exist. Read on to learn more about ammonia in hair dye and to discover some of the best ammonia-free hair color options that you can easily use at home.

What Is Ammonia?

Before we get into why you may want to use hair color that’s ammonia free, it’s helpful to understand exactly what ammonia is. 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, so if you’ve ever thought your hair dye smelled a little too strong, that probably had something to do with the ammonia in the formula — ammonia is known for its stark, pungent odor. It’s used in hair coloring formulas to raise hair’s pH levels in order to open up the hair’s cuticle layer, which then allows the dye to penetrate the hair shaft, making for a permanent color, as opposed to one that will rinse out quickly.

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

As we mentioned, in hair dye, ammonia serves the purpose of peeling away parts of the hair’s cuticle so that the color can penetrate it. If it sounds aggressive that’s because it can be for the health of the hair. This is why we stress constantly moisturizing color-treated hair, because the chemicals in hair color can be drying and potentially damaging to your tresses if you indulge in the dyeing process too often. Additionally, you could have an allergic reaction or experience some irritation to ammonia in the form of redness, itching or inflammation to the scalp (patch tests really are important).

Hair dye made without ammonia, as you could imagine, is gentler on your hair and typically doesn’t have that same nose-turning scent. So you can use ammonia-free hair color often without ending up with split, dry or ravaged strands. Just keep in mind though that many ammonia-free hair dyes are also not as effective in depositing hair color that sticks around for a while. 

Why Should You Use Ammonia-Free Hair Color?

There are benefits to not using hair color that contains ammonia; these three below may be enough to convince you to make the switch for your next hair color transformation.

1. They’re Easier to Use

Unlike many permanent hair color formulas, semi-permanent hair dyes do not contain ammonia or peroxide. Because of this, they don’t require any development or pre-mixing, so 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.

2. They’re Best for Quick, Short-Lived Color Changes

Since semi-permanent and temporary hair dye don’t penetrate the hair shaft, they typically rinse out after several washes. If you’re someone who likes to change their hair color often, this is a better choice for you to avoid damaging your strands or worse (temporary or permanent hair loss).

3. They’re Gentler on Hair

Ammonia-free hair color doesn’t strip the hair of pigment, which means it’s a lot gentler to your strands than hair color with the chemical. Even if you’re looking for a permanent change, this side effect may not be worth it for you. While the upkeep for semi-permenent and temporary hair color may be greater, if you’re concerned about what ammonia could do to your natural hair, it may be an exchange you’ll just have to live with. Keep a few boxes of your temporary hair color on hand so that you can touch up your hair as soon as you see signs of new growth or fading color.

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

The following hair color options are all ammonia-free and can be the perfect pick if you’re in search of a new hair color, sans the odorous chemical.

L’Oréal Paris Colorista Semi-Permanent Hair Color

This semi-permanent color comes in 14 hues, including shades of purple, pink and blue. It’s perfect for those who want a vibrant hair color without using ammonia or peroxide. (And you don’t need to bleach your hair to use this dye.) Simply apply the color to the desired sections of your hair, then wait 15 to 30 minutes. After time is up, rinse it out and style your hair as usual. The color will gradually fade after four to ten shampoos. 

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

Another temporary hair color option is a hair color spray. This wash-out spray allows you to quickly experiment with color, so you can instantly change your hair with a bold look then switch it up again after one shampoo. You can spray, play, wash, and repeat — no bleaching required. The line features eight colors, including trendy metallics like rose gold and silver.

Take your desired shade and shake it well, then hold it about four to six 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. Once dry, you can either spray more temporary color, or if you’re satisfied with the color, stop there. 

L’Oréal Paris Magic Root Cover Up

Having your roots peek through when you aren't quite ready to dye your hair again can be frustrating, but to tackle them in a pinch, you can reach for this root cover-up spray. The root spray provides gray hair coverage sans ammonia or peroxide, and it’ll conceal roots without leaving any sticky residue behind. It comes in nine shades to accommodate blond, brown, black and red hair, including the newest Vibrant Red color for bold and unapologetically faux redheads.

Shake the can well and hold it four to six inches away from your hair. Then, simply mist it onto your roots and about two inches through the length of your hair to blend it all together.

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

This toning hair gloss comes in 16 shades, ranging from silver and bronde to copper and deep black. The ammonia-free hair color helps to enhance and tone color, add shine, and deeply condition your strands. 

Evenly distribute the product to clean, damp hair using a wide-toothed comb, then wait five to fifteen minutes (based on the shade you’re using) for the formula to work its magic. Rinse your hair thoroughly with water, and if you’re looking to build a deeper color result, use it again after seven days.

Next: Does Hair Dye Expire?

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn