Hair color is a great way to show off individuality for some people, with bright pinks, purples, greens, blues, or a full head of rainbow colors! For others, hair color helps create rich natural tones, highlights, low-lights, or cover up stubborn grays.

I’m obsessed with hair color, and have been since I was in 8th grade when I used my first box of temporary hair dye, but over the years my hair has been pretty damaged from the extremely harsh chemicals in conventional dyes.

My natural hair color is a dark ash brown, but I’ve colored it red, black, violet, and even blonde (that was a bad idea…). Since then, my hair has suffered the abuse of chemical treatments and has responded by thinning out, looking dull, and not being as strong as before.

What’s In Conventional Hair Dye?

Back in the day, hair color used all natural ingredients to enhance tones, but sometime around the early 1900’s, chemists decided to make a concoction of chemicals to help those natural ingredients “stick” to hair more, thus creating present day hair color. Those chemicals may help hair color last longer, but they are extremely toxic and very dangerous to our health.

Here are just some of the most common ingredients in conventional salon and boxed hair dye:

  • Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) – This is the ingredient that turned hair color from natural ingredients, into permanent hair color that we see today. PPD can cause severe allergic reactions in people at any time, even if they never had any issues with the ingredient before. Reactions include dermatitis, skin inflammation, reddening of the scalp, swelling of the scalp and face, and the eyelids may close. PPD can even cause a life-threatening allergic reaction in some people, which happened to take the life of a young woman in the UK.
  • Peroxide – The use of peroxide in hair dye is what allows the dye to lighten your hair before depositing the desired shade of color. It works by removing, or “lifting”, the sulfur from your hair which enables the new shade of color to penetrate your strands and stick to your hair. The problem is that when you remove too much sulfur from your hair, your hair becomes hard and weakened, which can result in thinner hair over time.
  • Ammonia – Working together with peroxide, ammonia opens up and separates each strand of hair cuticle to allow the new hair dye and peroxide to really penetrate the cortex of your hair. Ammonia is extremely toxic, which is why it’s commonly used for many industrial applications like fertilizers, pesticides, plastics, chemicals, and even explosives. The strong smell of ammonia alone is enough to irritate and burn your eyes and throat, and prolonged use can cause permanent damage to your corneas and lungs.

With all of those scary ingredients in hair dye, it’s no wonder that people are starting to seek out more natural ways to color their hair.

Natural Ways To Color Your Hair

Now, coloring your hair with natural ingredients won’t give you those bright funky shades like hot pinks, greens, or bright blues, but you can rest assured that your hair and scalp will be a lot safer than if you used conventional dye.

You can still achieve some really wonderful natural tones with these ingredients, but they won’t be permanent, and you may need to apply your desired recipe more than once to achieve the look you want.

All of these recipes are tailored for specific hair colors, and while you won’t be able to go from brown to blonde, you’ll definitely get a much richer tone to your natural hair color.

Previously colored hair: If you already have colored hair, you may want to test these recipes with some hair from your hairbrush before applying all over. While these recipes contain all natural ingredients, it’s hard to tell how they might react with the chemicals in conventional hair dye.

Grey Hair: Grey hair can be tinted with any one of these recipes, however, you will likely need to apply the recipe multiple times to really let the grey hairs soak in the color. Grey hair is very resistant to color (which is why it’s grey!), and repeated application is the best way to hide those strands. Using a recipe for darker hair will yield better results.

Blonde Hair 

blonde hair

To lighten blonde hair and bring out highlights:

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup pure Chamomile flowers
  • 2 cups water

Prepare chamomile tea by brewing 1/2 cup of loose chamomile flowers in 2 cups of water in a pot for at least 30 minutes (the longer you let it brew, the better). Strain out the chamomile flowers and pour the tea into a spray bottle, then add 1/2 cup of lemon juice and shake to mix ingredients together.

Spray mixture directly onto hair (dry hair is best), and use a wide-tooth comb to even distribute through your hair. For the best results, sit out in the sun light for 1-2 hours and let the sun dry your hair. This will help the chamomile and lemon juice naturally lighten and brighten your blonde hair. After a few hours, you can rinse the mixture out of your hair.

Apply several times a week to reach your desired results.

To add rich warm honey tones to blonde hair:

To Make Tea: Add 1/2 cup of calendula flowers, and 1/2 cup of rhubarb root, to a pot with 2 cups of water. Brew on medium-low heat for 30 minutes or more. Strain the calendula flowers out and pour the brewed tea into a spray bottle, or let it cool down and slowly pour directly over your hair.

To Make Paste: Grind 1/2 cup calendula flowers, and 1/2 cup rhubarb root until you get a fine powder. Mix in a small amount of water at a time until you get a paste-like consistency. Apply paste to hair, massaging in until strands are fully coated, then wrap hair in a bun on top of head, or cover with plastic wrap.

Let either mixture sit on your hair for several hours, the longer you leave it on, the richer the color. You may want to apply this mixture several times until you reach your desired color and tone. This recipe does work best for darker blonde hair, but will still work nicely for lighter hair as well.

Red Hair

red hair

To add warm red/auburn tones to dark blonde or brown hair:

To add reddish/purple tones to hair: Substitute the hibiscus flowers for beet root powder to give a more purplish hue to your hair.

To Make Tea: Add 1/2 cup of calendula flowers, and 2 or more teaspoons of hibiscus flowers, to a pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or more. Strain the calendula and hibiscus flowers out, let the mixture cool down, and slowly pour directly over your hair. You can also use this at the end of a shower as a final hair rinse.

To Make Paste: Grind 1/2 cup calendula flowers, and 1/2 cup rhubarb root until you get a fine powder. Mix in a small amount of water at a time until you get a paste-like consistency. Apply paste to hair, massaging in until strands are fully coated, then wrap hair in a bun on top of head, or cover with plastic wrap.

Let either mixture sit on your hair for several hours, and repeat several times a week for a richer, deeper red color. For dark blonde hair, this recipe will give you a reddish/strawberry blonde tone, and an auburn tone for brown hair.

Light to Medium Brown Hair

brown hair

Add your ingredients to a pot with 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer herbs for at least 30 minutes, or until your water is very dark in color. Remove from heat and strain out the herbs through a mesh strainer, or cheesecloth. Pour mixture into a spray bottle, or squeeze bottle, for easy application. Let mixture sit on your hair for a few hours, then rinse off in the shower.

With repeated use, your hair will darken over time, and it will even darken blonde hair. This recipe has the added bonus of helping treat dandruff, and grow hair!

Dark Brown to Black Hair

black hair

Place 1/4 cup of black walnut powder, and 1/4 cup of black tea into a cheesecloth, and tie into a small bag. Steep the cheesecloth bag in 3 cups of hot water for several hours, or place the cheesecloth bag into a Mason Jar full of water, and let sit overnight. Use as a hair rinse in the shower.

This recipe will get your hair VERY DARK, almost black, so use sparingly on lighter colored hair. Blonde hair can be darkened with this mixture, but you may need to apply it several times to get a truly dark shade. I recommend testing on a few strands of blonde hair first before applying to all your hair. Dark brown and black hair will benefit from this recipe the most.

Longer Lasting Results With Henna

Henna has been used all over the world for centuries to naturally dye hair, and is often used for long-lasting temporary henna tattoos. Henna is a 100% natural plant derived ingredient, however, there has been some confusion over henna potentially interacting with previously colored hair and causing significant damage.

The henna that causes a bad reaction, when applied over hair that has been previously colored, is not true henna. Those “hennas” are usually compound hennas that contain metallic salts, which is essentially another chemical hair dye. These hair dyes claim to be “henna” hair dye, but are usually mixed with all sorts of different chemicals, which can react badly with other hair color.

Pure herbal henna will not harm your hair in any way, even if it’s been previously colored. It can be difficult to find a pure source of henna, but the one I trust is from Rainbow Research. They have a wide range of tints that are created by the simple combination of three different botanical herbs, and do not add any synthetic additives or coloring agents.

Final Notes

As always, do a strand test before applying any of the above mixtures to your full head of hair, especially if it has been previously colored with conventional dyeEven though all of the ingredients listed here are natural herbs, there is no 100% true way to tell how anything will react to hair that has been dyed previously with a chemical mixture (see how bad those chemical dyes really are?). Better to be safe than sorry!

Do you color your hair at home? Ever tried an all natural hair color?

Surprising Ways To Color Your Hair Naturally (For All Hair Types!) was last modified: by

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