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Which is the best ammonia free hair color?

In today’s world, more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of exposing oneself to harsh chemicals on a regular basis. This is especially true when it comes to hair dye and bleach, which often contain ammonia – a pungent gas that can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. Thankfully, there are now many ammonia-free hair color options available that provide brilliant long-lasting color without compromising health and safety.

What is Ammonia and Why is it in Hair Color?

Ammonia is added to most permanent and demi-permanent hair dyes and colors. It serves several purposes:

  • It causes the hair cuticles to swell, allowing the hair dye to penetrate the hair shaft more deeply and evenly.
  • It lifts or lightens the existing hair color so the new color will deposit properly.
  • It makes the hair more alkaline, which helps the dye develop and take better.
  • It acts as a stabilizer to help hair color last longer.

However, ammonia has some significant drawbacks. It has a very strong, unpleasant odor and it can be quite irritating to the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Many people complain of stinging, burning, itching or excessive redness when exposed to ammonia in hair color. It can also dry out and damage the hair.

Benefits of Ammonia-Free Hair Color

Ammonia-free hair dyes offer a gentler, less irritating coloring experience. Here are some of the benefits they provide:

  • Less skin irritation and allergy issues
  • Minimal odor
  • Decreased hair damage and dryness
  • Longer lasting hair color
  • Safer for pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • Better for those sensitive to fumes
  • Healthier working conditions for salon staff

The main trade-off is that ammonia-free dye doesn’t lift or lighten hair color as effectively. So it may not cover gray or change your hair color as dramatically. The results are more subtle, natural-looking enhancement.

How Ammonia-Free Hair Colors Work

Ammonia-free hair coloring products use alternative alkalizing agents like monoethanolamine (MEA), aminomethyl propanol (AMP), or fatty alcohols to raise the pH and allow dye penetration. They may also incorporate conditioning agents to help seal the cuticle and lock in color.

Some ammonia-free hair colors are ethanol-based. The ethanol helps facilitate dye penetration while being less irritating than ammonia. However, ethanol can dry out the hair over time.

There are also “true” ammonia-free options that use neither ammonia nor ethanol. Brands like Madison Reed, Overtone, and Color&Co rely on ingredients like glycerin, beeswax, coconut oil, and shea butter to condition hair and alter pH.

Permanent vs. Semi-Permanent vs Demi-Permanent

There are three main types of hair coloring formulas:

  • Permanent hair color – Contains ammonia or another alkalizing agent. Opens the cuticle and lasts until hair grows out.
  • Demi-permanent hair color – Lower ammonia content. Less cuticle damage. Lasts 24-28 shampoos.
  • Semi-permanent hair color – Deposits dye without lightening. No ammonia. Lasts 4-8 shampoos.

Permanent hair color leads to the most drastic, long-lasting results – but at the expense of hair health. Semi-permanent colors don’t require chemicals but fade quickly. Demi-permanent offers a good compromise, with ammonia-free options providing vibrant color that lasts weeks with minimal drying.

Top Ammonia-Free Hair Color Brands

Some of the leading hair color companies now offer ammonia-free lines. Here are some of the most popular:

Madison Reed

Madison Reed is a pioneer in the ammonia-free hair color space. Their award-winning products are made without ammonia, parabens, phthalates, gluten, sulfate or PPD. They use a proprietary Smart 8-Free DyeTM system based on gentle yet effective ingredients like argan oil, keratin, ginseng root and cocoa seed extract.

They offer 50+ shade options, from natural looking to bold and vibrant. Their permanent and demi-permanent hair colors produce ultra-shiny, long-lasting results while being remarkably non-irritating. The condition of hair even improves over time.


Overtone offers a complete hair color and care system based around their conditioner-based dyes. Their Deep Treatment, Coloring Conditioner, Daily Conditioner, and Mask products all use plant-derived pigments to safely provide semi-permanent, fade-resistant color.

The Deep Treatment and Coloring Conditioner offer bolder, more complete coverage for full hair coloring with options like Vibrant Orange, Extreme Silver, orCool Blue. The Daily Conditioner and Mask provide lighter tints to give hair a glossy hue and prevent brassiness between full coloring sessions. Overtone is 100% vegan, cruelty-free and perfect for creative colored hair.

Clairol Natural Instincts

Clairol Natural Instincts is a well-known ammonia-free demi-permanent hair color brand carried in most drugstores. It’s made without ammonia, parabens, gluten or dye fragrance. The Natural Instincts products use cassia to naturally deposit glossy color that respects the structure of hair.

They offer multi-faceted ammonia free hair dye kits for flawless gray coverage and subtle, natural-looking hues. The Natural Instincts Crema Keratin Caring Color and Plant Based Color boxes provide foolproof application and salon-worthy conditioning.

L’Oreal Paris Excellence Creme

L’Oreal Paris Excellence Creme is an ammonia-free permanent hair color that provides 100% gray coverage. It uses a new, proprietary fibrosis technology with Pro-Keratine and antioxidant Vitamin E to keep hair strong and healthy.

The creme formula with six oils – olive, avocado, grape seed, camelina, apricot and coconut – ensures rich conditioning to prevent dryness. The Easy Blending Serum makes application seamless and fast. There are over 50 beautiful shades from light golden blonde to radiant red.

Schwarzkopf Simply Color

Schwarzkopf Simply Color uses a unique Zero Ammonia Lovin’ Care Color formula to provide permanent, fade-defying color that shines and remains vibrant for up to 8 weeks. It nourishingly cares for hair with provitamin B5, wheat protein, and aromaguard fragrance.

The Simply Color comes in a huge range of colors from natural black to reddish browns to light champagnes for flawless coverage. The easy twist-off applicator allows you to quickly refresh color from your roots.

How to Pick the Best Ammonia-Free Hair Color for You

When selecting an ammonia-free hair dye, here are some key considerations:

  • Hair color goals – Are you looking to completely change your color, touch up roots, prevent brassiness, or experiment with bold shades?
  • Hair type and condition – Damaged or dry hair benefits most from ammonia-free colors that incorporate oils and conditioners.
  • Sensitivities – Avoid dyes with potential irritants like PPD, phthalates, gluten, soy or fragrance.
  • Covering gray – Make sure the dye contains effective gray coverage polymers if this is a priority.
  • Application method – Kits, brush-on applicators, bottles with tips, etc. Choose what’s easiest for you.
  • Timing – Permanent, demi-permanent and semi-permanent dyes last different lengths.

Doing an allergy test 48 hours before full application can prevent adverse reactions. Always follow instructions carefully and avoid contact with eyes, skin or clothing.

Expert Tips for Using Ammonia-Free Hair Color

Here are some pro tips for getting the most from ammonia-free hair dye:

  • Wash hair with a clarifying shampoo a day or two before to remove product buildup.
  • Rough up hair fibers with a brush to allow better dye absorption.
  • Use petroleum jelly around hairline to prevent skin staining.
  • Separate hair into four sections for full, even coverage.
  • Start applying color 1⁄2 inch from roots to prevent a demarcation line.
  • Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water until it runs clear.
  • Shampoo only 2-3 days after coloring for best results.
  • Use a good color-protecting conditioner and avoid chlorine to extend color.
  • Re-apply gloss or semi-permanent color as needed to refresh between full dye sessions.

Top 5 Ammonia-Free Hair Color Products

Brand Product Key Features
Madison Reed Radiant Hair Color Kit – 50+ multi-tonal ammonia-free dye options
Overtone Coloring Conditioner – Deposits vibrant semi-permanent color
Clairol Natural Instincts – Salon-quality gray coverage and conditioning
L’Oreal Paris Excellence Creme – Luxurious permanent ammonia-free hair dye
Schwarzkopf Simply Color – Convenient twist-off color applicators

The Bottom Line

When looking for the best ammonia-free hair color, you have many excellent options from trusted brands. Madison Reed, Overtone, Clairol Natural Instincts, L’Oreal Paris Excellence Creme and Schwarzkopf Simply Color all allow you to achieve beautiful, vibrant, lasting color without harsh chemicals.

Look for formulas enriched with oils, keratin, and antioxidants that both color and condition hair. Follow the instructions closely for mess-free, safe DIY hair coloring at home. With the right ammonia-free product, you can cover grays, change shades, maintain your hue or experiment with colors worry-free.

Your hair will look shinier, feel softer and stay healthier over time. Avoiding irritation, odor and damage from ammonia means better hair days ahead!