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Will cocoa powder dye your hair?

Cocoa powder has become a popular natural hair dye alternative for those looking to color their hair without harsh chemicals. But does cocoa powder actually dye your hair, and how well does it work? Let’s take a look at whether cocoa can be used to tint your locks.

What Is Cocoa Powder?

Cocoa powder is made from cacao beans that are fermented, dried, roasted, and then ground into a powder. There are two main types of cocoa powder:

  • Natural cocoa powder which is lighter in color and pH balanced.
  • Dutch process cocoa powder which is treated with alkali to neutralize its acidity, resulting in a darker color.

Both types of cocoa contain compounds that give chocolate its natural brown hue. The key ones are:

  • Flavonoids – antioxidants that give cocoa its color
  • Tannins – these bind to proteins in hair to dye it
  • Theobromine – an alkaloid that can subtly alter hair color

It’s the high flavonoid and tannin content that makes cocoa a potential hair dye. When applied to hair, these compounds can temporarily stain and color the strands.

Does Cocoa Powder Work On Hair?

Cocoa powder can temporarily enhance your hair’s natural pigment to give it a subtle, chocolatey tint. However, it works best on lighter hair colors, giving blonde and gray hair a light brown hue. On darker shades, the effect is very subtle.

Here’s an overview of how well it works on different hair colors:

Hair Color Result with Cocoa Powder
Blonde Light brown tint
Gray/White Mousy brown tint
Light Brown Slightly richer brown
Dark Brown Very subtle change
Black No noticeable difference

As you can see, the lighter your base color, the more cocoa powder will show up. It works best at enhancing natural warm pigments rather than actually dyeing the hair.

How To Use Cocoa Powder On Hair

If you want to give cocoa powder a try, here are some tips on using it:

  • Use natural or Dutch process cocoa. Both will tint hair.
  • Make a paste with the cocoa and enough water to form a thick consistency.
  • Apply the paste to damp, clean hair. Focus on the mid-lengths and ends.
  • Put your hair in a shower cap and leave on for 1-2 hours.
  • Rinse out thoroughly with warm water.
  • Shampoo twice to remove residue.
  • Repeat weekly to maintain the tone.

Doing a test strand first is advisable to see if you like the effect. And always do a patch test for skin sensitivities before applying cocoa paste all over.

Benefits Of Cocoa Powder On Hair

Aside from temporarily enhancing your color, cocoa powder offers other benefits for hair:

  • Conditioning – The oils and emollients in cocoa powder can help moisturize and soften hair.
  • Smoothing – Cocoa is able to flatten the cuticle for smoother, less frizzy hair.
  • Volumizing – The texture of cocoa powder helps add grit and volume to limp hair.
  • Shine – Cocoa contains antioxidants that boost shine and sheen.

It won’t repair damage like a deep conditioner, but the nutrients in cocoa powder can improve hair health with regular use.

Downsides To Dyeing With Cocoa

Some drawbacks to consider before using cocoa powder as dye:

  • The color washes out quickly – within 4-5 shampoos
  • It only enhances natural pigment rather than chemically altering hair color
  • The results look more like a temporary stain than permanent dye
  • It can leave hair feeling dry if not conditioned properly

For these reasons, cocoa powder is best thought of as a temporary color boost rather than a real dye. It’s great for a subtle tint between salon appointments or adding richness to faded color. But don’t expect dramatic or long-lasting results.

How Long Does Cocoa Powder Last In Hair?

Cocoa powder washes out of hair very quickly. You can expect the colored results to last:

  • 1-2 shampoos for blondes and gray hair
  • 3-4 shampoos for light brown hair
  • 4-5 shampoos for darker shades

To make the color last longer, use a sulfate-free shampoo and cool water when washing your hair. Avoid clarifying shampoos as these will strip the cocoa color very quickly.

Also, applying cocoa powder once a week will help maintain the color for as long as you want it.

Is Cocoa Powder Damaging For Hair?

When used correctly, cocoa powder is not damaging for hair. In fact, it has many nourishing properties that can improve hair health. Here’s a look at whether cocoa powder is safe to use:

Factor Effect on Hair
pH Cocoa is mildly acidic (pH 5-6) which is within the normal range for hair.
Protein Content Cocoa contains amino acids that help fortify hair proteins.
Oils The cocoa butter in cocoa powder moisturizes hair.
Permanent Color Change Cocoa only stains hair temporarily and washes out.

As long as you don’t aggressively scrub hair when rinsing, cocoa powder is gentle enough for weekly use. However, take care not to leave it on too long (no more than 2 hours).

Other Ways To Use Cocoa Powder For Hair

Aside from dyeing, cocoa powder can be used in the following hair treatments:

Cocoa Hair Mask

Mix cocoa powder with coconut milk and honey for a nourishing hair mask. The coconut milk hydrates while the cocoa and honey soften and add shine. Leave this on hair for 20 minutes then rinse.

Anti-Frizz Styling Paste

Comb a paste of cocoa powder and water through damp hair before blow drying or air drying. This seals the cuticle flat to reduce frizz and flyaways.

Volumizing Dry Shampoo

Add a sprinkle of cocoa powder to dry shampoo for a color-boosting, volumizing effect between washes. Focus on the roots to soak up oil and create lift.

By using the conditioning and smoothing properties of cocoa powder, you can enhance your hair’s health and appearance without drastic coloring.


While cocoa powder can temporarily stain hair to enhance color, it works best on light shades and results only last a few washes. The nourishing compounds make it safe for hair health when used properly. For brunette and blonde hair, cocoa powder is a fun way to experiment with subtle color changes at home.