Monday, March 23, 2009

Are You Green Enough to Go Gray? A Look at Natural Hair Color Alternatives

Ladies and Gentleman…Color That Hair:
The notion of going grey evokes an image of growing old, of grandmothers, of silver streaks. For as long as advertising has been around, the message has been, “I’m gonna wash that grey right out of my hair.” And so, women (and men) by the millions have whisked themselves into the stinky color section of the hair salon to be foiled, streaked, and colored within an inch of their scalps. The brave do-it-your-self types have donned those latex gloves and vigilantly squirted the magical mixture concealing those pesky unwelcome grey locks.

What’s really in that bottle?
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), {a group of exceptionally diligent professionals who pore of data and scientific research to expose risks to our health and environment as well as find solutions} the hair color products that we have come to know and love are on the
Top 20 Brands of Concern.

What does this mean?
This means that the hair color products from companies like L’Oreal, Clairol and Revlon which are the top selling brands are making us sick in ways we could never imagine a company would consciously produce and advertise.

What’s so bad about these products?
Some of the main offenders when it comes to toxic ingredients consist of:
P-PHENYLENEDIAMINE and BHA : these are two of the top high hazard ingredients which, according to research compiled by the EWG have been scientifically linked to cancer, immunotoxicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity and have been prohibited from use in cosmetics. And for those of us raven haired beauties, you’ll be surprised to learn that the darker the hair color, the longer the list of toxic offenders.

Where Can I Turn?
One alternative we all have is to gracefully accept the gray and silver streaks as a sign of our wisdom and experience. For someone like me, who started popping out this silver streaks at the ripe age of 16, it was never really an issue of fighting aging. It was more about vanity. I know I know vanity is one of those nasty words we’re not supposed to admit. But truly, it is about being at my best and loving the way I look. Dark hair has been a signature for me. So, I guess I’m not ready to go au natural when it comes to my hair. Though, I do love to see a silver mane stride confidently by. On some women, the silver streaks and grey flowing hair looks downright stunning. There are even some great books touting the benefits of going “chic” gray (Check out the titles below).

So You Still Want to Color…
The good news is that there are some marvelous natural options for those of us who choose to color our hair. As someone who has worked in and managed beauty salons for nearly a decade, I can tell you that there is nothing natural about walking into a beauty salon and foiling up. If you are lucky enough to live in a city that offers natural color options you can walk in and smell the difference between natural hair color options and the chemical smells generated by traditional salons. One salon that offers 95-97% natural ingredients is the Aveda Concept Salon. You can find a salon near you at

However, if you like me, want color your hair in the comfort of your own bathroom, and save a few bucks along the way, there are great choices for us as well. Check out the resource list below of natural color options for choosing your own shade of lovely. One of my favorites, Aubrey Organics, remarkable natural products company, which has been doing the right thing since before green was the new black, offers a full line of skin care, body care and hair care products. Including a line of 100% natural hair color products which contains NO phenylenediamine, NO coal tar dyes—NO synthetic chemicals of any kind. Hey, if these guys can do it, why can’t L’Oreal, Revlon and Clairol get it together and catch the green train?

Cosmetics Database
Environmental Working Group

Books on Going Gray:
Going Gray: What I Learned About Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Really Matters by Anne Kreamer

Going Gray, Looking Great: The Modern Woman’s Guide to Unfading Glory by Diana Lewis Jewell

Natural Hair Color Resources:
Aubrey Organics
Light Mountain Hair Color
Aveda Color Services
Logona Herbal Hair Color


Elena Lipson - EcoDiva


  1. I truly believe that hair dye is bad for the body. I also feel the same about hairspray. The odor is yucky! What's it doing to our lungs, especially those of us who don't smoke.
    I have tried to go gray, but I am ashamed to admit it, but I do color my hair. I'm interested in an inexpensive, chemically safe hair dye. When you hear of one, let us, your readers, know. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for your feedback! I'm a dyer as well even though my hair hasn't started to go gray yet. I understand your desire for a healthier dye that's inexpensive. No chemicals will ever really be "safe," but there are better options than others.