You can dye your hair in a variety of ways, from getting it done at a salon, from a box at home, or through a temporary color spray. Traditional hair dyes, however, can contain potentially toxic and damaging chemicals like ammonia or parabens. One way to avoid these chemicals is through natural hair dyes, which often use ingredients you might already have at home.
Try the following natural hair dyes if you’re looking for alternative ways to color your hair.
Try carrot juice if you want to give your hair a reddish-orange tint. Depending on the color of your hair, the tint can last for a few weeks.
To dye your hair with carrot juice:
- Mix carrot juice with a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil.
- Apply the mixture liberally to your hair.
- Wrap your hair in plastic, and let the mixture set at least an hour.
- Rinse with apple cider vinegar. You can repeat this the next day if the color isn’t strong enough.
If you want a deeper red tint with cooler undertones, opt for beet juice instead of carrot juice.
The steps for using beet juice as a natural hair dye are similar to those for carrot juice:
- Mix beet juice with a carrier oil.
- Apply the mixture liberally to your hair, and then wrap your hair.
- Let the mixture set for at least an hour before washing it out.
Henna is a natural plant-based dye that’s traditionally used to create temporary tattoos directly on the skin. It can also be used to dye your hair red.
Henna comes in powder form and is probably the longest-lasting, most vibrant natural hair dye option. The color can last as long as four to six weeks.
To use henna to dye your hair:
- Mix about 1/2 cup of henna with 1/4 cup of water.
- Stir the mixture until it’s completely combined and feels like the consistency of mashed potatoes, adding more water if necessary.
- Cover the mixture with plastic wrap, and let it sit for about 12 hours. (You may need to add more water after the 12 hours so that it can be applied to your hair.)
- Wash your hair without conditioning it.
- Wear a headband and apply an oil like coconut oil along your hairline. This is so the henna won’t stain your skin.
- Apply the paste mixture to small sections of your combed, damp hair until all of your hair is covered.
- Wrap your hair in plastic and let the color develop at least two hours (and up to six) before washing it out.
Lemon juice can help strip your hair of its pigment slowly, lightening it over time. It’s best used to achieve sun-kissed highlights naturally.
Unlike the other methods described here, which achieve temporary color changes, the results of using lemon juice are permanent. The pigment on the portion of hair you apply lemon juice to will be gone. You can get rid of this lightened hair by cutting it off.
To use lemon juice to color your hair:
- Pour lemon juice into a spray bottle.
- Spray the juice liberally onto your hair.
- Use a comb to spread and separate the juice evenly through your hair
- Sit outside in the sun for optimal results.
- Leave the lemon juice in for at least an hour, and then wash it out.
You can do this several times to get the desired effect if necessary. It works slowly, and will likely require a few repeat sessions.
A cup of brewed coffee can do more than just give you a caffeine boost. It can also help dye your hair a shade or two darker, and may even cover up some gray hair.
To dye your hair with coffee:
- Brew a strong cup of dark-roast coffee.
- Mix about 1/2 cup of coffee with 2 tbsp. of coffee grounds and 1 cup of leave-in hair conditioner.
- Apply the mixture to clean, damp hair.
- Let the mixture set for at least an hour, and wash it out when you’re done.
- Repeat if necessary.
Coffee won’t provide a drastic change to your hair, and it won’t last for long. But if you need a quick and affordable boost, it’s a good option to try.
If you have dark brown or black hair and want to darken it up a bit, sage is a good option. It can deepen shades of brunette hair, and it can also help cover up gray hairs.
To use sage to dye your hair:
- Steep between 1/2 and 1 cup of dried sage in a quart of boiling water for at least 30 minutes. (The longer you let it steep, the darker the tint could be.)
- Let the water cool and strain out the sage.
- After you wash and towel-dry your hair, pour the sage water over your hair for as long as possible.
- Let the tint develop for at least 15 minutes before washing it out.
Want to lighten up your hair? Chamomile tea can help you do just that, and is especially effective for those who already have blonde hair.
To use chamomile tea to lighten your hair:
- Steep 1/2 cup of chamomile flowers in boiling water.
- Let the mixture sit for half an hour to steep and cool, and then strain the flowers out.
- After you wash your hair, pour the brewed tea through your damp hair at least 10 times.
- Wait for 16 minutes before washing it out.
You can use this treatment once, but it’s most effective when you use it at least once a week to maintain the beautiful bright color.
Once you’ve dyed your hair and it looks perfect, the last thing you want to worry about is the color fading. There are a few ways to extend the life of your naturally dyed hair:
- Limit your use of hot tools like hairdryers, straightening irons, and curling irons.
- When you do use hot styling tools, apply a thermal protectant to your hair.
- Avoid taking hot showers, and skip washing your hair when possible.
- Use a water filter in your shower, which can help filter out color-draining chemicals like chlorine and heavy metals.
If you don’t want to bust out the beet juice or the henna, natural hair dyes are available for you to purchase. These hair dyes claim to be manufactured without the toxic chemicals of traditional hair dyes, though you should check the label before you purchase one of them. You’ll want to avoid ingredients like parabens, ammonia, and sulfates.
Some brands you can try include:
Traditional hair dyes are full of chemicals that can have toxic effects on your body. According to the American Cancer Society, both semipermanent and permanent oxidative hair dyes penetrate the hair shaft and can potentially increase cancer risk, particularly for bladder cancer and blood cancers like leukemia. However, more studies are needed.
Even if the cancer risk is low or minimal, the harsh chemicals in traditional hair dyes can cause skin irritation and damage your hair. If it’s possible to use a more natural alternative, your hair will thank you in the long run.