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Does Organic Hair Dye Work?

I Traded Boxed Dye For Organic Color, and I'm Never Looking Back

Something has been bothering me about my hair dye. I'm very careful about my diet; I don't like artificial ingredients, and I generally shun anything known to contain preservatives.

But when it comes to my hair dye? I have no idea what chemicals are in that dye. I've been applying light blond hair dye to my roots — and therefore directly to my scalp — nearly every month since I was 18 years old. And that was a while ago.

My relationship with hair dye has been long and fairly uncomplicated. I was born with blond hair. At some point in my early childhood, things took a turn for the brunette. Someone with parental authority decided blond was the way to go; Sun-In was used to make me vaguely blond for years. As a teen, I transitioned to that staple of '90s New Jersey haircare — highlights. Once I got to college and had to pay for haircare myself, I started with boxed dye — or as I call it, "The Box." I never looked back.

Before: At Spoke and Weal with my line of demarcation.
Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Allie Merriam

But a few changes in my life prompted a wholesale reconsidering of my color routine. I'm getting older and want to be more careful about the toxins I consume or apply to my body. Moisturizer and makeup have also come under review.

It's worth noting that the Food and Drug Administration doesn't explicitly believe there to be a link between hair dye and poor health. But it's also worth noting that the FDA is prevented by law from investigating some of the ingredients in hair dye, so caveat emptor.

I'd long been intrigued by the idea of organic dye. I wasn't quite sure it would work for me — and can a dye without chemicals even work, anyway?

So I turned to expert colorist Christine Thompson of Spoke and Weal salon. A longtime organic dye user herself, Christine only uses Aveda organic dye with her customers. I was in good hands.

Christine had her work cut out for her. My roots were so long that she dubbed the new growth the "line of demarcation." She assessed the job and declared that a combination of bright blond highlights and more subtle brown lowlights would be the best course of action for my messy head of hair. She promised that her method would ensure that my dark roots looked as natural as possible as my hair grew out.

After: The results after using Aveda Organic Dye.
Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Allie Merriam

There are a number of reasons why Christine has been passionate about organic dye. Primarily, she says, the relatively gentle Aveda formulations are able to "achieve a beautiful, wide range of color" for blondes, brunettes, and redheads. The dye also lasts longer on the hair, because the ingredients are not as damaging to strands. Finally, Christine emphasized that, because Aveda's line does not contain petroleum-based chemicals, the runoff into the water supply is much cleaner environmentally.

It seems Aveda's big step forward has been removing chemicals derived from petroleum from their products. Instead, the colors are rounded out with the addition of sunflower, jojoba, babassu, and castor oils. Aveda's formulations do not include parabens, a known endocrine disruptor.

This sounds like progress to me. I wish I didn't have to be a scientist to fully understand the list of ingredients in hair dye, and I can't say with complete certainty that even organic dyes are harmless products. But it seems, to me, that the Aveda formulations may be a step in the right direction for my lifestyle.

But even organic dye is designed to serve a very important purpose, so the question is: did it work?

I'm happy to report that my hair looked very blond, and I dare say even better than when I do it at home myself. I benefitted from having an expert tend to my color, but I could see that the product did make a difference, too. My hair didn't have the dry, verging on brittle texture that accompanies a round with "The Box." Christine was right, too; my roots blended in better than usual as my hair grew longer.

For me, using an organic dye like Aveda is a good step forward in trying to make my beauty routine as healthy as possible. I don't yet know what my long-term hair color plan will be. I will need to make a decision about dye or not dyeing, especially as more and more gray hairs crop up on my head. Returning to my natural color, however, is out of the question — for now. I still want to be blonde, but I want to be blonde in the safest way possible.

Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Allie Merriam

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