Permanent Hair Color

Although permanent hair color products are relatively new, people have been coloring their hair for thousands of years. Cleopatra in Egypt enhanced her legendary beauty with natural plant dyes as did others throughout the Middle East, India and Africa. These simple hair color techniques were used exclusively up until the 1860's when synthetic chemical dyes began to be developed. In 1907 a French chemist named Eugene Schueller created the first commercial hair dyes using phenylenediamine. His revolutionary products laid the foundation for the beginning of a French company that later became L'Oreal.


Today most chemical permanent hair color products continue to be based on Schuellers' original compound. Designed for both men and womens hair color products, they usually also contain ammonia and peroxide, although many newer formulations are now ammonia-free. Here are some popular brands that discriminating consumers generally give positive reviews on, and links to get more information on them:



If you'd rather color your own hair at home, find out more about the best retail and professional  products you can buy for permanent coloring. As an alternative to hair color products formulated with traditional chemicals, several herbal based  permanent hair colors have been developed over the last few decades. They offer similar color penetration and coverage but use minimal chemicals. Learn more about popular brands in this category such as Naturtint hair coloring and Herbatint hair products.



How Permanent Hair Color Works

Hair dyes that contain ammonia are combined with a developer to change hair color permanently. They are generally classified as oxidation hair dyes. The ammonia is alkaline which opens up the outer cuticle layer so that developer and pigments can penetrate the inner cortex. The developer contains peroxide which lightens original hair pigments while depositing the new color molecules in the hairs' inner cortex.


Permanent hair color products are most effective when changing hair color, lightening natural hair color or used as gray hair remedies. Commercial products tend to use alpha codes to identify various shade families such as 'N' natural, 'R' red, 'D' golden, 'M' mahogany and 'C' ash. The time required for hair color treatment varies with each product. Generally the first 10 minutes or so allow enough time for the ammonia to open the cuticle layer, followed by the peroxide penetrating the cortex to lighten color. Additional time enables more pigment molecules to deposit in the cortex to further intensify the color.


More environmentally friendly hair color products have been developed that are 100% ammonia free and use plant extracts as coloring agents. They claim to be gentler on hair by using less aggressive chemicals and lower levels of peroxide. Some are completely ppd free hair color products. However, others may still contain small amounts of ppd as well as the chemical resorcinal. Synonyms for phenylenediamine and its various components can be listed in the following ways, so check labels carefully if you need to know what's in the dye.

  • Paraphenylenediamine
  • PPD
  • 1,4-Benzenediamine
  • 1,4-Penylenediamine
  • Rodol™ D


  • Para-aminoaniline (p-aminoaniline)
  • PPDA
  • Orsin™
  • Ursol™ D
  • Paradiaminobenzene




Stay Safe and Healthy

If used correctly you can get fabulous looking hair color from conventional permanent hair color. But be aware these products contain chemicals that can be harmful to your health if used incorrectly. Learn how to apply hair color safely by following these easy precautions.


  • Do a skin patch test to check for possible allergic reactions
  • Always wear protective gloves when applying and rinsing hair dye as chemicals can be corrosive to skin
  • Don't apply product if scalp has any open cuts or skin irritation since chemicals can enter bloodstream
  • Apply product with the fan on or in fresh air to avoid inhaling fumes


For more safety information on hair color products, check out this Cosmetics Safety Database. Each ingredient in a product is rated on a health hazard scale as follows: 0-2 low hazard, 3-6 moderate hazard, 7-10 high hazard. It also publishes the product's complete ingredients list, directions for use, and warnings that are printed on the package.


light gold hai


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