The Trouble with Haircolor and PPD

The video below details a woman from Virginia’s painfully story of how she suffered a severe allergic reaction while getting her hair dyed.

The chemical in question is PPD (Paraphenylenediamine) and its cousin PTD (Paratoluenediamine) are petrochemicals that have been used as colorants for ages. These dyes can be found in clothing, temporary tattoos, photocopying, and are also used to develop photos. PPD/PTD are popular in hair coloring because they are cheap and can be cleansed several times without fading. 

So what does all this mean? You do not need to give up coloring your hair, but you do need to be educated about what you are using.

  1. ALWAYS perform a patch test before applying any chemicals, even if you have used them before.  The women in the story above had used that hair dye previously, without issue however this recent time she had a severe reaction to it.
  2. Opt for a natural color that is free of PPD/PTD.  I had my hair colored at the hair salon using Organic Color System which is PPD/PTD free.  Read about my experience here. 
  3. Think using natural color like henna is safe?  Only if it is 100% pure henna, indigo, etc.  Check the company website and ask questions, don’t just go by the marketing on the box.  Read more about safe henna coloring here.

There is nothing wrong with coloring your hair. It doesn’t make you any less authentic in your natural hair journey.  Heck I have highlights in my hair right now!  However I want you to be informed about the products and the process so you can make the best decision for your health and your lifestyle.  For more information about hair coloring check out this post.


Color Me Beautiful, Highlights in Natural Hair

Truth time: I used to be a natural snob.  I got to a point where I strove to be a “natural’s natural”.  I babied my hair as if it was brittle on the verge of falling out and refused to use anything that may have a negative effect on my tresses.  Then I saw this article on Natural Review which featured fellow natural Nicole.  Not only did Nicole have popping curls but she also had hair that was lifted to the blondest-blond.  And while I had been avoiding color like the plague out of fear that it might “do something” to my curls, Nicole was making me rethink my stance.

I did my research on color immediately eliminating most over the counter (box) hair color brands found in local beauty supply stores due to ingredients like ammonia, PTD’s or parabens which I choose not to use because of there damaging effects on hair and health.  But after making a trip to my salon I was educated about Organic Color System (OCS) which is the safest hair coloring system on the market.  We also held a meet-up where we discusses safe ways to color your hair including using henna and doing corrective color to fix a bad dye job.  After laborious discussions with my stylist I scheduled an appointment.

As you can see from the foils I opted for highlights instead of an all-over color.  Highlights are a great way to try out color without making a full-coverage commitment.  When getting highlights you are charged by the foil so the amount of color and placement is really up to you.  Many like to try a 5 pack in the crown to add a little oomph on top.  I wanted to go for an all over muli-toned highlight to give the appearance of hair that was sun-kissed like when I was younger and played outside all summer.  To achieve this look we selected two different colors Mocha [4MO] and Fiery Red [5FR] and they were strategically layered and blended throughout my curls.  The colors selected were very natural tones that blended well with my skin and hair color.

I don’t know if you can tell in the beginning of the vid but I was really nervous even though I had full faith in my stylist.  After a mimosa, or two, or three I found just the courage I needed to relax and there was no turning back.  Check out the slideshow below for play by play of the color.  I have more color in the back of my hair but very little in the front because I was worried about how it would look as it grew out around my hair line (no harsh roots) and I was also concerned because my hair is wavy in the front and I did not want to lose any texture. Since then I have decided that I will go back and get more color done in the front Spring 2012.

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So what are your thoughts? Have you considered coloring your natural hair?

Recap DCN Presents Curls & Cocktails Part 4 ~ Color

September’s Curls & Cocktails topic was COLOR!  This meet up was perfectly timed with the migration of the season from summer to autumn when the leaves on the trees are beginning to change, why not change your hair color too?

Color can be a somewhat  controversial topic in the natural hair community.  Many naturals wonder if they are still considered natural if they use color.  Loc’d naturals wonder if haircolor is able to penetrate their locs.  Others are simply wary of the possible negative effects hair color will have on their strands.  We discussed the different types of hair color including natural stains or temporary color like henna, demi or semi permanent hair color and professional color lines.

To answer the first question yes you are still natural if you decide to color your hair.  The term natural hair refers to hair where the texture is not chemically altered.  There are debates all over forums with arguments for and against, but the standpoint of this blog (and majority of the community) is that as long as you do not have a chemical relaxer or perm you are natural.

Secondly, loc’d naturals are not excluded from the color game.   Locs can have highlights, lowlights, tips, or all over color just like loose hair.  As one stylist said “if it’s hair, we can color it!”

Thirdly, the truth is that changing your hair color is a chemical process and that process will change the factors of your hair like its porosity, elasticity, texture.  Some may experience very subtle or unnoticeable changes while other may have a drastic experience.  Depending on your hair factors along with the health of your hair and the type of products used results will vary.  That is not the answer most want to hear but that is the truth.  There are safe ways to undergo this process to help minimize any negative effects.

In the video I go through the processes of hair color and also speak about how to choose a haircolor and what to expect from the outcome.  The second video which is also on my youtube page Shaha and Te’Ana, professional stylist at NAS, speak on coloring hair using the Organic Color System which is the safest professional line on the market.  OCS is completely ammonia (bleach) free and uses heat to open the hairshaft and lift (lighten) the color.  You will see a demonstration of the OCS vs a typical box color, OCS used for corrective color and its ability to safely lift multiple levels.

I want to thank the Natural Alternatives Salon of Louisville, KY for their continued sponsorship of the Curls & Cocktails series along with Rhythm liquor for providing such lovely cocktails and Go Natural Hair & Body Boutique for providing a giveaway.  If you would like to attend the final Curls & Cocktails event for this year which is all about locs, please rsvp to the invite on fb

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The Truth About Henna Part 5: Indigo

Indigo, or Indigofera tinctoria,  is an herb that imparts a blue stain.  Indigo has been used for centuries to dye cloth or clothing and also works on hair.  It is commonly known as black henna but it isn’t really black or henna,  not even a distant relative.  Indigo does impart a dark blue or purple stain.  Like henna it comes in a dry powdered form and should be green or brown in color.

yep it's greenish, not blue

Indigo is not a conditioning treatment however, it is great natural way to cover grey hair.  Indigo does not need to dye release like henna so you do not need to add an acid and you can use it immediately.  Indigo is most often used with henna in a 2-step process to create a more natural looking color.  Indigo is a stain so please wear gloves when applying.

To make an indigo paste you can simply use just plain water. You can add some oil to help with ease of application or conditioner if you want to make a gloss.  Apply the indigo to your hair, wrap with plastic wrap or cover with a plastic cap and allow to sit for about 30-60 minutes.  Rinse thoroughly with plain water then wash/co-wash and follow up with a good deep conditioner.

As with any recipe you can alter this to your liking.  Give it a try and let us know how it worked for you.

For more info on Henna check out these posts: What is henna, traditional henna, henna gloss, cassia.

The Truth About Henna Part 4: Cassia

If you’ve done a little research about henna you probably run across the term cassia.  Cassia, often referred to as “Nuetral Henna”, is not henna at all.  Cassia Obovata is made from a small shrub in the same manner as henna however it contains Chysophanic acid which is a mild yellow stain.  This stain may lightly stain your hands or a white counter top but is not strong enough to stain dark colored hair. **If you purchase Rainbow Research Henna from Whole Foods a lot of their products use Cassia**

Cassia however is a great conditioning treatment and it is often used in place of henna as it provides the same benefits, but not the red color.  You can add other natural dyes to your cassia to create a colored-hue if you choose to.  While cassia will most likely not stain as harsh as henna it is still advised that you wear gloves when applying.

cassia My daughter SK’s hair was dry and frizzy so we opted to do a cassia treatment for her hair.  To create a cassia conditioning treatment you can follow the same methods for henna whether the traditional or the gloss.  Below is the recipe I opted for:

  • 8 ounces of cassia
  • 2 Tbsp of lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp of oliv oil
  • Green Tea steeped in boiling water

I combined the first three ingredients, then added enough tea until the mixture was brownie batter consistency.  (I used double the normal henna recipe because my daughter has a LOT of hair).  I allowed the recipe to sit for 30 minutes then applied to her hair using the shingle method.  Once the hair was covered I wrapped her hair in plastic wrap and let it sit for 2 hours.  She rinsed her hair several times until all the mixture was removed, then co-washed the hair and rinsed again. After the application SK’s hair was softer, more manageable and the frizz was gone.

As with any recipe you can alter this to your liking.  Give it a try and let us know how it worked for you.

For more info on Henna check out these posts: what is henna, henna application, henna gloss, indigo.

The Truth About Henna Part 3: Henna Gloss

henna-in-natural-hairAnother method of applying henna is called the henna gloss.  The henna gloss is ideal for those who want the benefits of a henna treatment, but with and easier rinsing method and less color.  A henna gloss is normally a creamier paste made with oil, acid, and conditioner or another creamy ingredient.  It can also include teas, herbs, or humectants.

For shoulder length hair of average thickness use 100 grams or 4 ounces of henna.  If your hair is longer of thicker you may want to use more.

Add 1-2 cup of hot water, 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix until it just forms a paste.  You may opt to infuse the water with tea or herbs.

If you want subtle red color add 1-2 Tbsp of an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar to help release the dye from the henna.  If you just want conditioning then you can skip this step.

Add 1-2 Tbsp of your favorite oil.  If you are adding any additional humectants like honey or agave add 1-2 Tbsp now.

Stir in 1-2 cups of conditioner until the batter is smooth and the consistency of cake/brownie batter.  You may opt to use Greek yogurt or coconut milk in place of conditioner.

If you are looking for subtle color cover the gloss mix with plastic wrap and allow to sit for several hours or overnight.  If you are just looking to condition use immediately.  Apply the gloss to the hair in the shingle technique (the same method as applying a perm) from root to the tip.  Cover hair with plastic cap or saran wrap and allow to sit for at least one hour.

Rinse your hair thoroughly until the water runs clear.  Then co-wash your hair to remove remaining henna and continue your wash process as normal.  As with any recipe you can cater it to your liking.  You can use this gloss about once a month.

Natural Review By L Coconut Milk Henna Gloss

Curli Nikki’s Henna Gloss

Read about my henna gloss treatment here.

For more info on henna check my main henna post.

The Truth About Henna Part 2: Traditional Application

henna application on natural hairThe traditional method of henna application involves making the dry henna into a paste with the use of an acid to release the color, oil to aid in application, additional herbs/tea for conditioning/color, and water to mix.  If you are using a henna bar you only need to grate or chop the bar and mix with hot water.

For shoulder length average thickness hair you will need 100 grams or 4 ounces of henna.  If your hair is longer or thicker you may want to double the quantity.

You want to add 1-2 Tbsp of an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar to help release the dye from the henna.

Add 1-2 Tablespoons of your favorite oil (Olive, safflower, coconut, almond) to help smooth the batter and make it easier to apply.

Boil some water and add herbs like cinnamon, paprika, amla or teas like Chamomile, Red Zinger, Green or Ceylon.  Add the water to the henna mixture and stir until smooth and about the consistency of brownie/cake batter.  If it is too thick add more water.

Cover the henna mix allow to sit for several hours or overnight.  The longer you allow the henna to sit the more prominent the dye.  Then apply henna to dry hair in shingle technique avoiding the scalp.  Cover your hair with plastic cap or saran wrap and allow to sit for at least one hour.

Rinse your hair thoroughly.  The henna will be dry and caked like mud so it will take at least 10 minutes of rinsing.  You can also run water in the tub and simply let your hair soak while you gently massage it.  Once the water runs clear through your hair, follow up with a conditioner and rinse again.  Lastly shampoo and conditioner as normal.

As with any recipe you can cater it to your liking.  The henna color will gradually fade in 4-6 weeks.  You can repeat this process every 4 weeks.  You can either discard or freeze leftover henna for future use.  Go here for henna gloss recipe.

Henna Tutorials from YouTube:

The Truth About Henna Part 1: What is Henna?

I’m often asked a variety of questions about henna, henna treatments, where to find it, etc.

I have decided to break down this down into 5 parts:

  1. What is henna?
  2. Henna traditional method
  3. Henna gloss
  4. What is Cassia?
  5. What is Indigo?

Jamila HennaHenna, Lawsonia Inermis, is a small bush or shrub grown in Africa, Asia and Australia.  Henna leaves contains a natural dye that stains red/orange called lawson, this dye is stonger in younger leaves and decreases as the leaves age. The leaves of this plant are cultivated and crushed to form a fine green powder.

Henna has been used for ages as a natural dye for hair, skin, clothing, and textiles.  As a dye the lawson molecules bond with the proteins in your hair staining the outerlayer but not permanently.  More than just a hair dye henna also conditions and strengthens the hair.  It is safe to use on natural, relaxed and or color/treated hair because it does not contain traditional chemicals used to bleach or color hair.

Henna only comes truly in one color.  It is green to brown and stains orange to red.  Anything other than that means it is not true henna and it has additives.  These addition of additives is not necessarily a bad thing, often time teas and other herbs are added for conditioning or coloring benefit.  However you do need to beware of heavy metals that are sometimes added to help dye the hair.  Check the ingredients before use.

As henna is sold for many different things you want to but one specific for hair use or body art quality.  Popular henna brands include: Jamila, Earth, LUSH, Surya, and Rainbow.  You can find henna at a natural food store like Whole Foods or Rainbow Blossom, an Indian or Asian grocery or online at, or

While henna is safe and relatively easy to use make no mistake that it is a DYE!  It can an will impart a orange or red tint to everything it touches.  If considering using henna you will want to use non-reactive bowl and utensils for mixing, protect your floors and counter space with newspaper, wear and old t-shirt or something you don’t mind staining and WEAR GLOVES!

So why use henna?  Well apart from giving your hair a cool red tint it is said that it can strengthen, thicken, loosen curl pattern, define curls, soften and add shine to the hair.  Obviously it cannot be everything but those who use it has experienced one of the results.  It all depends on your hair and the method used.

For more information on henna check out the following: