Dying your hair is a great way to give your look a much-needed refresh or a complete makeover. But is it environmentally friendly?
Traditional hair dyes typically contain harsh chemicals that are toxic to the environment and their harmful effects can add up quickly. Consider this: Millions of people dye their hair multiple times a year and all that dye ends up washed down the drain. Water treatment plants aren’t typically equipped to handle the hazardous chemicals in hair dye, so the dye makes its way into waterways where it can damage water quality and poison aquatic organisms, leading to a slew of environmental problems.
There are several natural hair dyes that use sustainable ingredients that, when washed down the drain, aren’t environmentally harmful. You may even have the ingredients to make these natural dyes in your pantry already. If you’re in the mood for a makeover, skip the boxed dye or the salon and reach for these eco-friendly natural dye options to protect the planet.
To give your hair a reddish-orange tint, dye it with natural carrot juice. Orange carrots are full of a nutrient called beta carotene, which gives them their signature vibrant orange color.
You can transfer some of that color to your hair by mixing carrot juice with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, and applying it all over your head to cover your hair completely. Wrap your hair in plastic and let it sit for an hour or more.
To help retain the color, rinse or spray your hair with apple cider vinegar after you remove the plastic. Repeat this process as needed for a more vivid color.
Carrot juice works best to dye light blonde hair and likely won’t work with darker hues. While carrot juice isn’t a strong enough dye to color your hair permanently, it can give it a nice temporary tint.
Purchase your carrot juice pre-bottled at your local health food store or, if you have a juicer, you can make your own. If you have a blender but not a juicer, you can blend carrots with water and then strain the liquid to get rid of any unblended carrot chunks.
Coffee is a very temporary natural hair dye—it will likely wash out the next time you take a shower. But if you’re in a pinch and want to cover up a few grays before a photoshoot, coffee is an excellent eco-friendly option. Keep in mind, however, that if you have dark hair to begin with, you might not see a huge difference.
To dye your hair with coffee, you’ll essentially apply a coffee concentrate to your hair and let it sit. First, brew a strong cup of dark-roast coffee. If you’re going for a very dark look, you can mix extra coffee grounds in at this point. Allow the mixture to cool, then apply it liberally to your clean, damp hair and leave it on for an hour or two. Repeat the process to compound the color.
Henna is a natural red dye extracted from the plant Lawsonia alba. People have used it to dye hair and apply temporary body art for centuries. Henna is a relatively long-lasting natural dye, giving hair a reddish-brown hue for four to six weeks.
You can usually find henna in powder form at your local Indian or Middle Eastern grocery store, or you can purchase it online. Make the dye by mixing about one-half cup of henna with one-fourth cup of water to form a paste. To allow the color to strengthen, you can cover the mixture and let it sit for up to 12 hours.
Then, apply the paste to clean, non-conditioned, damp hair and cover it with plastic wrap or a shower cap. Let it sit for at least two hours, then wash it out.
To ensure you color your hair evenly, you can separate your hair into segments and dye each one separately.
Not only is black tea a tasty beverage with a number of health benefits, but it’s also an effective plant-based dye. Black tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. Growers allow the plants’ leaves to fully oxidize before they process and dry them, which allows the tea leaves to develop a nice dark brown color.
Black tea is a very temporary hair dye that can slightly darken your natural hair color. Make the dye by mixing one cup of water with one tablespoon of ground black tea leaves. Let the mixture boil until it has reduced by a third—usually about 15 minutes.
To apply, allow the mixture cool, pour it on your hair, and rub it in so all of your hair is coated evenly. Let it sit on your hair for about two hours, remove the wrap, and rinse your hair.
You’ll be left with temporarily darkened locks. Keep in mind that the new color will likely fade away the next time you wash your hair.
If you’ve ever cooked beets, you know just how messy they can be. Their bright red juice stains everything—from fingers and clothes to dishes and countertops. While the staining power of beet juice can be a nuisance in the kitchen, it makes for a great all-natural dye.
Unlike carrot juice, which will dye your hair a light reddish-orange, beet juice will tint your hair with a deep red color with cool undertones. To make the beet juice adhere to your hair, mix it with a carrier oil (coconut oil or olive oil will work) and apply it liberally to your hair. Cover your hair with plastic wrap and allow it to set for at least an hour. Then, rinse it out.
It won’t be a dramatic or vibrant red color, but it will give your hair a beautiful deep red tinge. Beet juice hair dye should fully rinse out after a handful of washes.
Another excellent and eco-friendly way to darken your hair temporarily is to use walnut shells. Black walnuts are common in North America. Their hulls are full of tannin, juglone, and other pigments that give them a rich brown color with lots of staining power.
Use hulls from black walnuts to make a powder or purchase the pre-made powder online or at your local herb or natural foods shop.
Make the dye by first bringing three cups of water to a boil in a pot. Remove it from the heat and add 4-5 tablespoons of black walnut powder and allow it to steep overnight. The following day, massage the brew into your hair and leave it on for at least an hour before rinsing it out. Feel free to repeat this process as needed to achieve a deep brown hair color.
If you’re looking to lighten your hair naturally, consider using chamomile, one of the most ancient medicinal herbs known to mankind. When the flowers are steeped in hot water, the resulting tea is a light yellow color.
To use chamomile to dye your hair, steep one-half cup of chamomile flowers in boiling water and then allow it to sit and cool for about 30 minutes. Strain the flowers out and pour the cooled tea onto your clean, damp hair a handful of times. After 20 minutes, rinse it out.
To maintain your hair’s new stunning golden color, repeat this process once a week.
Sage has natural pigments that darken hair. Those with dark brown or black hair can use it to revive their hair color and slightly darken or deepen it further. Sage dye can also help to cover up any unwanted gray hairs.
Make sage hair dye by steeping about one cup of dried sage in a quart of boiling water for half an hour or longer if you want it to be darker. Allow the water to cool, strain it to remove the sage, and pour it over your clean, damp hair.
After 15 minutes, wash the sage out and admire your deep, dark new hair. You can add vinegar to help it adhere better to your hair. Expect sage dye to last for two to four washes.
Lemon juice is a great tool to use to lighten your hair. It slowly strips your hair of its pigment, especially when exposed to sunlight. If you want all-natural highlights, lemon juice can do the trick. But be warned—it’s permanent. You’ll have to cut your hair or grow it out to completely get rid of it.
The best way to dye your hair using lemon juice is to pour it into a spray bottle and spray the juice onto your hair. To make the juice smell even nicer, you can add an herb like rosemary. Make sure your hair is evenly coated by running a comb through it to distribute the lemon juice. Sit outside in the sun for maximum hair lightening and wash it out after about an hour.
Lemon juice can have a phototoxic reaction on the skin when it interacts with ultraviolet light, causing a lesion that may look like a rash or severe burn. When applying to your hair, be sure to avoid all contact with the skin, including your scalp.