Color Me Natural: The Rise and Rise of Natural Hair Dyes

By Phillip D. Johnson/Features Editor
Photos by Cheryl Gorski
NaturTint Images provided by Sandy Frinton, Blass Communications
Women go to the hair and nail salon because they want to be made beautiful. You have a very important job interview and everything has to be perfect. It has been a rough week and you thought a “mani and a pedi” at your favorite nail salon would be just the ticket to get you back into a positive mood. So you got your hair dyed and cut and it was beautiful. Your mani and pedi soothed your soul. But all that sometimes come with a nasty undertone. The hair and nail salon industry -across the spectrum from the high-end salon on Park Avenue to the Korean nail salon on Avenue A– provides many opportunities – especially to those who arrive in the U.S. with limited capital, language and education – to move up the socio-economic ladder and to become self-employed. But little do they know, just by going to work every day, these professionals put their lives -and the lives of their clients– in danger.
A mostly self-regulated cottage industry, these salons are a toxic chemical breeding ground in pretty packaging. Decades of experience with hundreds of thousands of salon workers makes clear that if you work in a hair and nail salon, it’s likely you have been exposed to a host of toxic substances on a daily basis. 
Fashion-Blue-Bflo-NY-1.png(Hence the justified uproar over hair salon workers working under extreme toxic conditions breathing in formaldehyde while perfectng Brazilian Hair Smoothers, which can irritate the eyes and nose, cause allergic reactions of the skin, eyes and lungs, and is a cancer hazard.)


Ultimately, while more and more consumers are growing increasingly watchfulness as to what goes in their bodies, they have also started to pay close attention to what goes on their bodies. We already realize that chemicals in cosmetics such as skin creams can break through the skin barrier, but what about the chemicals in hair coloring?


Once again, Europe was well ahead of the U.S. in its members’ responses to potentially dangerous chemicals in cosmetics and body care products. Late December 2009, a ban on 22 hair dye substances issued by the European Commission, a body that drafts legislation for the European Union, took effect. These substances had been linked to bladder cancer in a 2001University of Southern California study. Commented European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, who was responsible for enterprise and industry policy, “Substances for which there is no proof that they are safe will disappear from the market. Our high safety standards do not only protect EU consumers, they also give legal certainty to the European cosmetics industry.” The United States, however at the time, had not required manufacturers to file data on ingredients or report cosmetic-related injuries.


This ban was the first concrete step taken by the EU as the result of a 2003 agreement to establish a positive list of hair dye substances which are considered safe for human health. The agreement called for the Commission to ban all permanent and non-permanent hair dyes for which industry has not submitted any safety files and those for which the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) has given a negative opinion.


In a public consultation the Commission had asked cosmetics producers to provide safety files for their substances, based on scientific expertise, which proved that a substance did not pose a health risk for consumers. Though the industry submitted 115 files on hair dye substances for e
valuation by the scientific committee, such safety files for the 22 banned hair dye ingredients were not submitted. The committee also recommended an overall safety assessment strategy for hair dyes, in addition to testing the ingredients for their potential genotoxicity or mutagenicity. The banned substances include6-Methoxy-2,3-Pyridinediamine and its HCl salt, 2,3-Naphthalenediol, 2,4-Diaminodiphenylamine, 2,6-Bis(2-Hydroxyethoxy)-3,5-Pyridinediamine, 2-Methoxymethyl-p-Aminophenol, 4,5-Diamino-1-Methylpyrazole and its HCl salt, 4,5-Diamino-1-((4-Chlorophenyl)Methyl)-1H-Pyrazole Sulfate, 4-Chloro-2-Aminophenol, 4-Hydroxyindole, 5-Amino-4-Fluoro-2-Methylphenol Sulfate, and N-Cyclopentyl-m-Aminophenol.


The 2001 USC study was not a clinical cancer trial per se but it did identify the highest risk groups for susceptibility for bladder cancer due to hair dyes. These include women who have used permanent dyes once a month or more for a year or longer and those who have worked as hair dressers or barbers for ten years or more. If the dyes were used for 15 years or more, the risk was tripled. The darkness of the dye also increased the risk.


When the FDA learned that rats fed the coal tars used in dark hair dyes contracted cancer, they asked for warning labels to be placed on dye packages. Instead, the industry decided to substitute other chemicals for the coal tars. Researchers doubt that the petroleum-derived chemicals are any safer, however. What’s more, the National Cancer Institute had discovered a connection between hair dyes, especially dark ones, and the group of cancers that impact blood and lymph nodes, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. More studies are looking at these connections, since a connection does not in any way prove causality.


The most problematic hair dye ingredient is a family of chemicals called Arylamines. Arylamines are a known risk factor for bladder cancer and have been found to cause cancer in experimental animals. One of these is p-phenylenediamine (PPD) which is listed on the box of even non-permanent “natural” products. It is an important ingredient in hair coloring because it lasts through many washings and perming is possible with it. PPD hair dyes usually come packaged as 2 bottles, one containing the PPD dye preparation and the other containing the developer or oxidizer. PPD is a colorless substance that requires oxygen for it to become colored. It is this intermediate, partially oxidized state that may cause allergy in sensitive individuals. Fully oxidized PPD is not a sensitizer, so individuals with PPD allergy can wear wigs or fur coats dyed with PPD safely.


Another factor involves the mixing of hydrogen peroxide with ammonia. Research has found that this combination may create potentially carcinogenic chemicals that don’t normally exist in the two liquids prior to mixing them together.


A third factor is that the darker dyes are more challenging as they contain greater levels of chemicals. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) stated that skin contact with PPD should be prevented in order to avoid the allergic reactions, and indeed, the FDA has NOT approved its use for direct skin application. This is an oxymoron, though, as it is next to impossible to avoid contact with the skin when applying hair color.


While carcinogenic evidence might be unconvincing at this time, one must not overlook the dangers in allergic reactions. We tend to dismiss allergies as something we can deal with, but they can be deadly in many ways. The most common allergic reactions to hair dye chemicals are dermatitis of the eyes, ears, scalp and face, which may include a rash, extreme swelling and a severe burning sensation on the scalp. More severe reactions include cross-sensitization and in rare cases, death. Cross-sensitization means that it not only makes you sensitive to PPD but you become responsive to all of its chemical cousins. This includes most textile dyes, pen ink, gasoline, oil, food dyes, medication dyes, preservatives like Parabens, and some drugs (all caine drugs such as Benzocaine and Novacaine), Sulfonamides, sulfones, sulfa drugs, and Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA).


In response to this and the continuous bad press about hair dyes, nail polishes and skincare products and the toxins therein, many have turned to semi-permanent solutions hair dying. However, there is reason to question the safety in the substances used in these products as well. If you are among the 50% of women who color their hair, or a man who covers his gray, you might want to do more investigation into your favorite hair coloring. The safe alternatives for hair coloring can be categorized as safer and safest. The industry has taken out some of the chemicals by producing semi-permanent coloring. Still, as previously mentioned, these products usually contain p-phenylenediaminehydrogen peroxide and resorcinol. Although the amount of chemicals is of a lesser degree and may be less hazardous, there is still no evidence to say that long term use -even at those low levels–won’t result in a cancer diagnosis at some point later in your life.


There is a safer alternative that so far produces almost no health concerns. One can use vegetable-based rinses which act by coating the hair shaft with botanical extracts such asblackberryboysenberrylicorice rootchaparralnettlered sorrelblack walnut and other color pigments. These substances do not penetrate the hair shaft, plus they give the hair more shine and make it feel thicker and fuller. The coating action may also aid in protecting the hair from environmental elements such as sun, salt, chlorine and assorted pollutants. Safety tests have found that these rinses contain the least amount of synthetic chemicals of any hair dyes. The down side is that the effect is short-lived, lasting only a few weeks. And Europe‘sLaboratorios Phergal‘s Naturtint® is front and center in the movement within the industry to bring beauty without the toxic underbelly to the forefront.


NaturTint® is the first plant-based permanent hair coloring (using a three-step process) without harsh chemicals that can irritate and damage your hair. NaturTint is formulated withoutammonia, parabens, silicones, paraffin, mineral oils, heavy metals, artificial fragrances, and SLS, or formaldehyde derivatives. Its gentle formula combines the effectiveness of a permanent hair dye and offers the hair silkiness and protection gained from active plant-based ingredients. It covers gray hair completely, in just one application, and its patented formula provides maximum Care and maximum Color for healthier, more vital looking hair. It combines natural activators that nourish your hair and highly concentrated micro-pigment dyes for rich, radiant color, allowing you to color your hair with care.


NaturTint, owned by Spain’s Laboratorios Phergal, and distributed throughout the United States by International Trade Routes, the exclusive U.S. distributor, since 1999 has garnered the number-one market share position within the health food segment in the United States with such leading retailers as Whole FoodsVitamin ShoppeSunflower Farmers Market, andHenry’s/Sun Harvest, as well as online with retailers like The product line is being promoted with an entirely new marketing campaign with full-page ads scheduled to appear in major national fashion magazines as well and health and fitness magazines. The ads feature fashion models that have had their hair dyed with Naturtint®.


Since launching Naturtint® in the U.S. in 1999, the line has continued to grow in popularity with consumers who want a healthier way to color their hair and are concerned about the potential adverse health effects of harsh chemicals and ammonia found in other hair color products,” said Brenda BoicePresident and Founder of International Trade Routes. “Naturtint gives women salon-quality results and is healthier for the hair, body and environment.”


But the story started in 1984 when Laboratorios Phergal, headquartered in MadridSpain and one of Europe’s leading producers of health and beauty products. Phergal began operations with the goal of developing products that are good for people and can help improve a person’s quality of life. The company’s simple philosophy is to produce products that work without harming people or the environment.


Using advanced laboratory technologies and incorporating natural plant ingredients, Phergal created Naturtint®, the first permanent ammonia- free hair color. While other mass-marketed hair color products use private-label manufacturers to produce their products, Phergal is a privately-owned family-run business that operates its own R&D laboratories and manufacturing plants. Naturtint® hair coloring quickly became popular around the world and has earned the trust and loyalty of customers in over 30 countries.  Naturtint® is produced using strict GMP stand
ards that ensure the quality of its ingredients and rigorous manufacturing methods, as well as compliance with the latest EU environmental regulations. Naturtint® natural hair color is suitable for use by vegans, and Phergal does not do any testing on animals. All packaging is eco-friendly, recyclable and biodegradable.


Phergal is committed to continuous improvements in hair coloring and hair care, and in 2004 the company created the Phergal International Technical Center, a research, development and applications lab for the production and testing of hair care products. In addition, Phergal, in partnership with Institute EVIC FRANCE, established the Clearé Institute, the first organization dedicated to advanced hair care technology.


In the U.S., entrepreneurial businesswoman Brenda Boice established International Trade Routes in 1999 and started a search the world to find product lines that met her company’s core values of bringing customers the highest-quality natural hair coloring products available.


Miss Boice, who has expressed an interest in alternative medicine while striving to live a healthy life, had become well-versed in all aspects of the health product industry while working atHerb Pharm, a leading manufacturer of liquid herbal extracts in Oregon, before starting her own enterprise.


She had looked at other internationally-made beauty products, but they lacked the integrity and high-quality standards she demanded – and then she discovered Phergal and Naturtint®.


It was instant karma. To Miss Boice, the union between Naturtint® and herself was a natural fit.


When I saw their green boxes, I said ‘This is it. Naturtint® will be perfect for the US market.’ ” Miss Boice’s Aha moment came in her at her first meeting in Connecticut with an international sales representative who was looking for the right importer/distributor to bring the new line beyond its Spanish borders.

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Since then, International Trade Routes became the first distributor – and remains the exclusive distributor – in the U.S. to carry the line that has become the leading brand of permanent hair color without ammonia, parabens or resorcinol, used by millions of women worldwide. From its humble start as a home-based operation, Boice moved ITR’s warehouse and offices into a rural Agway building that she renovated and wired hands-on. Boice truly has grown the business from the ground up. In October 2011, ITR transitioned into a new 24,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center, centrally located and positioned to ship anywhere in the country, and the company plans to continue to expand the Naturtint® line.


Many consumers associate the horrid smell of ammonia when they go to the salon as being necessary to get the results they want, so they endure it, even if they worried about the health effects of the chemicals on their scalp,” Boice says. “Naturtint® gives women salon-quality results, and it’s healthier for the hair, body and environment.”


Available in 29 mixable shades, Naturtint® provides deep, vibrant, long-lasting color and can cover gray in one application. Naturtint®’s plant-based permanent hair color works by using a three-step process that first naturally opens the external cuticle layer of the hair, then penetrates the deepest layers of the hair shaft with its new color, and finally returns the cuticle to its original position, trapping the colorants inside the hair to ensure the new color won’t fade away. Naturtint® both deposits color, adding to the hair’s original shade, and extracts color, lightening hair up to two shades at a time.


Is Natural Hair Color Dyes Safe? To date, not much is known about the long-term safety of any type of natural hair-color product. But before using any type of hair dye, the FDA recommends doing a patch test. A patch test involves rubbing a small amount of the dye on the inside of your elbow or behind your ear, then leaving it there for two days. If you experience any adverse reactions (such as a rash), then don’t use the product on your hair.


Should You Use Natural Hair Color? In a 2008 report, the Working Group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that the link between personal use of hair dyes and increased cancer risk is not strong enough to cause major concern. Still, choosing a natural hair-color product may be the best option for individuals looking to lower their exposure to potentially toxic chemicals.


For the exclusive Fashion Maniac photo-shoot, Yasmein Abbulla, our hairstylist, used a combination of NaturTint 4M mahogany chestnut, 4I iridescent chestnut and 4N natural chestnutdyes on model, Lizet; and a combination of NaturTint 4N Natural Chestnut & 5N Light Chestnut Brown on model, Savannah Saia. Miss Abbulla chose to combine colors much because, for the most part, they were in the same color family and it achieved, in her own words, “a far better result than I expected”. She found the NaturTint dyes “was easy to mix and use. I liked that there wasn’t a stron
g chemical scent. I liked the thick consistency of the colorant, which made it easier to use. It was the least bit sloppy; the steps are easy to follow and convenient and the resulting rich tone and soft texture of the hair was quite impressive
.” Would she recommend the brand to her clients? “Absolutely. I am looking forward to trying it out on myself. It’s a good product.”


How to Apply Naturtint Hair Color

• Put on the single-use gloves (E).

• Put Naturtint® colorant (A) into the color developer application bottle (B). During warm weather, it is recommended that you mix the treatment in a plastic glass or bowl. Never mix in a metal container.

• Shake the bottle for 2 minutes until the mixture is well blended.

• Unscrew the tip of the lid (if using the color developer application bottle) and IMMEDIATELY apply the entire mixture. Do not keep the bottle closed, in any case.

• If you wish to dye your roots first, apply the mixture onto the roots and leave it on for 20 minutes. Then apply to the rest of the hair and wait another 10 minutes. In such cases, always mix in a bowl, never in the color developer application bottle.


CAUTION: Handle the bottle carefully. Do not press or squeeze the bottle unless the tip has been removed. Aim the bottle away from the face when opening and during use. Avoid contact with the eyes; this could cause blindness. Never leave the tip on after mixing the product, because the container may burst. Immediately use the product, and do not save any unused mixture.


• Cover shoulders with a towel to protect clothing from stains or wear an old T-shirt.

• Starting from the roots, evenly apply the mixture to unwashed, dry hair. Massage or comb colorant through the hair, applying the remainder of the product to the ends.


Development time

 a. On previously uncolored hair: Evenly distribute the mixture through the hair and wait 30 minutes. To achieve more intense color or to cover stubborn grays, extend the development time for a total of up to 40 minutes.

b. On colored hair, or for root touch-up: Apply the mixture to the roots and leave it on for 20 minutes. Then apply color to the rest of the hair and leave it on for another 10 minutes. Total application time: 30 minutes. To cover stubborn grays, extend the development time for a total of up to 40 minutes.


• Discard any unused mixture.

Step 1. Gently massage while rinsing the hair with warm water until the water runs clean and clear.

Step 2. Work Naturtint® shampoo (C) into a lather, work through your hair, and rinse with plenty of water, for superb condition and shine.

Step 3. Apply Nutrideep® multiplier (D) on damp hair, beginning at the roots and working through to the ends. Leave it on for 2 minutes and rinse with warm water (Step 4), then dry and style (Step 5). This completes your Naturtint® coloring process!

• Save some Nutrideep® multiplier to use 2 weeks after the coloring process for color maintenance and hair protection.


Coloring gray hair can be a challenge. It looks different and feels different from the rest of your hair, and it doesn’t respond to most hair coloring and hair processing products the same way that non-gray hair does. Here are a few helpful tips for covering gray hair with Naturtint® hair coloring. If you are looking to cover your gray hair with a fashion tone (such as a mahogany or copper) and the percentage of gray hair is high, you can mix the fashion tone with a natural (1N to 10N) tone of the same number.


To cover gray hair — even 100% gray — with Naturtint,  mix equal amounts of each color and their respective color developers. If you have less gray hair, reduce the level of natural tone used accordingly. A color test will help you decide by how much. For more hair color ideas to cover gray hair, see our color chart with all 29 mixable shades of Naturtint® hair color.



Hair colorants -natural or not– can cause severe allergic reactions. NaturTint is not intended for use on persons under the age of 16. Temporary “black henna” tattoos may increase your risk of allergy. The proportion for mixing colorant and color developer must always be 1:1. IMPORTANT: Contains phenylenediamines and hydrogen peroxide.



You have a rash on your face or sensitive, irritated and damaged scalp.

You have ever experienced any adverse reaction after coloring your hair.

You have experienced a reaction to a temporary “black henna” tattoo in the past.


SPECIFIC CAUTIONS: If stinging, a rash or burning sensation occurs on the scalp, rinse immediately and discontinue use. If you experience difficulty breathing, tightness of chest and/or hives or swelling on any part of your body, discontinue use and seek medical assistance immediately. Before coloring again, consult a doctor. In rare cases the use of hair colorants has been associated with skin depigmentation (skin whitening or loss of color). This may be temporary or permanent. If you notice any skin depigmentation or allergic reaction such as pain or severe itching, discontinue use immediately.


If you have a tattoo, the risks of an allergic reaction may be increased. Follow the instructions for use when applying this product. When it comes to cosmetics and safety, the consumer must keep in mind that there is no U.S. governmental agency regulating products in this category. The FDA can only make recommendations about unsafe chemicals; it is up to the cosmetic companies themselves to do the research into an ingredient’s safety or potential dangers. Consumers can draw their own conclusions, but when one looks at Europe and other countries to see what is regulated and compares this list to the list of ingredients on the packages on our drug store shelves, it is cause for concern. The discrepancy makes it hard to trust the industry. As always, it is up to you, the consumer, to do the research and to become responsible for your own health, in regard to what goes on your body in addition to what goes in it.


Make-Up For the Photo-shoot: Mallory Jay Stoos, Freelance Makeup Artist,

Spring/Summer 2012 trends are all about dewy soft skin with a pop of color.  Whether it’s your brows eyes or lips, color washes and bold statements are in.  


Mac’s Face and Body Foundation was used as a base to give the skin medium coverage and a soft glow.  In areas where more coverage was needed Mac’s Studio Sculpt foundation was pressed onto the skin with a firm flat brush.  Marrying foundation on the skin is the perfect way to keep your skin looking natural while allowing more coverage where needed.   No one needs to wear foundation from forehead to neck! 


Eyes were given a more editorial vibe with pastel yellows and oranges mixed with stippled texture.  For the soft yellow and orange washes of color, Mac’s Chromolines were used with a fluffy brush to blend out the color and meld with the skin.  To create more of an edgy/tribal look Mac’s Acrylic Paint in “Black Black” was used with a duo fiber brush and lightly tapped onto the skin.  


Lips were kept on trend by using bright corals and primary colors for a hot runway look.  Mac’s “Impassioned” lipstick was used to give the lips a bright coral pop.  For the more daring side of spring/summer trends, Mac’s Lipmix in “Marine Ultra” was applied to the lips for a bold sexy blue lip.


Mallory Jay Stoos: Make up Specializing in- Editorial, Special effects, Color Correction, Beauty, Runway, Airbrush, HD/Media

Contact info- Phone # (716)8702305


Credits: Lizet is wearing a Butterfly necklace by Betsey Johnson from Macy’s. All other vintage necklaces are from Moda in Buffalo, New York. Savannah Saia is wearing jewelry from Betsey Johnson (all available at Macy’s), with all others (Vintage Gold Enamel Flower Choker, Vintage Italian Ivory Choker, Gold & Silver Sterling Choker) from Moda in Buffalo, New York.


Photographer: Cheryl Gorski

Makeup: Mallory Jay Stoos, Freelance Makeup Artist

Hair: Yasmein Abbulla

Models: Lizet, Savannah Saia

Text: Phillip D. Johnson/Features Editor (

NaturTint Images provided by Sandy Frinton, Blass Communications,, (845) 454-3895

Jewelry provided by Macy’s and Lucy Mancuso of Moda

About the author  ⁄ queenseyes

Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Catalyst behind the Pierce-Arrow Film Arts Center. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette. Themed New Years mayhem at various locations. Next up: Porchfest... Also offers package tours of the city for groups or individuals. Contact Newell Nussbaumer |


This article is shocking. Since when is issuing an almost completely uneducated article regarding an industry as prevalent as the salon industry in Buffalo? We have a number of salons FULL of massively educated stylists and owners, who have extensive knowledge of the delicate, tricky, and artistic medium of salon color. It is not something to be taken lightly, and encouraging clients to STOP going to a salon is blantantly attempting to squash hundreds of jobs and small businesses. There is a reason stylists are REQUIRED to take over 1000 hours of education and a rigorous physical board exam to qualify their certification. Not to mention years of apprenticeship before they're allowed their own client base. I'm betting Phillip hasn't even sat in on one single class at a cosmetology school dealing with color theory, chemistry, and development.

Almost every single color line has developed 'naturally derived' alternatives to the traditional 'chemical' colors of the past. Aveda has been a frontrunner in offering plant and flower based colorlines that are effective and gentle. I could go on for DAYS about the plethora of available options.

I wont get into the horridly sexist introduction...but rest assured the assumptions about women going to the salon to "be MADE beautiful" did not go unnoticed. Women go to the salon to entrust a professional with their appearance, to instill confidence and comfort into their lifestyle, and to feel amazing. Please, next time you want an article regarding the cosmetology industry, get someone who knows more than what case study articles have told him.


Did I miss something? Is this website now a jewelry/hair dye advertiser? This started out interesting, then just moved into sales-pitch territory. Also...

"If you are among the 50% of women who color their hair, or a man who covers his gray, you might want to do more investigation into your favorite hair coloring."

Yah, 'cause guys NEVER color their hair unless it’s for gray. All those dude-bros with blond tips and the punk dudes with green mohawks were born that way. I'd also love to know where they got the statistic that 50% of women color their hair and what parameters said statistic had in its development.


So it'll turn your lips blue?

Or is this the first time a spammer managed to submit a whole article?

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