Whether you’re trying to cover up grays or just looking for a change, coloring your hair can make you feel like a brand new you. But it’s hard to be stoked after reading the long list of suspicious ingredients in synthetic hair dye. According to the National Cancer Institute, there are more than 5,000 different chemicals used in hair dye products, many of which are known carcinogens (though cancer has yet to be directly linked to hair dye in studies). Luckily, there are plenty of completely natural, nontoxic ways to update your look. Click through the slideshow to see some of your options.
Honey naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, a natural bleaching agent, and cinnamon has the ability to turn hair golden. (You can also try this concoction if you want reddish highlights in your brown or black hair.) Most recipes call for equal parts cinnamon and honey, plus another part of either conditioner or olive oil. Mix it all together, massage into your hair, and let it sit for about an hour before rinsing. As with other natural hair dyes, you may need to do it several times to get the results you want. You can learn more about the process at A Little Loopy, But I’m Hooked.
Black walnut hulls stain just about everything they come in contact with, so they’ll give you a more permanent dye job than most other natural ingredients. Start by crushing walnuts (or you can buy black walnut hull powder), and boil the hulls in a pot of water for at least 30 minutes to make a super-dark walnut tea. After it cools, let your hair soak in the dye for up to 20 minutes, depending on the shade you’re going for. Be sure not to rub it into your scalp too much (you can coat your hairline with coconut oil to protect against accidental staining). Check out this how-to by Alex at the Almost Exactly blog for more instructions.
Chamomile tea is your go-to ingredient for achieving golden highlights. You can brew the tea and then rinse your hair with it after a homemade shampoo. You should pour the tea over your hair several times (catching it in a bowl or basin so you can reuse it), and then let it soak into your hair for at least an hour before rinsing with clean water. For an easier, more gradual method, you can also try making your own chamomile deep conditioner the way DIY blogger Rebecca Kelsey Sampson does with moisturizing ingredients like honey and olive oil. She says you’ll start to see results in about three weeks if you use it several times each week.
Henna will give you shades ranging from strawberry blonde to dark auburn, depending on your natural hair color and how many times you apply it. You can easily buy henna powder (which comes from the henna plant) online. The color will last for a couple of months before you need to reapply, similar to most commercial hair dyes. Mix your henna powder with water several hours in advance to let the dye activate. After that, the process is similar to how you would use drugstore dye—apply to hair using rubber gloves, cover with a shower cap, let it sit, and rinse. For all the specifics, including what shade you can expect your hair to turn, check out this in-depth tutorial by blogger Allyson Kramer.
Going from blonde to dark brown is a big jump, and when going the natural route you’ve got to be patient. Adding indigo powder to henna will dye your hair super-dark, but according to The Paleo Babe blog, the best thing to do is transition through shades of red over several days if you have blonde hair and don’t want it to turn out greenish. The more often you do it, the darker your hair will be.
An herbal rinse using sage may be what you’re looking for (but only if your hair is naturally dark). It won’t give you 100 percent coverage, but it will blend the grays in to lessen the stark contrast between dark brown and silver. Sage has been used for centuries to darken hair, and Amanda at Vintage Amanda adds black tea to her rinse recipe for some extra oomph. To use, simply pour the rinse through your hair after a normal shampoo, and let it soak for a few minutes before rinsing out. Your hair will darken gradually over time, which means you need to keep using it regularly.