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Is organic hair colouring possible?

Updated: Aug 28, 2021

We all know that everything organic is on fashion… and that it will stay. Beyond being the latest trend, eating organic and using organic products is healthier for you, for the professional servicing you, and for the planet.

But there are a lot of questions associated with organic hair colouring:

· are organic colours and products completely natural?

· are “organic” and “natural” the same?

· so they don’t have any chemicals at all?

We will try to address all these questions, and more, in this blog post. Grab a cuppa and let’s dive on this interesting topic together!

What is “natural” and “organic”?

There is no consensus about this, as it is almost a philosophical question very difficult to solve.

The terms 'natural' (nor 'organic') are not specifically regulated under the EU or the UK Cosmetic Products Regulations, which controls the safety of cosmetic products. Oh, no! What then?

The ISO Standard 16128 provides guidance on the definition of 'natural' and 'organic', and how to calculate the % of "naturalness" of ingredients in finished cosmetic products. However, there is no legal requirement to comply with the ISO guidelines, it is a company decision. So, let’s move on for now.

Other bodies that have definitions are Soil Association (UK), BDIH (Germany), COSMEBIO and ECOCERT (France), ICEA (Italy)… These bodies worked together to develop COSMOS, a natural and organic certification for manufacturers and producers: they define the criteria that companies must meet to ensure consumers that their products are genuine organic or natural cosmetics produced to the highest feasible sustainability practices. So let’s use some of the definitions they proposed:

  • “Natural origin”: water, minerals and ingredients of mineral origin, physically processed agro-ingredients, chemically processed agro-ingredients (and parts thereof) derived wholly from the above. The following are not of natural origin: petrochemical moieties, preservatives and denaturing agents from petrochemical origin.

  • “Organic content”: that part of an ingredient (or product) coming from an organic production system where the ingredient is certified in accordance with Regulation No. (EC) 834/2007 or an equivalent national or international standard or this Standard by a duly constituted certification body or authority.

In conclusion:

  • Only certain products are considered natural, and this depends on their origin.

  • For something to be organic, it needs to have been produced following certain standards. So something can be natural but not organic.

Then, as opposed to that… what is a “chemical”?

A component can be natural, organic AND a chemical! Nature is full of chemicals, plants are full of chemicals. For instance, essential oils are full of potent chemicals that give these oils their powerful properties. Even natural chemicals can be harmful: that is why some essential oils are contraindicated for pregnant women.

There are other chemicals that are not naturally-derived (so synthetic, made in a lab), or naturally-derived, but in such a big quantity in a product that is not considered natural anymore.

Therefore, what we want to avoid are HARMFUL chemicals.

These are commonly called “contaminants” or “pollutants”. Let’s see the definition by COSMOS:

  • “Contaminant”: a substance that is:

  • not naturally present in the material, or

  • present in quantities greater than those that exist naturally which could lead to pollution (persistence, residues) and toxicity risks.

  • Contaminants may be: heavy metals, aromatic hydrocarbons, pesticides, dioxins & PCBs, radioactivity, GMOs, mycotoxins, medicinal residues, nitrates, nitrosamines.

We really hope that we have not lost you already. It took some time for us to understand all this as well. We needed to read it several times, believe me.

Now, as a salon, there are other factors that are important for us:

  • Biodegradability: is the capacity of a substance for degradation by living organisms, down to the base substances such as water, carbon dioxide, etc. Therefore, if a substance is biodegradable, usually it is not considered a pollutant for the environment. This is why plastic is such a big problem: it is not biodegradable (although there are researchers working on it!).

  • Toxicity for aquatic life: is defined as the study of the effects of a substance to aquatic species, which is usually determined on organisms representing different levels in the food chain: vertebrates (fish), invertebrates (crustaceans as Daphnia) and plants (algae). There is acute toxicity, long term toxicity, etc. As you know, hair products are rinsed and go down the sink and end up in rivers and the sea, that is why these studies are important,

​After all these facts… does 100% organic hair colour even exist?

Actually, yes, and all of us have heard about it. We are going to talk about the different options that are in the market and in our salon RIGHT NOW. As you can imagine, this is in constant development.

100% natural, organic (or not), biodegradable and non-toxic hair colour

To our knowledge: only herbs like henna, indigo, walnut hull, …