Avoid Toxic Hair Dyes With These Natural Substitutes

Brittany Kline
By: Senior LetsTalkBeauty Editor  |  Brittany Kline

Is there anything better and more freeing than getting a new hair color? There’s nothing quite like trying out a new hue for your tresses when you’re moving on from a relationship, making a fresh start in your career, trying to cover up some grays, or simply looking to reinvent your look.

But do you know what hair dye is doing to your hair? Hair dye contains tons of toxic chemicals and harsh ingredients that are bad for our hair, skin and overall health. It’s the not-so-pretty little secret that you need to know about if you’re a hair dye addict.

In this article:

  1. Don’t panic
  2. Natural Ways to Dye Your Hair Lighter
  3. Natural Ways to Dye Your Hair Red
  4. Natural Ways to Dye Your Hair Darker
  5. Natural Ways to Dye Your Hair Rainbow Colors
  6. Have Fun Dyeing Your Hair Without Worrying About Toxic Ingredients

How toxic is hair dye for you? The American Cancer Society has warned that both permanent and semi-permanent hair dyes are capable of penetrating the hair shaft and potentially increasing the risk of cancer. The risks of leukemia, bladder cancer, and blood cancers are singled out by the American Cancer Society. It turns out that some of the ingredients used in hair dye may cause DNA mutations that potentially increase cancer risks. 

Don’t panic

It turns out you don’t necessarily have to give up coloring your hair. There are some pretty easy and inexpensive natural alternatives to toxic hair dye. You can actually take items found in gardens and grocery stores and use them to bring the vivid colors of nature to your hair. You can go lighter, darker, or bolder without using artificial ingredients. Sit back, take a look at these hair dye alternatives and discover why Mother Nature is the best hairdresser!

Natural Ways to Dye Your Hair Lighter

Here are some things you may currently have in your kitchen to help lighten hair naturally.


Lemon juice is a go-to option if you’d like to subtly lighten your hair. Natural lemon juice can strip the pigment from your hair over time. That’s why so many people use it to get that golden, sun-kissed look. You can get amazing highlights by putting some lemon juice in a spray bottle and applying it to your hair. Sitting out in the sun for at least an hour will help to maximize the impact of the lemon juice. Just wash your hair when you’re done. Of course, you should be aware of the fact that the lightening results you’ll see when you use lemon juice will be permanent.

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile flowers steeped in boiling water can help to create a mixture that will naturally lighten your hair. This method is especially effective if you already have blonde or light hair. You will want to strain the flowers out and let the tea cool before pouring it over your freshly washed and damp hair. Keep it in for about 20 minutes before washing it out. Most people who use this method do it at least once a week to maintain results.

Natural Ways to Dye Your Hair Red

If you’re looking for a redder hair color without harmful dyes, try these alternatives.

Carrot Juice

Carrot juice can actually create some gorgeous reddish-orange highlights in your hair. The tint you create can easily last for a few weeks. You’ll need to mix natural carrot juice with a carrier like olive oil or coconut oil when applying it to your hair. You should let the mix sit in your hair for at least an hour before rinsing with apple cider vinegar.

Beet Juice

Have you ever noticed how beets seem to leave a red residue on everything when you’re preparing them? This can really work to your advantage if you’re looking for a natural way to become a redhead! Mix natural beet juice with a carrier oil, apply it to your head and let the mixture set for about an hour before washing the beet juice out.

Natural red hair coloring instead of toxic hair dye
Pro Tip: Both carrot juice and beet juice can create a red tint in your hair. However, beet juice offers a much deeper red tone.

Natural Ways to Dye Your Hair Darker

For darker hair, try these hair dye alternatives.


A cup of strong coffee isn’t just good for waking you up in the morning. It can also help to wake up your look! Going a shade darker is as easy as brewing a strong cup of coffee and letting it cool. You’ll then want to mix about half a cup of coffee with two tablespoons of grounds and a cup of your favorite brand of leave-in conditioner. Let the mixture sit in your hair for about an hour before washing it out.


Sage has become a go-to tool for people looking to cover up gray hairs naturally. Steep a cup of dried sage in boiling water for at least 30 to 40 minutes. Remember that steeping the sage for longer means you’ll get an even darker tint. Let the tea cool and strain out the actual sage. You will then want to pour the cooled sage water over your freshly washed and damp hair. Let the sage soak in for at least 20 minutes before rinsing it out.

Natural Ways to Dye Your Hair Rainbow Colors

For something out of the ordinary, you can still use alternatives instead of harsh chemicals.


Kool-Aid isn’t exactly natural. However, it’s pretty harmless when applied as hair dye. This is a great option if you like bold, funky colors. Keep in mind that Kool-Aid does wash out pretty easily. However, it can be fun for a party, photo shoot, or special occasion. Many people use Kool-Aid as hair dye when they’re exclusively dyeing their tips.

Have Fun Dyeing Your Hair Without Worrying About Toxic Hair Dye Ingredients

You can have fun exploring natural ways to dye your hair whether you’re concerned about the side effects of dye or you simply want to save money. Don’t forget to take measures to prolong your natural dye jobs by avoiding blow dryers, curling irons, and straightening irons if possible. Taking cooler showers can also help to keep color in longer.

Feeling inspired to try out some more all-natural beauty trends? Read more of our articles for tips on natural beauty!

Brittany Kline
Senior LetsTalkBeauty Editor
We sent Brittany to venture across the world in search of discovering basically the world's best products and then bringing those back to you. She has documented all her research so you can receive the most vital information and latest innovations in beauty.

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