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Discover The Best At Home Hair Colour With Garnier

What does ammonia do in hair dye and is it bad for hair? Let Garnier explain what ammonia does and why their ammonia-free hair colour is a better option.

Interested in knowing what your favourite shade will look like on you? Don’t forget to use our Virtual Try-On feature to see what shade best suits you. Find out more on our Virtual Try-On homepage at the end of this article, or by clicking on one of our products with the 'Try It On' icon.

Say ‘No’ To Ammonia

It’s not difficult to say ‘no’ to something that is not particularly pleasant; it’s not like we’re saying no to chocolate or soap operas - we’re simply encouraging you to make a choice. Colour your hair with ammonia-free products, or don’t; the choice is yours. But, let’s give you the low-down on ammonia and why non-ammonia-based hair colours are the best at home hair colour (so you can make an informed decision).

What is ammonia?

Good question; it’s a powerful chemical - very powerful and not something to take lightly. For many, many years ammonia has been included, as a matter of course, in hair dyes.

Why is that?

Because ammonia changes your hair’s Ph levels (it’s levels of acidity). You remember those litmus tests you used to do at school in the chemistry lab? The ones where you would dip a piece of litmus paper in a liquid and see whether it goes red or pink? Well, that was all about establishing whether a substance was acidic or alkaline. Human hair is naturally acidic and scientists working in the beauty industry long ago discovered that an alkaline chemical would open up the hair cuticle to allow dye to be absorbed, causing the colour of hair to change. Ammonia, a well-known and commonly available alkaline solution seemed like the obvious choice at the time; it was relatively cheap, and it worked.

But what about now?

Well, let’s just say we – the beauty industry – have learned a lot over the years about ammonia-free hair colour. For example, scientists now realise that changing the molecular structure of the cuticle using ammonia is almost impossible to reverse. Repeated use of ammonia-based colour can result in permanent damage to your hair’s cuticles over time, causing it to lose moisture and become both brittle and dry (and no one wants that).

But with ammonia-free hair colour, how is colour absorbed?

Good question; it’s true that getting a dye to take to your hair can be difficult without an alkaline ‘agent’ to help. But not if you know how. Garnier’s chemists have spent years in the lab perfecting ammonia-free hair colour, such as the Garnier Olia range, which use natural oils to secrete colour deep into the shaft of the hair. It’s clever stuff because those natural oils are far more hair-friendly (and everyone knows that happier hair looks and feels a lot smoother and silkier than ammonia-damaged hair).

How bad is ammonia for your hair?

Well, here are four less than ideal effects ammonia can have on your hair:

  1. Once damaged, always damaged. Yes, we just discussed this, but it’s worth repeating. The damage is irreversible, and your hair might not ever feel as good again.

  2. Ammonia can be irritating. Have you ever coloured your hair and found you can’t stop scratching your scalp afterwards? That’s probably because you’ve used a dye with ammonia, which is irritating your skin. It’s quite common to have a mild reaction. For some people, ammonia can sting the eyes or even cause breathing problems and while horror stories of dramatic allergic reactions are rare, why take the risk? Choose no-ammonia.

  3. You’ll need more colour because ammonia forces your cuticles to open and makes them stay that way. So, the moisture and protein loss from your hair is accompanied by colour loss too. Basically, permanent hair colour containing ammonia typically contains large amounts of pigment to offset what will be lost. This, however, doesn't resolve the moisture loss and long-term effects. Home hair colourants that contain ammonia often skimp on ingredients that protect your hair's new colour and health, whereas with oil-based hair dyes such as Garnier Olia, not only is the loss of colour reduced, but natural nut and fruit oils nourish the hair, giving it a healthier shine.

  4. Ammonia may be harmful to your health. The debate on whether ammonia is harmful is not one we can conduct in a few words. There are those who say pregnant women should avoid ammonia-based hair dyes. But that does not mean you should simply assume it's fine. If in doubt, consult your doctor, do a skin test or, far more sensible perhaps, simply pick a home hair dye without ammonia. It’s not hard; look for the words on the pack: No ammonia.

  5. Don’t hair salons use ammonia-based dyes?

    It’s true that salons have used ammonia for years, but many professional colourists now appreciate the benefits of ammonia-free products – for themselves and their clients – so always ask first.

    Should I avoid ammonia?

    Let’s be clear. All hair dye, to some extent, can weaken your hair. The more you use hair dye, the more you risk changing the way it looks, feels and behaves. Choosing the best ‘at home’ hair colour comes down to how concerned you are about the effects of ammonia on hair or how strong the colour is. What we can promise you is that the Garnier Olia range is completely ammonia-free and is designed with nourishing oils that create a glossy, long-lasting colour, even over greys. Garnier Olia has a broad colour range, whether you want to go a stunning brown hair colour like our deep brown hair dye, a more bright and bold red shade like our intense red or even a light blonde hair colour. Plus, for those wanting to go extra light blonde we have a maximum bleach shade with no ammonia that is 60% oil powered. If you’re still worried about your coloured hair lacking shine, try our Garnier Olia everyday Super Shine After Colour Hair Oil. After all, it’s your hair and your choice.