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Ammonia-Free Hair Color: Same Color, Less Damage
One of the most produced chemicals in the world, ammonia is found in fertilizers, household cleaners, and—somewhat shockingly—hair dye. Break free from ammonia with Groupon’s look at ammonia-free hair color.
When you color your hair, the dye doesn’t just cling to the outside of each strand. The reason hair color lasts through scores of shampoos and waterpark visits is because it actually penetrates beneath the cuticle, the outermost layer of hair cells that overlap like a snake’s scales. One of the most time-tested tools to get under the cuticle is ammonia. During the coloring process, ammonia makes the cuticle, which normally lies flat, swell and expand. Color then floods the newly porous strand, remaining inside even after the cuticle relaxes (although it won’t return quite to its former sleek state). As color filters in, protein and moisture leak out, causing damage, dryness, and frizz. Other downsides include ammonia’s strong smell and ability to irritate the scalp, effects that can persist the entire time the color is processing.
If ammonia pries open the cuticle with a crowbar, ammonia-free products seek to gently nudge it ajar. The active ingredient in many ammonia-free hair dyes is called monoethanolamine (MEA). Although MEA lifts the scales of the cuticle much less dramatically, color can still slip easily inside when the chemical is paired with a sneakier oil base, rather than traditional color’s water base. As a bonus, the oil tends to leave behind not only pigment but moisture. Other ammonia-free products employ a combination of heat and fatty acids derived from coconut oil to open cuticle doors. Although some stylists have found that ammonia-free products can’t penetrate as well, making them more prone to fading, others say it’s worth it to get hair that feels less dry or over-processed—and dye manufacturers are constantly improving their formulas in hopes of making the gentler technique the industry standard.