Top 5 Ammonia-Free Hair Dyes Experts Recommend for Damage-Free Hair [2024]

Looking to give your locks some love without the harshness of ammonia? You’re in luck because ammonia-free hair dyes are hot on our radar right now, offering vibrant colors while being kinder to your hair.

We’ve scoured the world of hair care and talked to experts to bring you the crème de la crème of ammonia-free hair dyes.

These top picks are not just about gorgeous colors; they’re about keeping your hair healthy, happy, and absolutely stunning. So, let’s get ready to find your next favorite hair color, shall we?

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What is Ammonia?

Ammonia, often a key ingredient in traditional hair dyes, is a powerful chemical that plays a big role in the hair coloring process. But what exactly does ammonia do to your hair?

A recent article in Medical News Today tells us that ammonia helps open up the outer layer of your hair strands, known as the cuticle. This allows the dye to penetrate deeply, resulting in more vibrant, long-lasting color.

While ammonia is effective in achieving those rich color tones, it can be pretty harsh. It can strip away natural oils, leaving your hair dry and sometimes even leading to scalp irritation.

Over time, repeated use can weaken your hair, making it more prone to damage and breakage.

That’s why many are now turning to ammonia-free alternatives for a gentler approach to hair coloring.

best ammonia-free hair dyes infographic - ammonia (alkaline) swells the hair cuticle by raising the pH level. Ammonia-free hair dye uses monoethanolamine (MEA) which is less damaging

The Benefits of Ammonia-Free Hair Dyes

You want to keep your hair looking vibrant and healthy, but you’re worried about the harsh chemicals in traditional hair color.

Enter ammonia-free hair color. It promises healthier, shinier locks without all the fuss. Here are a few of the benefits of using hair dye without ammonia:

  1. Ammonia-free products are gentler on your strands than traditional dyes because they do not contain other harsh chemicals like peroxide, alcohol or silicones. This means that they will not strip your strands of essential oils and proteins like regular dye does, which could lead to dryness and breakage over time.
  2. There are no harsh chemicals involved, so you’ll have less irritation and fewer allergic reactions or allergies when you opt for an ammonia-free product. 
  3. They’re easier to use. There’s no need to mix with a developer solution before application like regular permanent hair dyes. So you can easily apply them at home.
  4. It will leave your hair feeling softer and silkier than ever before. Since there are no harsh chemicals involved in this kind of color process, your strands remain relatively untouched during coloring so they don’t become brittle or dry from being exposed to too many ingredients at once. Plus, many brands offer conditioners with their colors that help to lock in moisture so that your locks stay soft and shiny even after coloring! 

Expert Insights

“Ammonia-free hair colors are not natural or organic. They are devoid of ammonia, but may contain other alkalis similar to ammonia.”

Abhisikta Hati (PG, Chemical Technology),

Top 5 Ammonia-Free Hair Dyes 

Here are our favorite tried and tested hair dyes that you can use to dye your hair at home without any worries about ammonia.

#1 Clairol Natural Instincts Demi-permanent hair dye

Clairol Natural Instincts Demi-Permanent Hair Dye, 5 Medium Brown Hair Color, Pack of 1

Features & ingredients:

  • If your goal is to cover gray hairs while maintaining natural vibrancy and shine, this product is perfect for you.
  • It’s formulated with aloe vera and coconut oil so that you get smooth coverage plus moisture and nourishment benefits as well. 

Reviewers say:

“I love this hair color! It left my hair soft, shiny, and healthy-looking. And the coverage on my gray hairs was amazing!”

“I wasn’t sure if this would work on my gray hairs, but I’m so glad it did! It gave great coverage and shine.”

“I’ve been using this product for months and it’s still going strong!”

“My friend recommended this one and now I’m hooked! The color is beautiful and natural-looking.”

Recommended by experts: Good Housekeeping who noticed in Lab testing, the ammonia-free at-home dye offered even coverage, left hair visibly shiny and was fade-resistant when used to cover up gray strands

Our experience:

This is perhaps the most well-known ammonia-free hair dye out there and the first one we tried on our list. It’s easy to apply and smells good too.

The combination of aloe vera and coconut oil made our hair feel very nourished and hydrated throughout.

We tried medium brown on already dyed brown hair and it gave us glossy results with fab overall coverage. You may a couple of boxes if you have longer than shoulder length hair.

Best for: Great gray coverage.

#2 Garnier Olia Oil Powered Permanent Color

Garnier Olia Oil Powered Permanent Color, Medium Brown [5.0] 1 ea (Pack of 4)

Features & ingredients:

Made with 60% natural flower oils, this one has major conditioning power! Expect gorgeous results that won’t fade out after a few washes—plus lots of shine from the oil infusion that helps lock in color molecules for maximum vibrancy.  

Reviewers say:

“This hair dye is amazing! It’s so easy to use and it really does give you a glossy finish.”

“The color turned out beautifully and I love that it came with an oil-enriched conditioner as well.”

“My gray hairs were covered, but the natural tones of my color were still there…it looks so natural!”

Recommended by experts: who says that a Garnier Olia kit will only run you a few dollars, but after dyeing your hair, you’ll feel like a million bucks.

Our experience:

This was another great ammonia-free option we tried. It left our hair feeling soft and had plenty of shine.

The application process was quite simple—just make sure to shake the bottle before using! We tried dark brown and found that the coverage was excellent, even on previously dyed hair.

This one also comes with an oil-enriched conditioner that should be used after the dyeing process to lock in color and provide additional nourishment.

Best for: Great coverage and conditioning power. 

#3 Schwarzkopf Simply Color Permanent Hair Color

Schwarzkopf Simply Color Permanent Hair Color, 5.0 Medium Brown

Features & ingredients:

With no ammonia and a nourishing formula that helps protect hair from damage, this is an ideal product for those looking for long-lasting color using natural ways. It contains avocado oil to help keep your hair soft and hydrated, plus it’s enriched with aloe vera so you know your strands are getting the best kind of care! 

Reviewers say:

“I love how soft my hair feels after using this product! The color lasted for weeks too.”

“I’ve been using Schwarzkopf products for years and this one did not disappoint.”

“I love how it’s free of chemicals but still looks like a permanent hair dye does.”

Recommended by experts: In Style who recommend extending the time between washes to keep hair vibrant — or if you really love this color, you may want to buy a few boxes.

Our experience:

If you’re looking for a healthy and glossy result, this one is definitely worth trying. The no-ammonia formula was simple to use, though it did take us a bit longer than other options on the list.

We tried light brown and found that it blended well with our natural hair color while still giving us noticeable highlights.

Plus, the avocado oil and aloe vera made sure that our hair felt nourished and hydrated after the coloring process.

Best for: Long-lasting color.

#4 Herbatint Permanent Haircolor Gel

Herbatint Permanent Haircolor Gel, 4N Chestnut, Alcohol Free, Vegan, 100% Grey Coverage - 4.56 oz

Features & ingredients:

This ammonia-free hair dye is as gentle as it gets—it uses herbal extracts to get the job done without harsh chemicals.

The color lasts for weeks and fades out gradually, so touch-ups are kept to a minimum. Plus, it contains proteins that help strengthen your strands while you color! 

Reviewers say:

“I’m amazed by how natural this hair dye looks! It’s super easy to use and gave my gray hairs great coverage.”

“My hair was still soft and shiny after coloring with this product!”

“The color lasted longer than I expected and didn’t fade too quickly either. Loved the henna color.”

Recommended by experts: Style Craze who says it’s an easy-to-use and balanced hair dye that’s alcohol free and gives your hair rich and consistent color.

Our experience:

If you’re looking for an ammonia-free hair dye with a natural finish, this is the one to try.

We tried rich red light brown and found that it gave our hair a subtle boost of color without looking too extreme. Plus, the protein-enriched formula left our strands feeling strong and healthy after the coloring process.

Best for: Natural-looking results and gentle ingredients. 

#5 Naturtint Permanent Hair Color 

Naturtint Permanent Hair Color 5W Radiant Medium Brown (Pack of 1), Ammonia Free, Vegan, Cruelty Free, up to 100% Gray Coverage, Long Lasting Results

Features & ingredients:

This ammonia-free hair dye uses natural ingredients like argan oil and shea butter to give your strands some extra TLC.

It delivers long lasting color that doesn’t fade too quickly and comes with an ampoule of protective treatment for added shine. Plus, it’s gentle enough for use on previously dyed hair!

Reviewers say:

“I love how vibrant my color is after using this product.”

“My hair felt soft and shiny afterwards—I’m definitely a fan!”

“The coverage was great and the results lasted for weeks.”

Recommend by experts: Women’s Health who loves it for being without ammonia but definitely with other synthetic chemicals. A halfway house, if you will.

Our experience:

This was another great option if you’re looking for an ammonia-free hair dye that can give you long-lasting color.

We tried light brown and found that it blended well with our natural hair color while still giving us a noticeable boost of shine.

Plus, the protective treatment left our strands feeling nourished and looking healthy after the coloring process.

Best for: Long lasting color and added nourishment. 

Ammonia or ammonia-free – How to choose the right hair dye for you?

When it comes to hair dye, there’s a lot to consider. Some people are concerned about the potential health risks of ammonia, while others just want to know which type of dye is going to look best on their hair.

Whatever your reason for wondering about ammonia vs. ammonia-free hair dye, you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s everything you need to know so you can make an informed decision about which type of hair dye is best for you.

Hair Type and Texture

The first thing to consider when choosing a hair dye is your hair type and texture.

If you have damaged or delicate hair with high porosity, you may want to opt for an ammonia-free dye, as ammonia can be harsh on the hair.

If you have thick, healthy hair, an ammonia-based dye may be your best bet, as it will penetrate the hair more deeply and provide longer-lasting color.

Skin Tones

Another factor to consider when choosing a hair dye is your skin tone.

Certain hair colors can complement different skin tones, and the wrong color could make you look washed out or sallow.

If you have cool-toned skin, ash or cool brown hair colors will look best on you.

If you have warm-toned skin, go for warm shades like honey or golden brown hair colors.

And if you have a neutral skin tone, you can pretty much wear any hair color you want!

Semi-Permanent or Permanent hair dye

Next, you’ll need to decide if you want a semi-permanent or permanent hair dye.

Semi-permanent dyes usually fade after a few washes, while permanent dyes last until your hair grows out or you dye it again.

Semi-permanent dyes are less damaging to the hair and are a good option if you’re not ready to commit to a long-term color change.

Permanent dyes are best for those who want a long-lasting, dramatic change.

Strand Test

Before you dye your entire head of hair, it’s always a good idea to do a strand test first.

This involves dyeing a small section of hair and waiting to see how it turns out.

This will give you an idea of how the color will look on your hair and whether or not you should take the plunge and dye your whole head!

How to dye your hair at home.

Ammonia-free hair dyes FAQs

Is ammonia in hair dye harmful?

The good news is that although ammonia plays an important role in how the color develops in your hair, modern hair dyes are formulated with a focus on safety and gentleness.

Great news for anyone that loves experimenting with color!

Plus, many salon products are specially formulated without ammonia so you can get gorgeous locks without any worries either.

There are definitely precautions that should be taken when considering ammonia-based hair dyes, but despite common fears of long-term damage, you don’t need to worry about its usage ruining your beautiful mane!

We find hair dyes generally, while not the cause of damaged hair, can be drying and make your hair feel brittle and prone to breakage. But it’s nothing that can’t be kept under control with a good hair care routine.

So don’t let ammonia be a deterrent when choosing your next lovely color.

Is ammonia-free hair dye good for hair?

Ammonia free hair dye is a great option if you’re looking to switch up your style without the strong odour of harsh chemicals.

Not only will you be avoiding the burn or damaged hair that can be associated with ammonia, but you can rest assured that the colour won’t be fading anytime soon.

And given it’s a natural alternative, it’s less damaging to your hair and scalp- so not only do you get to make a bold statement but it’s great for your hair health too! 

Does ammonia in hair dye cause hair loss?

The truth is, ammonia in hair dye does not cause your hair to literally fall out—phew!

But, over-exposure to certain types of hair dye that contain a high concentration of this chemical could potentially damage the follicles and weaken the strands, resulting in an unhealthy look—which no one wants.

So while ammonia isn’t necessarily the cause of balding patches, it’s definitely something to be mindful of when asking yourself “to dye or not to dye?”

It always pays off to be extra cautious with any sort of chemical treatments and be sure to check in with a professional before taking the plunge.

What is the most toxic hair dye?

Most synthetic hair color contains ingredients like ammonia, hydrogen peroxide and PPD (Paraphenylenediamine), all of which are said to cause allergic reactions, allergies and even worse respiratory issues or nerve damage in some cases.

To avoid any potential health issues, opt for ammonia-free or natural henna based products which contain a much lower level of irritants and chemicals.

Always do your research ahead of time and go with what is best for your locks!

And always do a patch test and a strand test before you begin!

Parting words.

When it comes to making a change with your hair color, ammonia free hair color is definitely the way to go! Not only is this safer for your scalp and follicles, but you’ll be able to achieve fabulous results while still having healthy looking strands.

Do some research on what options are available in terms of colours and ingredients before committing so that you can make sure you get the perfect look without any worries. Good luck!

Happy coloring!

Found your perfect shade? We’d love to see it! Tag us on Instagram @colouredhaircare or Facebook and share your hair dye success stories. Looking for more hair care tips? Check out How to Look After Colored Hair: 11 Expert Secrets For Long-Lasting Color.

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Our Research & Review Process

To ensure our recommendations are as comprehensive and reliable as possible, we’ve undertaken an extensive research effort.

We cite scientific evidence and journals, collect real user reviews and gather impartial perspectives from hair stylists, users, and experts in the field.

Additionally, we conduct hands-on testing by using products and applying hair dyes not only on our own locks but also on real human hair extensions and hair pieces of different hair type, textures and lengths.

This rigorous approach allows us to provide you with insights into which products genuinely live up to their promises.

As always – please consult with a professional hair colorist or stylist for advice on how to color your own hair at home. It’s different for everyone!

This article was written and reviewed by:

  • Nicola Freeman, Creative Director & Content Lead
    Creative Director & Content Lead

    With over two decades of passionate hair dyeing experience, I've experimented with nearly every shade imaginable. My journey began long before blogging; as an award-winning copywriter in London and New York, I shaped narratives for iconic brands. However, when friends sought advice during lockdown for at-home hair dyeing, I realized my true calling. Beyond being your hair color expert, I'm a mom of two girls, wife to artist Tony, and an avid soccer player!

  • Enza Piazza, Hair Stylist & Color Consultant
    Hair Stylist & Color Consultant

    I’m Enza Piazza, your go-to hair stylist and color consultant with over 23 years of professional salon experience bringing vibrancy and life to hair of all hues. My Italian roots from sunny Sicily infuse passion into every snip and color, a passion that’s been recognized with top honor awards including bridal and party hair at the National Hairdressers Federation’s Championships. After training in Surrey, UK’s most prestigious salons including Head Master Academy, I embraced the entrepreneurial spirit and set up Enza Hair Styling, offering tailored hair care for 13 years, and treating each client like family. Away from the salon, I cherish moments as a proud Nonna to grandson Joseph and as a playful companion to my Jack Russell, Bo.