Transitioning From Chemical to Herbal Colorants and Vice Versa

There are advantages and disadvantages to the different methods of coloring your hair. If you are deciding to transition from chemical to herbal, or vice versa, there are some important things to consider.

| May 2016

1/2 henna 1/4 indigo 1/4 amla

Herbal Mix for "Warm Dark Brown": Step 1. 1/2 henna, 1/4 amla, 1/4 indigo, for 4 hours Step 2. - 100% indigo for 20 minutes on "hotspots" to tone the bright orange highlights in the grays into copper for better blending. Model's base color is light medium golden brown with 20% gray mostly in front.

Photo by Christine Shahin

Commercial hair dyes contain thousands of different chemicals, some of which are reported to be carcinogenic — but you don’t have to choose between gorgeous color and good health. In Natural Hair Coloring, (Storey Publishing, 2016) expert Christine Shahin shows you how to use nontoxic plant pigments — henna, indigo, amla, and cassia — to color your hair naturally, whatever your hair type or ethnicity, with beautiful results!

Chemical colorants to herbal colorants

Standard wisdom is to let the chemically processed hair grow out before using herbal colorants, and vice versa, but in my experience that isn’t necessary. Pure herbal colorants can condition and repair chemically damaged hair. The real artistic trick is to get the line of demarcation to blend with the previously chemically colored hair. Using different colorant mediums can be tricky. Still, achieving a good blend is not impossible. It is more of a challenge to blend lighter colors than it is to blend darker ones.

Herbal colorants to chemical colorants

One common myth is that you can meet with disastrous results if you try to chemically color hair that has been stained with herbal colorants. In my experience, this is only true with certain products. Some store-bought henna contains metallic salts that react to the hydrogen peroxide found in chemical products that lighten hair, creating unpredictable results, such as  green or blue tones. I have found that it is completely safe to use an ammonia-free chemical colorant with a low PPD content (2 percent or less) on pure herbal colorants.

The hair responds normally to receiving the chemical colorant over the herbal colorant. I have experienced no issues going between pure herbal colorants and a less toxic chemical colorant. I have even successfully used a chemical bleach cap, with a gentle bleach formulation, to help lighten hair when a henna-indigo application went too dark.

Read more from Natural Hair Coloring in Using Plant Pigment to Color Your Hair

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