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Non-Toxic Hair Color Facts
by Karen M. Shelton, Lamas Beauty Magazine Contributor

Honesty Is The Best Policy

As Theresa Dufour explained to me, Herbavita believes that honesty is the best policy for all the hair care consumers that they serve. Not only will they tell you to be careful and informed about your own possible product sensitivities, they will tell you that while it is rare, people may have reactions.

To demonstrate Herbavita’s concern for educating the consumer about possible reactions, Theresa faxed me a detailed and complete list of all the ingredients that are used in both the Herbatint and the Vegetal Colors. The list also included the concentration levels of each ingredient utilized by the products.

Karen M. Shelton - The Hair Boutique
Karen M. Shelton
The Hair Boutique

Yes, it is true that Herbatint contains a small amount of PPD (.08 to 1.22%) in the form of Phenylenediamine. Depending on the color selected the amount of PPD can be as low as .08%. This is significantly less than the commercial hair color lines that might contains as much as 6% PPD. The European Community currently approves up to 6% of PPD for hair coloring products.

Consumers concerned about peroxide will be happy to learn that Herbatint contains the least amount of peroxide necessary to open the hair cuticle. Depending on the Herbatint shade selected, hydrogen peroxide levels will range from a very low 3-10% volume compared to commercial color products that will contain anywhere from 20, 30 or 40% volume levels.

The product is completely free of ammonia, which is a known culprit in inhalation and odor concerns. Herbavita makes a point of limiting the types and concentrations of chemicals in their Herbatint line as much as possible.

Depending on the hue selected Herbatint may also contain nonoxynol-6, nonosynol-4, ethanolzmine, propylene glycol, EDTA, sodium, Metabisulfite, walnut extract, rhubarb extract, cinchona extract, Resorcinol, O-aminophenol and M-aminophenol. As always, Herbavita tries to limit the concentrations of any of the chemicals that they do include in their products.

Safety Factors

Herbatint is considered safe for use by pregnant women because it is free of harmful fumes or odors. Most people are under the misconception that the problem with coloring hair during pregnancy is the penetration of the color product into the scalp or the skin. The truth of the matter is that the danger comes from inhaling the toxic hair coloring fumes.

Jane Leeves of TV's Frasier reported that she used Herbatint to color her hair during her recent pregnancy with no side effects. Many doctors and nurses also recommend the product as safer then commercial color brands.

Theresa reported that Herbatint may be safe for cancer survivors with the specific approval of their physicians. Theresa is herself a 10 year survivor of lung cancer. She has been personally using the Herbatint product on her own hair for the past 9 years without any harmful side effects. She also told me that many of her long time highly sensitive and allergic prone customers have used Herbatint without any problems.

Not only has Herbatint been featured in wellness magazines like Natural Health Magazine, it has also been featured in high fashion tomes like InStyle magazine.

Honesty is their claim to fame. They are the first to try and educate consumers on the risks of certain chemicals and the benefits of natural hair coloring products.

Herbavita does not want to harm people with their products. They want to educate them about the options that they offer for coloring hair the safest way possible. I personally believe that they do an admirable job of helping consumers understand the various hair coloring requirements and risks.

Color Your World

The same is true with the “natural” color line from Herbavita. Although the Herbatint line is a semi-permanent coloring product that will lift color 1-2 levels and will deposit pigment, it will not help a dark haired brunette become a platinum blonde. As Theresa explained, it just can't happen with such a mild color agent as Herbatint. She wants that information to be clear so there is no doubt on the part of the consumer.

Theresa reminded me during our long conversation that consumers can't have it both ways. A coloring product that is as natural and mild as possible just won’t have the lightening and coloring powers like the chemical big boys.

Herbatint will lighten color as much as two shades, will cover gray and will deposit color. The product will not allow you to go lighter than two levels of color. The very low levels of PPD and peroxide make it impossible for the product to produce more dramatic results. Remember, if your hair is already light, you can go lighter. However, brunettes will not see more than a two shade lightening difference.

Hues To Choose From

The Natural Personal Care Site on the Net contains a Herbatint color chart page with enlargeable colors for better viewing. Remember that computer generated colors might display a little differently on the screen than they will on your hair and can vary slightly from actual colors. For a color chart, you can write to The Natural Personal care site for a real color chart.

Herbatint is distributed exclusively in the United States by Nature's Answer, Inc., 320 Oser Avenue, Hauppage, NY 11788 and is sold in larger health food stores such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats. For more information about the products or for a list of locations where to buy the product call toll free at 888-856-8888.

Herbatint Vegetal Color

Herbavita's Vegetal Color is a demi-permanent herbal colorant, which is "all natural" and free of any ammonia, peroxide or diaminobenzene. It will not lift, lighten color or cover gray because it does not contain peroxide which is an absolute must for lifting color. It does contain other ingredients that may trigger allergies in some people.

The Vegetal Color product will make hair look shiny, healthy and give it a beautiful hue.

Yes, Vegetal Color is a good "more natural" product that is rich in conditioning properties. It is also adequate for helping to blend gray into your natural hair color. Vegetal will wash out after several shampoos, hence the term "demi-permanent".

The Herbavita Vegetal Color range includes 13 different shades that are designed to blend your current colors rather than add lightening or other dramatic results. Remember that Herbavita Vegetal Color does not contain peroxide, bleach or other chemical properties required to remove or lift color from your pigment.

The Vegetal Colors come in 2 ounce containers and include the following current shades: Black, Chestnut, Blonde, Honey Blonde, Golden Chestnut, Golden Blonde, Mahogany Chestnut, Mahogany Blonde, Copper Chestnut, Copper Blonde, Ash Chestnut, Ash Blonde, Henna Red.


If you have a history of experiencing sensitivities to hair color formulas you will need to check with your primary health care consultant before using Herbatint, Vegetal Colors or similar “natural color” products. Although the majority of people may handle the Herbatint Vegetal Colors with minimal or no problems, there is always the exception to the rule.

If you have a known problem with PPD you should definitely get a seal of approval from your doctor before considering using a product that contains your known allergen.

Herbatint Ingredients

Theresa Dufour graciously offered to fax me Information on all of the Herbatint Ingredients for this article. Theresa was insistent that I have this information to share with consumers for their own education and awareness.

The following information was taking directly from the Herbatint Ingredient sheet so graciously provided by Theresa.

Walnut Extract - Natural extract from walnuts. Traditionally used topically for its soothing and anti-itch properties as well as against sunburns and other superficial burns. It can be used in cases of acne and skin disease because of its fungistastic and stringent properties. Though extracts are obtained from the leaves and bark, the oil is extracted from the ripe nut.

Rhubarb Extract - Natural extract from Chinese rhubarb. Calms scalp irritation and provides yellow coloring for hair.

Cinchona Extract - Natural Extract from Cinchona bark. A major source of quinine. Cinchona extract has long been known for it tonic, antiseptic and astringent properties. It has been commonly used as a remedy for malaria and fever in tropical areas. If used in large quantities cinchona may cause headaches and nausea in those allergic to it.

Propylene Glycol - Organic extract. Next to water, this is the most common moisture-carrying vehicle used in cosmetic formulations. It has better skin permeation than glycerin, and it also gives a pleasant feel with less greasiness than glycerin. Proplylene glycol is used as a humectant since it absorbs water from the air. It also serves as a solvent for antioxidants and preservatives. In addition, it has preservative properties against bacteria and fungi when used in concentrations of 15% or higher. There is a concern that propylene glycol is an irritant at higher concentrations, though it appears to be quite safe at usage levels under 5%.

Noxinol 6/4 - Organic extract. An emulsifier.

P-Phenylenadiamine - From 0-8 to 1.2 % depending on the shade. Chemical. Provides coloring for hair.

Rescorcinol - Chemical. In very mild solutions it is used as an antiseptic and as a soothing preparation for itchy skin. In slightly higher concentrations it removes the surface layer of skin (the dry dead cells) and it is used in lotions for irritated skin and particularly in connection with acne. In still higher concentrations it can act as an aggressive surface skin exfoliate. Resorcinol can also be used as a preservative. While it is beneficial skin care ingredient, when used in low concentration, it causes irritation in higher concentrations, with a strong burning sensation and a reddening of the skin. Used in high concentrations as a peel, resorcinol may cause a variety of problems. Resorcinol is obtained for various resins.

Sodium Metabisulfite - Organic Extract. An inorganic salt used as an antiseptic and a pH adjuster in cosmetic creams. Concentrated solutions can cause strong irritations.

O/M Aminophenol - Organic Extract. Coloring for hair.

EDTA - Organic Extract (ethylendiamine tetra acetic acid) a preservative.

Ethanolamine - Organic Extract (not of animal original). An emollient.

Etidronic Acid - Organic Extract A stabilizer.

Glycol - Organic. An emollient

Hydrogen Peroxide - Chemical A bleaching and oxidizing agent. Detergent and antiseptic. Generally recognized as a safe preservative, germ killer, and skin bleacher in cosmetics. If

Water - Water is an important skin component and is essential for its proper functioning. It is the most common ingredient used in cosmetic formulations and therefore is generally listed first on product labels.

Warning: Do not use Herbatint for eyebrows, eyelashes, beard or mustache due to direct contain with the skin which can be cause for a higher allergic reaction potential.

Non-Toxic Hair Color Facts Part 1., Introduction to Hair Color Facts

Non-Toxic Hair Color Facts Part 2., To Color Or Not To Color?

More Thermal Reconditioning Articles By Karen M. Shelton

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Discuss this topic with others right now at the Salon Discussion Board!

Karen M. Shelton is the founder of HairBoutique.com which has been featured in numerous magazines including 101 Celebrity Hairstyles, Today's Dallas Woman Magazine, WE-Women's Enterprise, The National Enquirer, American Salon Magazine and Self magazine, as well as international publications.

Karen M. Shelton was featured in DFW Tech Biz as winner of the Emerging CEO - Tech Titan award. In 2001 Ms. Shelton joined 101 Celebrity Styles & Short Cuts magazine as consumer hair editor.

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