This article was originally published on February 2, 2017.
Red, orange, yellow…green, blue, purple. If you guessed “colors of the rainbow,” you’d be correct. You’d also be correct if you were my best friend, Lauren, and guessed “the easiest colors to remember that you’ve died your hair.”
When I was fifteen I came to the conclusion that I would stop taunting my mother and actually follow through with my threats to dye my naturally platinum locks. Unfortunately, I had ZERO knowledge and used a temporary ready-to-go “black” bottle of hair dye. My hair turned ashy purple, and not in the hipster sense. I was rocking old lady chic at 15-years-old. I really should make that a t-shirt, #oldladychic.
In the eleven years since, I’ve cut, dyed, ombre-d, dip dyed, two-toned, highlighted, lowlighted, and shaved both my own hair and plenty of friends willing to let me enact my Doctor Frankenstein ambitions on them–but those were really just the early days. Since then I have become a “hobby cosmetologist” and have learned the color spectrum, the additives, the levels…and have, most importantly, mastered the realm of vegan, cruelty-free hair dye. With eleven years under my belt, I’m proud to now teach you which vegan hair dyes are cruelty-free, which one will be the best for you, and how to get the best looking dyed hair – EVER!
Before I dive in to my top three vegan hair dye methods, I want to address that dying hair with Kool-Aid, lemons, hair chalk, temporary hair dye, etc. have been omitted knowingly. While those are all different and legitimate options, I have found none of them to be even partially long-term.
In the two realms of long-term hair dye, there is semi-permanent and permanent hair color. Semi-permanent hair dye is great for the person just dipping their toes into the dyeing experience or for someone who likes to manipulate the shades of their hair often. Semi-permanent hair dye works by adding color on top of your hair, allowing it to wash out easier. Permanent hair dye actually penetrates the hair shafts to deposit color from the inside out. If you’ve ever accidentally died your hair a bizarre color with permanent hair dye and found it impossible to remove, this is why–you’re trying to remove what’s already inside of the hair.
While typical non-vegan semi-permanent dyes don’t require a chemical developer to be added, permanent ones do. That’s an additional benefit we reap from using vegan hair dye–it’s not just cruelty-free, but it’s largely free of harsh chemicals. Vegan hair dye is actually BETTER for your hair!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Below I’ve listed the three dyes that–to this day–I use in rotation. Check them out, read their pros and cons, and I guarantee that whether you’re looking to go chestnut brown or electric green, you’ll find the perfect dye to give you the most brilliant hair ever.
1. Manic Panic: Semi-Permanent
Price: $14-$18 (depending on whether you want the pot of color or a squeeze bottle)
Availability: Online & in-store at Sally Beauty Supply, Hot Topic, Manic Panic Boutiques and Salons, some Walmarts, and other boutique stores
Colors: Approximately 50 bold rainbow options, a handful of premixed pastel colors, and 1 dilute solution for making your own pastel colors
Longevity: 2 – 4 weeks (their site says 4-8, but this is definitely not the case)
- Added conditioner
- Certified free of: PPD, ammonia, or peroxide
- Vibrant, rich hues
- 3 times as many color options as Arctic Fox (see below)
- Easily available
- The color bleeds–a lot! Prepare to get towels and pillowcases the same color as your hair. Maybe also nix wearing white for a while. This will ease up after the first few washes
- Colors fade into their bases–if you dye your hair a purple it may lighten to green or blue
- Only “natural” color available is black
Manic Panic has been around since the 70s, when rocker sisters Tish and Snooky brought it to the punk scene. Since then it’s been one of America’s most popular dyes for a reason! With over 50 color options, it’s easy to get a serious case of f.o.m.o. (fear of missing out) when you’re standing at a Manic Panic display in a Sally Beauty Supply. Manic Panic was the first vegan hair dye I ever used–it’s my go-to for bold, vibrant colors. That’s gotta be my favorite thing about it–the options. And with their color dilute solution you can easily mix and match to create a pastel color that is uniquely you. But with the bold color comes an unfortunate price–the dye bleeds really easily. I won’t sugarcoat it–it will get on your pillowcases, tub, towels, and maybe even your clothing if you’re caught in wet weather. Despite the bleeding, the vibrancy does stay pretty intense for a couple of weeks, with spaced out shampooing, which is why I tolerate the early bleeding for the rich hues. I also come back to Manic Panic because it has trustworthy results and is easily accessible. I know that if I want to change my hair or freshen it up, I can get a tub, or two–because I have a TON of hair–in several locations around me and have new hair with ease. If you’re looking to try colors out, I’d HIGHLY recommend Manic Panic. Just make sure you cover everything around you, including yourself, when you use it!
2. Arctic Fox: Semi-Permanent
Price: $8-$14 (depending on size, 4 oz. or 8 oz.)
Availability: Online and in some Hot Topics and salons
Colors: 17 bold rainbow options & 1 dilute solution for making pastels
Longevity: 4 – 8 weeks
- Plant-based proteins with added conditioner
- Vibrant hues
- Colors fade into their same color spectrum: blue fades into light blue, burgundy into red Other brands can fade into a different color, particularly blue and purple into green
- Color will slightly bleed in the shower but will not run with sweat or contact
- You get twice as much product for the same price as Manic Panic
- They donate 15% of their profits to help prevent animal abuse
- Not as widely available
- Only “natural” color available is black
- Not as many color options as Manic Panic
Arctic Fox is my all-time favorite semi-permanent dye. The colors are vivacious, hard to remove, and fade to lighter shades of their former selves–no color guessing on what your now adorable bubble gum pink, candy-colored tresses are going to turn into in a couple weeks…it’s green…or orange. It’s ALWAYS green or orange. But not with Arctic Fox! While only being in business for a couple of years, Arctic Fox is the brain child of model and animal lover Kristen Leanne who has almost dominated with her select line of brilliant hues. Leanne really changed the semi-permanent game with her formula–it barely bleeds! This kind of staying power typically has to be done with chemicals, but Leanne somehow did it without. I’m thinking she’s some sort of magical, but that’s just my theory. While protective measures should still be taken during application, your pillowcases will probably sleep sound at night. This is a great hair dye for those wanting a longer-lasting change, the longest one you’ll find with vegan “rainbow” hair colors. Arctic Fox is also ideal for dip dyes and ombres as the bleeding occurs less than others, making your transitions more precise. If you want to go bold, turn some heads for an extended amount of time, or have an ombre look you want to nail to a “t”–Arctic Fox is the way to go.
3. Henna: Permanent
Price: $4-$28 (depending on amount and form, powder or brick)
Availability: Online, in some Asian markets, and select beauty supply stores
Colors: Available in an array of natural colors–browns, reds, blacks, and even blondes
Longevity: Will dull slightly after a couple months, but is entirely permanent
- Dye made solely out of two plants: henna and indigo
- More natural looking colors than box dye
- Color doesn’t bleed after you wash it out
- Permanent color and dye that actually enriches your hair
- The added option of adding coconut oil and/or spices – such as cinnamon and nutmeg – to add extra conditioning and smell good properties
- Manipulating the darkness or lightness of a color is easy, simply by including certain additives, such as coffee for darkening
- Henna can’t touch metal, so you need to use all plastic instruments for dyeing
- Skin/scalp stains last a couple days longer than semi-permanent dye
- Very few unnatural colors
- Hair dye needs to cure before it can be applied and must be left on for 1-12 hours (I typically do about 6)
Ladies and gents, my number one cruelty-free hair dye: HENNA! Henna has actually been my most recent love. I think a lot of people are like myself and timid to try something unusual sounding or something they’re not familiar with its process. But trust me, do it! The benefits of henna speak for themselves–adding richness and body, with no chemical or oily feeling. Will it feel weird that first time that you coat your hair in a paste that mirrors mud? Yes. It’s different. But that thick consistency is easy to manipulate, with an herbaceous, sweet, and spicy smell that is actually quite pleasant–somewhere between steeped tea and chamayo. And yes, henna powder that you use for your hair is the same base for the henna that is used to create designs on the body. Henna is so versatile that you can even safely dye your eyebrows with it! It’s amazing! If you’re looking for the best natural color you can achieve, henna is for you! And since it doesn’t wash out, you’ll have a stunning shade for months!
Have you had adventures in vegan hair dye?
Also by Missy: Vegan Crock-Pot Recipes: BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches
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Photo: Pexels, Pexels, HairColorido via Instagram, Artic Fox, Pexels