What Is The Difference Between MEA vs. Ammonia in Hair Colors?
What is ammonia? Good question! Ammonia is a very harsh chemical that unfortunately acts as a very common ingredient within the beauty industry. The role of ammonia is twofold: it opens the hair cuticle to facilitate the oxidation process which lightens the natural color of the hair and helps the added color to develop. The level of alkalinity in ammonia is what opens up the hair cuticle and works as a pH adjuster. Human hair is naturally acidic and needs an alkaline counterpole to open up.
Many, many years ago scientist working in the beauty industry sought for cheap solutions and that is where ammonia came into the picture. A lot has changed within the beauty industry ever since, but because ammonia is such a cheap solution, not all hair color brands have taken the natural step towards a less harsh and more gentle hair coloring process. But ammonia is not only harmful for the client. Unfortunately, many hairdressers and stylists suffer from severe health conditions as a consequence of working with hair colors containing ammonia. Common side effects are headaches, chronic coughs and rashes.
What is MEA? Another good question! Do you remember the list of pH adjusters mentioned earlier? MEA is a more natural and gentle replacement for ammonia. The first thing you should look for is the amount of MEA in hair colors. As stated, the alkaline pH adjuster in hair colors is synthetic and it’s therefore important to look for hair colors with as little MEA as possible. This is not only in order for the hair color to be as natural as possible, but it has even been proven that a too high amount of MEA will make the hair color fade faster because of the cuticles’ inability to close and lock in molecules. The pH level of the hair will alter drastically if the amount of MEA is too high. The cuticles will be unable to close and the client will be left without any shine in the hair.
Why Natural Hair Colors Can Be High Functioning
Okay, so we know that ammonia can be replaced with a more natural solution that is less harmful to you as a hairdresser and to your clients. But what about all the other ingredients in hair colors? When you look at an ingredient list of any product, the list will be in descending order of predominance. This means that the ingredients with the largest amount will be listed first and then the list goes on and ends with the smallest amount. When you read an ingredient list, look for ingredients you know what is or what it means.
Yes, Natural Hair Colors Can Cover Grey Hair
For a natural hair color to be permanent and cover grey hair it needs to contain P-Phenylenediamine (commonly referred to as PPD). PPD is yet another chemical substance, supporting the fact, that 100% organic hair color does not exist. PPD is colourless and therefore requires oxygen to become coloured. You might recognize this from mixing your activator or developer with the actual color.
PPD is also known as oxidative and is permitted as a hair colorant ingredient by the European Cosmetics Directive. This means PPD is allowed for use in hair colorants across the 27 EU member states. On the contrary to some media reports, PPD is not banned anywhere and is not dangerous. However PPD may only be used in hair colorants and only up to a certain level (up to a maximum of 2% when applied to the hair).
If you are not allergic to PPD you can definitely use colors that contain PPD in small amounts. In small amounts PPD it is not as harmful as you might think. So if you want 100% grey hair coverage, hair colors that contain PPD are inevitable, simple as that.
Hairdressers! Here Is The Truth About PPD In Hair Colors
Is PPD bad for your clients? Short answer: Yes.
But, don’t believe all of the rumours out there.
Like most things in life, do not resolve to absolutes. It is not always a yes/no question. When it comes to PPD, it is more a question of quantity and part-whole.
It is possible for your clients to have a reaction to PPD, but the majority will not have the likelyhood to do so. The chance of reacting badly to PPD is very small and the chance of developing a serious allergic reaction is even smaller. If your client does not know if he or she is allergic to PPD, it is always recommended to do a patch test. If your client is unfortunately allergic to PPD you can use hair colors with PTD as an alternative. PTD is a sister compound to PPD and performs more or less the same, but PTD is less aggressive. PTD is chemically called Toluene-2.5-Diamine and belongs in the same family of phenylenediamines.
Here is the whole truth about PPD and PTD:
When we talk about PPD and PTD the world is not black and white. Here is a simple example: Let’s say 9 people are getting a reaction to hair color. 3 of them will be allergic to PPD. Another 3 will be allergic to PTD and the final 3 is allergic to both. But allergy comes in different forms. Some are just slightly allergic and will only feel a small pinching or itching and some are hypoallergenic and will show severe swellings and even pain.
As mentioned before, the maximum amount of PPD allowed in hair colors is 2%. The maximum amount of PTD allowed in hair colors is 4%. But why is the amount of PTD twice as high as PPD, you ask? PTD is less harmful than PPD and is therefore used as a more natural substitute by responsible brands, and even though PPD and PTD are similar substances, their effect is not, even though they perform the same. But don’t let this alarm you. All hair colors containing PPD or PTD are safe to use if you follow good guidelines and conduct patch tests properly. This is because all products created are strictly regulated and there’s a maximum limit to the amount of PPD/PTD a product can contain. Do not be afraid of the ingredient PPD or PTD! They are necessary in order to make the hair color permanent. You should only seek alternatives without PPD or PTD if your client suffers from a serious allergy to either one or both.
We would like to give you a more concrete example of PPD and PTD in hair colors. For this we would like to introduce NATULIQUE Natural Hair Colors. NATULIQUE is a danish family brand who distributes natural hair colors to salons, all over the world. NATULIQUE works from a simple standpoint; to use as many certified organic ingredients as possible, and provide the beauty industry with a safer and more sustainable alternative, with fewer chemicals and better functionality.
Below we give you an overview of the amount of PPD and PTD in natural hair color brands on the market today.
|Measured concentration in %||NATULIQUE||Competitors||Maximum concentration after mixing (Cosmetic Directive)|
|TOLUENE-2.5-DIAMINE or TOLUENE-2.5 SULFATE||0.05||2.2||4|
The lowest concentration of PPD found in NATULIQUE is 0.04% and the concentration of PTD and/or Toluene-2.5-Diamine found in NATULIQUE is 0.05%. Compared to NATULIQUE’s competitors on the market which contains up to 0.25% PPD and 2.2% PTD and/or Toluene-2.5-Diamine.
What Have We Learned?
Summing up, there is no such thing as 100% organic hair colors BUT there are some natural hair colors out there and even some with certified organic ingredients. You should definitely avoid hair colors containing ammonia, as this is toxic for both you and your clients. The compound that replaces ammonia is MEA and is derived from coconut and is therefore more natural. What makes the hair colors permanent is a compound known as PPD or PTD but these ingredients are not harmful to you if you don’t have an allergy and only added in small amounts in order to make the hair color permanent.
This is the lay of the land. Are you surprised? But who are we to say this? We are NATULIQUE. What do we do? We provide professional hairdressers, chair renters and salon owners with natural, professional hair colors containing certified organic ingredients that are not tested on animals.
Whatever your client needs we have 94 different shades of fabulous in four different lines:
- 100% Ammonia-Free
- 100% Lauryl Sulfate Free
- 100% Parabens Free
- Contains 0,04% PPD which means that the colors gives 100% grey coverage
- 98.02% derived from natural sources
- ZERO PPD (contains 0.05% PTD)
- ZERO Resorcinol
- ZERO Ammonia
- ZERO Parabens
- ZERO SLS
- With Added Natural Fruit Acids
- With Organically Farmed Plant Extracts
- Added Organic Oil Complex
- Added Beneficial Proteins
- No Animal Derived Ingredients
- 100% Ammonia-Free
- With Natural Plant Extracts
- With Added Essential Oils
- Discrete Soft Colouring
- Customisable Intensity
- Also Great for Touch Ups
- Effective Grey Coverage