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There is a great debate among naturals concerning hair color and dye. Is the hair still natural if it is colored? Are there chemicals in hair color like those found in relaxers? Will hair color cause natural hair to become straight over time? It’s a common topic of concern among naturals because once having gone natural, many wish to also implement healthy hair care practices and to use products that are safer for their hair and the environment.

There is a difference between hair color found in Walgreens, Rite Aid or a local beauty supply store  and hair color which can only be purchased by licensed beauticians. Not all hair colorants are made equal. In addition to the products containing different elements, there are different types of hair colors for different uses.

Types of hair  color:

Temporary–  Is easily shampooed away from the hair also known as a rinse. It also helps fix yellowing hair and can be used more often. This includes spray on, mascara, bigen, colored styling and products.

Semi Permanent– Adds gentle color to the hair and tones prelightened hair. It doesn’t lift color but provides almost a “color coating” and lasts from 4-6 weeks.

Demi Permanent– Great for blending gray hair, bringing out natural hair color and fills in unwanted color. It cannot lighten the hair and contains a lesser amount of harsh ingredients.

Permanent– Completely changes haircolor and covers gray hair. This type of color can lighten or bleach the hair so bright, bold colors can be introduced.

Natural, Organic, Vegetable Hair Color

While natural to use, these types of hair colorants offer a tint to the hair but don’t lighten the hair. They most often need to sit on the hair longer to see results and can be messy to use, such as henna. The common issue with natural hair color is that applying this type of color may make the hair resistant to receiving salon quality hair color in the future.

Brush On Hair Color

Men’s hair color products such as Just For Men or Bigen contain metallic salts. This type of color has to be applied often and may encourage the hair to change color gradually. This is often used for lining, beard and mustache hair.

Now let’s take a look at ingredients. Many have said that hair color automatically means you are no longer natural. Some refer to natural as texture alone and some consider natural hair includes using natural products as well.

Hair Colors and Lighteners  will often contain the following ingredients:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Ammonium Persulfate
Potassium Persulfate
Sodium Persulfate
Hydrogen Peroxide
Stearyl Alcohol
Cetyl Alcohol
Oleyl Alcohol
Preservative Ingredients
Oleic Acid
Propylene Glycol
Ascorbic Acid
Isopropyl Alcohol
Cetearyl Alcohol
Ammonium Hydroxide
Aminomethyl Propanol
Ingredients Commonly Found In Relaxers:
Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil
Polysorbate 60
Stearyl Alcohol
Cetyl Alcohol
Sodium Hydroxide
Mineral Oil
Oleyl Alcohol
Potassium Hydroxide
Botanical Ingredients
Of these lists of ingredients, there are 6 similar ingredients including Fragrance, Water and Glycerin. The main thing that most people are concerned about is the high content of alcohol in each of these products. These products also contain salts, sulfates and silicones. If the question is are hair colorants the same as relaxers, that answer is no, not exactly, but if you are concerned about the side effects of using these products, you should be. 
When you lighten your hair or decolorize it,  the ammonium in it is going to help soften the hair strands and raise the cuticle to allow for color to be removed and later deposited into the hair.  The sulfates in lighteners act as cleansing agents to cleanse the hair strands so that color will be successfully deposited. Salts in the products help to make the product work better but can also make hair abrasive and the different alcohols also help to make the other ingredients in the product work together harmoniously. Alcohol helps keep the product the right consistency and has an extremely drying affect. 
The lighter your hair is, the more processing it had to endured to become that way. This is why hair that is bleached is often dry, stiff or brittle. Using caution when coloring, and being wise about how frequently you color your hair is very important. 
In relaxers, the most common one is a sodium hydroxide relaxer. You will find that relaxers do contain some ingredients that we are becoming accustomed to hearing in the natural hair community such as castor oil, glycerin, cholesterol and lanolin. The sodium hydroxide in relaxers helps to control the pH levels while ingredients such as oleyl alchol helps give the skin or hair a smoother appearance. 
To learn what the FDA has to say about Hair Dyes and Relaxers, visit this link.