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For many people, veganism goes beyond food. Living a fully vegan lifestyle also means avoiding beauty and skin care items that contain animal product ingredients, like honey and beeswax, lanolin, or gelatin.

You might not think that the typical box of hair dye contains animal products. And it’s true you won’t find meat, eggs, or dairy on the ingredient list. All the same, plenty of drugstore hair dyes do contain lesser-known animal byproducts.

Another tricky part of selecting vegan beauty products? Checking whether any animal testing occurred at any stage in the product’s formulation.

Finding vegan hair dye can prove difficult, but it’s not impossible. Read on to learn more about vegan hair dye, including how to tell which hair dyes are vegan and whether vegan hair dye is better or safer for your hair.

Vegans abstain from animal products. So, vegan hair dye won’t contain animal products or byproducts. It should also be cruelty-free.

Cruelty-free brands don’t test their products on animals. In other words, a truly vegan hair dye will not have undergone any animal cosmetic testing.

Andrea Harvey, salon manager at vegan-friendly and sustainable Salon Messina, recommends first looking for the Leaping Bunny logo to identify whether a product is cruelty-free.

This logo is currently the only internationally recognized logo that identifies products completely free of animal testing, right down to the suppliers for each ingredient.

“But, this logo costs money, so not all cruelty-free brands have it,” says Harvey, who’s known as The Vegan Hairdresser on social media. She recommends emailing companies to request further information — and paying attention to their wording. “They may say that the end product is cruelty-free, but their suppliers are not.”

Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that cruelty-free doesn’t automatically mean vegan. Before choosing a product, you’ll also want to read the ingredients list, which is legally required to appear on the product’s packaging.

Harvey recommends watching out for beeswax and honey in particular, since many hair dyes contain these ingredients.

Karen Wallington, hairstylist and co-founder of vegan hair product line Noggin Oil, also advises avoiding ammonia, because it’s typically derived from animal protein (urea).

Vegan hair dye comes in temporary, semi-permanent, and permanent options. The fact that the product is vegan doesn’t affect how long it lasts.

That said, factors like your hair type and hair porosity can affect how long any type of hair dye, vegan or not, will last.

“All hair dye, permanent or temporary, fades or loses its sheen over time,” says Wallington.

Learn more about different types of hair dyes and how long they last.

People commonly equate the term “vegan” with “healthy,” and it’s true that going vegan can absolutely offer a range of health benefits.

Accordingly, you might wonder whether vegan hair dye offers a better option for dyeing your hair.

Not necessarily.

Like other types of hair dye, vegan hair dye can be natural and derived from plants, or synthetic and derived from chemicals. In other words, it won’t automatically be “better” for your hair just because it contains vegan ingredients.

“Perhaps it is not about better or worse, but choosing consciously,” says Wallington.

There are some great breakthroughs in alternatives to animal products, Wallington goes on to say, so it’s a matter of deciding what you consider most important.

The fact remains that any type of hair dye can potentially damage your hair — even vegan or organic options.

A professional hair colorist can offer more guidance on dyeing your hair safely.

Yes, vegan hair dye is generally considered safe to use. Like other cosmetic products, vegan hair dye products must undergo rigorous safety testing before they’re marketed to the public.

Of course, “generally safe” doesn’t always mean “safe for everyone.” Anyone can experience a reaction to beauty, skin, and hair care products. That’s why it’s essential to do a patch test before trying any new hair dye product.

Patch testing helps you check whether your skin reacts to the dye or any other new product you want to use before you apply it directly to your head or face.

How to do a patch test

When reading through the instructions in your box of hair dye, you’ll find instructions for patch testing. (You know, that little section in the directions you might skim right over?)

Even if you’ve dyed your hair before, it’s always a good idea to patch test again when trying a new brand. Different products contain different ingredients, after all.

To patch test, you can follow these basic steps:

  • Mix a small amount of the dye as directed in the instructions.
  • Apply a small dab of the mixed dye to the nape of your neck or the inside of your elbow. Monitor your skin’s reaction over 24 hours, checking for discoloration, itchiness, flakiness, or a rash.
  • If you don’t experience any adverse reaction, you can probably apply the dye to your hair and scalp safely.

If you’ve ever had a negative reaction to any hair dye, you may want to check in with a dermatologist before trying other brands.

Vegan hair dye does tend to have milder, or less harsh chemicals than non-vegan hair dye, although this may not be the case for every vegan hair dye. Even so, vegan hair dyes could still damage your hair or cause a reaction.

If you want a slightly less damaging product, opt for dyes free of paraphenylenediamine (PPD) and ammonia, recommends Harvey. She notes that while products free of these ingredients may cause less damage, they may not lighten hair or cover white hair as well as other options.

Wallington also recommends doing a patch test on a small section of your hair, somewhere close to the nape, and checking the results after the recommended processing time has ended. Like your skin, your hair can also individually react to the chemicals in hair dye.

If you notice excessive itchiness, discoloration, and swelling of the scalp, you should remove the dye immediately, Wallington says, since these typically suggest an allergic reaction.

Experts continue to explore a possible link between semi-permanent and permanent hair dyes and certain types of cancer.

Most research doesn’t support a strong link between cancer and hair dye — but some evidence does suggest a possible connection.

According to a 2019 study that included data from nearly 47,000 Black and white women, regular use of permanent hair dye or chemical hair straightening products may increase breast cancer risk, especially for Black women.

White women who regularly dyed their hair with a light-colored permanent dye had a 7 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer than those who didn’t dye their hair. But Black women who dyed their hair every 5 to 8 weeks, with a light- or dark-colored dye, had a 60 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer.

This study didn’t include information on whether the women used vegan dye.

According to 2021 research, certain chemicals found in hair dye, including PPD, Orange 1, and basic red 51, may pose potential health hazards, including an increased risk of breast cancer. Researchers also noted that more than 80 percent of permanent hair dyes include PPD.

The American Cancer Society does recommend vegetable-based hair dyes as a safer alternative to traditional hair dyes.

Still, when using any type of hair dye, you’ll want to:

  • stay in a well-ventilated area
  • avoid directly inhaling the dye
  • only leave hair dye on for the recommended amount of time

You may also want to consider dyeing your hair less frequently, if possible — and it never hurts to check the ingredients list for any potentially harmful chemicals, either.

The increased awareness of animal cruelty in cosmetic testing has boosted demand for cruelty-free beauty and skin care products. As a result, finding vegan hair dye might prove less of a challenge than in years past. Still, you may not be able to find it just anywhere.

Many options for vegan hair dye are for professional use only, which makes it tough to use at home. Instead, you might try searching for a colorist who uses one of the following brands:

  • Keune. Keune So Pure, recommended by Wallington, offers a range of cruelty-free, vegan, sulfate-free, and ammonia-free hair products. Their hair color range, which includes organic sandalwood, argan, and jasmine oils, claims to provide long lasting color and complete gray coverage.
  • LaBiosthetique. This certified vegan brand, recommended by Wallington, contains no mineral oil, silicones, sulfates, parabens, or alcohol.
  • Davines. While the entire Davines hair product line isn’t certified vegan or vegetarian, the brand does offer permanent vegan dye, which Harvey recommends.

Prefer to DIY at home? Harvey recommends the semi-permanent hair dye brand Crazy Colors, which is both vegan and cruelty free.

Vegan hair dye is free of all animal products and involves no animal testing.

With more vegan cosmetic products on the market, you can dye your hair and remain vegan. Just know it might take a little extra work to find a dye or a professional colorist who uses vegan dye.

Not sure where to start? It’s never a bad idea to check out vegan-friendly hair salons in your area.

Sarah Bence is an occupational therapist (OTR/L) and freelance writer, primarily focusing on health, wellness, and travel topics. Her writing can be seen in Business Insider, Insider, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s Travel, and others. She also writes about gluten-free, celiac-safe travel at