When it comes to cosmetic or haircare products, it is the act of colouring the hair, face and body which carries the greatest risk to those with nickel allergy — be it through make-up, fake tan, or hair dye.
Given the popularity of a previous article of mine on nickel-free make-up, I thought I’d run through some options for those looking for natural nickel tested or ‘nickel safe’ hair dye or colouring products.
First, it’s important to make clear is that nickel and nickel-based compounds are not permitted ingredients in any cosmetic product, and that includes hair dyes and hair tints. Scrutinising the ingredients for the word ‘nickel’ is pointless — it will not be there.
Instead, it is probably more useful to look for iron oxides and other mineral colorants in the ingredients, which can sometimes be possible indicators of higher levels of nickel through trace contamination.
That said, possibly the better and easier approach is to instead look for brands which have conducted testing for nickel on their hair dyes, or have formulated to be as ‘low nickel’ or ‘nickel allergy friendly’ as possible, even if it is not possible to be completely ‘nickel free’.
Herbatint say they use nickel tested ingredients.
Their Permanent Hair Color Gels are also free of ammonia, parabens, alcohol, gluten and fragrance. They contain the allergen PPD, however.
In the UK, all the colours appear to be stocked by Amazon.
Herbaint also offer a natural and temporary range, Vegetal, which are organic powders based on henna and other botanical pigments and ingredients.
In the UK, try the Herbatint site direct, which (at the time of writing) sells the product more cheaply than Amazon.
This is one of many Italian brands with good nickel credentials.
The range includes Instant Root Touch Up Sprays, Rapid Hair Dye for fast-acting coverage, a Lightening Cream for natural highlights, plus Shampoo and Conditioner to help maintain coloured hair.
All products are free from PPD, PEGs, silicones, parabens and are “dermatologically and nickel-tested”.
In the US, the range only appears to be available through Amazon.
This is another nickel-tested Italian option, a bit trickier to find outside Italy. It comes in distinctive yellow packaging.
There is a PPD-containing ‘Classic’ Range (black label/seal across the top), which is free from parabens, formaldehyde compounds, ammonia and silicones.
There is a ”Sensitive’ Permanent Range (green label across the top), which is additionally PPD free but contains TDS — a compound which some with PPD-allergy still react to (but not all).
There is a Reflex Range (red label across the top), which is non-permanent and free of ammonia, peroxide, silicones, formaldehyde.
In the UK, Amazon appears to be the best option again.
Another Italian brand, who offer three types of hair colouring treatments, all of which have been nickel tested.
The Shine On High Sensitivity Plus range is permanent hair colour, which uses the recently developed “gentler PPD alternative” molecule ME-PPD (read more about it in this article). It is free from preservatives, fragrances, gluten, resorcinol, ammonia, PPD and TDS.
The Shine On and the Shine on Fast ranges uses TDS (toluene 2,5 diamine sulphate), a slightly safer alternative to PPD.
A few of the products are on Amazon UK.
You can order from the Italian website here.
A Word on Henna Options
Most henna-based options offer natural / temporary alternatives, and can’t permanently dye your hair. They may be suitable for some women looking to enhance natural tones or cover a few greys, but can’t offer the same results as permanent hair colors.
Although many are likely to be fine in terms of nickel and other allergens, it’s a mistake to assume henna-based products are automatically nickel-safe. Be wary of any poorly labelled or unusual products, imported and not stocked at reputable outlets, as these may potentially be contaminated with metallic elements or other toxic compounds. Always buy from well known stores and brands.
It’s generally a good idea to look for organic henna powders if you can. Other than the Herbatint Vegetal mentioned above, in the UK the It’s Pure Organics range, stocked by Suvarna, is probably the most highly-regarded.
Products vs Ingredients
There may be other hair colors and dyes which describe themselves in various terms as safe for those with nickel allergy.
Read wording carefully, and don’t be shy of making direct approaches to manufacturers for clarification.
Bear in mind, for instance, that ‘nickel tested ingredients’ don’t necessarily equate to ‘nickel safe’ final products, as contamination with nickel is theoretically possible during the manufacturing process, even though this may not be to appreciable levels effecting the end safety of the product.
More on Hair Products, and Other Cosmetics
If you want to know more about all types of cosmetics with regard to nickel (and other metal) allergies, then my book, The Metal Allergy Guide, has many pages of information on these subjects.
There’s also a detailed explanation of how to identify iron oxides in cosmetics, hair and skincare products and toiletries, which may be useful if you wish to conduct your own ‘detective work’ on trying to find potentially safe products.
A final word on PPD
Nickel exposure through hair products will not give you a life-threatening anaphylactic response, but PPD, if you are sensitised to it, can give far more serious reactions.
Some of the products mentioned in this article do contain PPD. A previous article on PPD Free Hair Dye may help you learn more about this subject, although note that nickel allergy was not a specific consideration among the products mentioned in that post.