Here’s the thing about salon dye jobs: The chemicals responsible for those unicorn-pastel hues or Jessica Rabbit reds aren’t exactly good for you. Ingredients like ammonia and PPD are surprisingly common in mainstream formulas, despite the fact that they may actually be carcinogens. (Also, they reek.) But, while less-toxic options do exist, few are going to get you the same results and staying power that a traditional dye will yield—and some might even damage your hair or change its texture. In short, hair color that’s all-natural, safe, long-lasting, and super effective isn’t really a thing yet.
Feels kinda damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t, right? Don’t lose hope just yet: There are some options that allow you to play around with hair color without exposing yourself to damaging chemicals. You just might have to make some compromises along the way—like, possibly staining the hell out of your hands with beet juice or spending six hours letting pungent henna absorb into your hair. And while you might not nail perfect mermaid hair in your kitchen on your first attempt, you also don’t have to worry about inhaling ammonia stench. If that sounds like a fair trade off, read on for the scoop on hair-dye formulas that are a little safer and, in most cases, a lot less smelly.