The 10 Best Vegan Hair Dyes That Actually Work

by Lisa Fogarty
Originally Published: 

Once upon a time, if you wanted to change the color of your hair, you were at the mercy of a drugstore box dye brand or a hairdresser using whatever dye they had on hand. But the best vegan hair dyes available today are cruelty-free, formulated without animal-derived ingredients, and offer a wide variety of high-quality shades, from natural to daring. And, as more of us make the switch to vegan or become more conscious of the ways animals are sometimes harmed for the benefit of beauty, the demand for vegan hair dyes that actually work has only increased.

Cruelty-free vegan hair dyes are often vegetable-based dyes, like henna, that come in temporary, semi-permanent, or permanent formulas. Some of these dyes contain good-for-your hair ingredients like essential oils and cocoa butter that can actually make your hair look even more lush and shiny (as opposed to brittle and dry), and many are free of ammonia and yucky, dehydrating chemicals. If you search long enough, you'll even find a few vegan dye brands that boast eco-friendly and recyclable packaging. You'll be able to gift the planet with beautiful and thoughtful hair color.

Whether you're looking to dye your hair a cruelty-free chestnut brown or a bright unicorn-inspired shade, these 10 vegan hair dyes will satisfy your color desires — and deliver impressive results that make being vegan look good.

1. A Permanent Dye That Covers Grays: Herbatint Permanent Haircolor Gel

Lots of semi-permanent vegan hair dyes are great for delivering a hint of pretty color, but aren't as effective in coloring gray hair. This permanent vegan hair dye provides vibrant color without ammonia, parabens, and alcohol and gets rid of grays in a flash. It's a gel dye that comes in 23 natural shades that range from platinum blonde to black with a number of brown, red, and blonde shades in between. According to Amazon reviewers, the color lasts a long time and is very gentle.

Reviewers say: "This truly is a great product if you're looking for some NATURAL looking gray coverage. Color lasts until your new hair grows out and DOES NOT RUN OR RUB OFF. Absolutely amazing product."

2. A Strengthening Henna Cream: Surya Brasil Henna Cream

A lot of reviewers say they have made the switch to henna hair creams after experiencing allergic reactions from dye. This plant-based formula stands out because it is rich with essential oils like ylang ylang and rose, which leave hair soft and shiny, covers gray, and makes hair appear and feel thicker.

While a lot of other hennas come in powder form and require that you do a little bit of mixing to achieve great color, this is a cream that's ready to go. You may need to free up some time while applying it, though: more than a few reviewers report getting excellent and rich results after leaving the color in their hair to penetrate for 60 minutes to up to three hours. You can find an array of mostly deep and golden brown, black, and red shades.

Reviewers say: "This stuff is easy to use, goes on without a mess, and can be used for root touch ups and saved. [...] Great product and the answer to my hair coloring woes!!"

3. A PETA-Approved Cream Color: Good Dye Young Beautifully Obnoxious Semi-Permanent Hair Color

This semi-permanent vegan hair dye won the 2017 Libby Award for best vegan hair dye, and it's not difficult to see why it came out on top. Good Dye Young was co-founded by Paramore singer Hayley Williams with the goal of empowerment and self expression — and its highly-pigmented and vibrant shades are free of formaldehyde, PPD, and parabens. They're also mixable, so you can snag a tube of black to create darker tones or add a touch of Fader and add it to you color to produce a pastel shade, allowing you to customize your look. Sunflower extracts and soothing bergamot essential oils add nourishment and conditioning to your hair. Be aware though that the color will stain — and though it can temporarily color grays, it isn't intended for this purpose.

Reviewers say: "I’ve never written a review on Amazon EVER. this is my first. I’m a professional stylist and this color is just as good if not better than anything I can purchase professionally."

4. A Conditioning Botanical Powder: Light Mountain Natural Hair Color & Conditioner

This 100% botanical hair color conditions your hair while you color. Aside from the hair dye, the kit also includes a hat and gloves, so you don't wind up coloring your neck and hands, too. And, this adorably-packaged henna-based hair color is USDA-certified organic, so you can feel good about its impact the environment and your head.

Reviewers say: "I've been using it for ten years and won't ever use another as long as they keep making this. Now I have some gray hair and it covers well but not flat like the dyes - it leaves the gray just a shade lighter so that it looks like auburn highlights."

5. A Unisex Henna Powder: The Henna Guys Henna Hair & Beard Dye

Boost your hair's volume and create an intense shine that lasts for weeks with this natural henna powder, which comes in 10 shades (all of which are in the warm red and brown family, because henna has its limitations when it comes to hues). This powder is free of parabens, peroxide, and ammonia, and it's cruelty-free, too, giving you a bold, gorgeous color without any chemicals. The addition of natural herbs like amla and neem powder provide conditioning effects that help strengthen each strand.

One thing to be aware of when using henna for the first time: You may not always get the exact shade on the box. Factors including your hair's natural color and undertones and any dye you've previously applied can affect the final results.

Reviewers say: "I love love love this product. I found it easy to apply and the color turned out lovely [...] I also didn't experience any color run. I would highly recommend this product to anyone wanting to use a natural, non-toxic hair dye."

6. A Shine-Boosting Formula For All Hair Types: Naturigin Permanent Hair Color

This dairy-free, vegan hair color is free of ammonia and parabens and comes in 19 natural shades. Reviewers say it does a great job of covering grays without "stinky chemicals," but that you may need to follow up with an additional conditioning treatment, because the formula can be drying on some hair types.

One factor that makes this hair color stand out is that it has added certified-natural oils and extracts like jojoba oil, grapefruit peel oil, and lemon peel extract. These oils condition hair and revive its shine so that, in addition to changing or freshening up your color, you hair will look, feel, and be healthier than before.

Reviewers say: "I'm very happy with this color. I was getting concerned about the safety of the drugstore brands I was using. This organic brand filled my need, l've used it twice and been pleased. It lasted about 2 months before I reapplied."

7. A Super-Pigmented Semi-Permanent Dye: Lime Crime Unicorn Hair

Want unicorn hair but always assumed the trade-off for achieving crazy, bold color was breakage and dry hair? Lime Crime's Unicorn Hair color line is gentle, won't damage your hair, and requires no toner or developer. It washes out after several shampoos — so no commitment is required if you decide you want to make the switch from Strawberry Jam (an intense fuchsia) to electric violet. The color requires no DIY-ing on your part: open the jar and apply.

It's important to note that Lime Crime provides two formulas: tint, which is lighter and will really only show up if you already have blonde or other light hair, and full coverage, a more pigmented range of shades that can work with most except the darkest hair colors.

Reviewers say: "My hair is dark dark brown (most people think it is black) so I didn't have very high hopes for color payoff. Application was easy with some gloves. I rubbed the color in (old tee shirt, covered bathroom surfaces), pinned it out of my face, and watched a movie for two hours. I rinsed in the sink, toweled dry with an old/dark towel, styled, and fell in love. Beautiful subtle color (sea witch). More vibrant in the sun/light but multiple people that evening commented on my hair in a dark bar. I've washed everyday with a sulfate free shampoo and while it has started to fade there is still noticeable color 4 days in. I am thrilled."

8. A Colorful Cult Favorite: Manic Panic Classic Semi-Permanent Hair Dye

The OG of semi-permanent crazy hair color cream remains Manic Panic, a 100% vegan brand that fades with each shampoo. If you have light hair, you could get lucky and wind up with a vibrant color that sticks around for eight weeks, but those with darker hair will have to either bleach their hair first or be content with a few pretty highlights that will likely fade faster.

When it comes to hair shade options, few have Manic Panic beat. This brand gives you an incredible 51 shade options — from watercolor pastels to intense "High Voltage" hues like purple and Cleo Rose — and the world of color is truly your oyster when you choose this brand.

Reviewers say: "I've been dying my hair since 1992 and this is my fave color and brand. You can't go wrong with Manic Panic's formula. It's so gentle on your scalp and bleach damaged hair comes out soft, silky and healthy feeling after even a single treatment."

9. A Vibrant, Keratin-Infused Dye: Jerome Russell Punky Colour Semi-Permanent Conditioning Hair Color

This cruelty-free, PPD-free, and vegan hair dye comes in 21 super vibrant shades like lagoon blue and apple green and is scoring major points among reviewers because they last a much longer time than some of their competitors (expect color to last for about 25 washes). These semi-permanent shades are rich, highly pigmented and, unlike many other dyes, are actually hydrating and will help make strands softer. The dye can be super messy though, so be careful to cover the area where you apply it with towels or old shirts and to be patient and apply it slowly.

Reviewers say: "What's not to love? It smells like kool-aid, is true to the color on the jar, and lasts pretty much forever! It does fade after about a dozen washes but it fades gracefully."

10. A Gentle Dye That Won't Damage Hair: Arctic Fox Semi-Permanent Hair Color

If there's a way to actually condition hair while coloring it a vibrant shade like Virgin Pink or Sunset Orange, that would be a great thing, right? That's pretty much the magic behind Arctic Fox vegan semi permanent dyes, which are long lasting, contain added non-gmo protein conditioners, and have zero ammonia and peroxide. These dyes are designed so that they smear and bleed less, something your poor white towels will appreciate, and with every purchase, 15% of profits are donated to help prevent animal abuse.

The color fades with each shampoo and you can expect to need a refresh after about six weeks. Choose from among 13 shades, most of which are super bright and punchy.

Reviewers say: "This color is great! I was looking for something safe to use on my daughter's hair and I wanted something that wasn't going to be too harsh and also something that wasn't tested on animals (which is a big deal to us). This brand is totally vegan, and does not contain peroxide, ammonia, Ethyl Alcohol, or PPD. As a result, there's no harsh smell."

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