Professional Hair Color at Home: What Ingredients Should High-Quality Hair Dyes Have?


A professional hair color used at the colorist’s is quite different from most box dyes. However, this doesn’t mean that all DYI hair colors are worse than the pro ones – there are quite a few products created with better, less harsh ingredients available that can be almost as good as the dyes used by hair colorists. Let’s look into this in more detail!

Key Ingredients in High-Quality, Professional Hair Color Products

Let’s look at the main ingredients of hair dyes, including the most popular ones and their less harsh alternatives used in professional hair color products (


Primary intermediates, such as paraphenylenediamine (PPD), are essential in permanent hair dyes. These compounds react with oxidizing agents, typically hydrogen peroxide, to produce the desired color. Hydrogen peroxide not only develops the dye but also helps to bleach natural pigments, creating a suitable base for new colors. This dual action is fundamental in achieving vibrant, long-lasting results.

However, the aforementioned PPD might be harsh for your scalp – it’s an allergen and skin sensitizer. That’s why in a professional hair color, you will rather look for PTD – Para Toluene Diamine.

Ammonia vs. Ethanolamine

Couplers, or coupling agents, are colorless compounds that react with primary intermediates to form the final dye color. They can be blue, red, and green – thanks to this, the dye allows for a broad spectrum of colors. 

Ammonia is often used as an alkaline agent to open the hair cuticle, enabling dye penetration into the hair shaft. However, professional hair color products use ammonia-free alternatives, like ethanolamine. Why? They are milder. Their only downside is that they may not provide the same longevity or lightening effect as ammonia-based dyes.

Resorcinol vs. 2-methylresorcinol

Resorcinol is another crucial colorant that enhances the dye’s vibrancy. It works synergistically with PPD and other dye precursors to stabilize the color and ensure even distribution throughout the hair. This ingredient helps in achieving the desired shade while maintaining the dye’s effectiveness over multiple washes. But, like the other popular ingredients, it’s quite a skin sensitizer. That’s why you are more likely to find 2-methylresorcinol in a professional hair color, a less harsh alternative.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) vs. Sodium Laureth Sulfate

SLS is used to lower the surface tension between the ingredients. However, it can irritate your hair, wash out nutrients and proteins, or even make the color fade faster. Thus, you won’t see it in a high-quality, professional hair color. Instead, such dyes contain sodium laureth sulfate – a similar compound which is gentler.

The Takeaway

Knowing the difference in ingredients, you’re now capable of distinguishing a professional hair color from a low-quality box dye. Use this knowledge to ensure that you color your hair with products that you can feel good about. After all, healthier hair means better looks and more confidence for longer!

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