Ammonia Free Haircolor
Is ammonia free haircolor better, more gentle or more natural than haircolor that contain ammonia? The answer may surprise you.
Ammonia has been safely used as an alkalizing agent in haircolor for decades. Ammonia is an inorganic alkali because it does not contain carbon. Ammonia is a small, volatile molecule that evaporates quickly, which accounts for its strong odor. Although ammonia is more effective for hair coloring and lightening than other alkalizing agents, its use has declined because of its strong, offensive odor.
The chemical formula for ammonia is NH3. Ammonia raises the pH by removing a hydrogen ion (H+) from water (H2O), leaving an alkaline hydroxide ion (OH–). All alkalis derive their chemical reactivity from the hydroxide ion (OH–).
NH3 + H2O → NH4+ + OH–
Alkanolamines are used to replace ammonia and are gaining in popularity because of their low odor. These large, organic molecules contain carbon and are not as volatile as ammonia, so there is little odor associated with their use. Aminomethylpropanol (AMP) and monoethanolamine (MEA) are examples of common organic alkalis that are used instead of ammonia. Although they eliminate the ammonia odor, they are not as effective at lightening the hair as ammonia.
Alkanolamines are formed by a chemical reaction of ammonia with ethylene oxide. Even though alkanolamines may not smell as strong as ammonia, they can be every bit as alkaline and every bit as damaging to the hair, depending on the concentration. Many harsh chemicals have little or no odor. Remember that carbon monoxide is odorless, but it’s a deadly poison. Contrary to what your nose and the marketing department may tell you, ammonia free does not necessarily mean free of damage.
Alkanolamines raise the pH of a solution in exactly the same way that ammonia does. The chemical formula for monoethanolamine is HOCH2CH2NH2. The amino or amine functional group is NH2, which reacts just like ammonia (NH3). All alkalis derive their chemical reactivity from the hydroxide ion (OH–).
HOCH2CH2 – NH2 + H2O → HOCH2CH2 – NH3+ + OH–
All oxidative hair coloring requires an alkaline pH. Lightening hair requires a higher (more alkaline) pH and causes more damage than a deposit only hair color. Ammonia, AMP and MEA all perform the same function. The pH of the hair color or lightener is far more important than the alkalizing agent.
We welcome your questions and comments