The information in this article comes from illustrious, well-known and highly regarded experts in the hairstyling industry who are very knowledgeable about the manufacturing of hair color…such as Dr Hayel Said, the developer of many well-known color brands, Dennis Gebhardt creator of Guru Village , a protégé of hair color pioneer & legend Sam Lapin, my good friend Tom Dispenza, creator of the CHROMASTICS hair color line and many more!
First off, Ammonia has been shown to be the most efficient alkalizer at swelling the hair shaft and allowing the components of hair coloring products to penetrate deep into the cortex. This is especially effective when a lightening of the existing color is required, Monoethanolamine (MEA) or Aminomethylpropanol (AMP)do not have a much lightening power as ammonia.
Ammonia is a chemical agent that provides alkalinity and raises the pH of hair colorants. It swells the hair and allows for the deep penetration of dye inside the hair shaft to achieve deep and exceptionally long lasting. It also helps the action of peroxide in lightening the natural hair color. It is an exceedingly small molecule, which evaporates rapidly (5-7 minutes- hence the strong odor) and rinses out quickly and totally from the hair. By most scientific evidence available today, ammonia presents no health risks to hairdressers or clients when used according to instructions and under normal salon conditions (which include some form of ventilation and controlled salon temperature). Its odor has also been greatly reduced thanks to encapsulated fragrance additions that neutralize its odor.
Ammonia levels in hair color vary not only among different manufacturers’ lines, but also within the same manufacturer’s line. Permanent shades ,when mixed, will contain as little as 0,8% of the ammonia solution, while the high-lift shades may go well over 10%.
Many hair colors on the market claiming of being ammonia-free have been pushed to the consumer through suggestive advertising: wording which gives the impression that it is gentler, more natural. Nothing could be further from the truth; it has a medium to high rating of allergy. MEA is a derivative of ammonia, is less volatile, because it is a liquid and not a gas like Ammonia, it does do not evaporate as rapidly. It does do not smell, but because it is 3.5 times larger than Ammonia, it has more difficulty to penetrate into the cortex than Ammonia. Products using only MEA don’t lighten the natural hair color as much as the ones using Ammonia . MEA is also very tenacious in the hair: it attaches itself to the minerals in the hair and eventually putting it into an permanent alkaline state. The end result is hair that is dry, has raised cuticle and lacks elasticity. Some companies combine Ammonia and MEA. However, as long as the ammonia is the main alkalizer and the MEA content is no more than 2% , it is found to have no negative effects on the hair. And when used in a demi-permanent color the natural hair color gets somewhat lightened!
AMP has become a favorite alkalizer for deposit only colors, demi permanent shades and toners. Aminomethyl Propanol a very soluble, synthetic ingredient that functions as a buffer to adjust the pH of cosmetics and personal care products. The AMP molecules are smaller than MEA ones, penetrate deep the cortex , the resulting shades stay vibrant for a long time. Based on new information supporting the safety of Aminomethyl Propanol at concentrations up to 7%, the Panel concluded that this ingredient is safe as used in cosmetics and personal care products. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Aminomethyl Propanol is rated as a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest risk to health and 10 being the highest.
In conclusion, ammonia is seen to provide superior grey coverage. For less chemical side effects, high-lightening hair and longer lasting permanent color with less damage, ammonia-based formulas are the still the best solution.