L’Oreal’s INOA – ammonia free hair dye

Posted on February 15th, 2012 by Gina

Permanent hair dye stinks and it does damage.  It’s the ammonia.  The smell seems noxious – it burns our noses when inhaled, and our scalps if left on too long.  The process dries out our tresses, too, and makes it more vulnerable to splitting. But those of us who do it regularly just plug our noses and bear it.  Another small price to pay for highlights or covering gray.

But beauty editors seem to sticking to their guns about L’Oreal’s INOA (short for Innovation No Ammonia) ammonia-free hair color.  It’s been written about in all the beauty magazines and even the New York Times did a story on the new product line a couple years ago.

L’Oreal isn’t the first to try this ammonia-free alternative, so what’s all the hype?

The company claims three reasons:  “smell, hair reaction and range of color.”  Ammonia is used in hair dye to open the hair fiber so that it absorbs the dye better, but the smell is just plain awful.  Get rid of ammonia, get rid of the smell.  Check.

L’Oreal is touting a new technology called ODS – Oil Delivery System – that uses oil molecules to more gently open the hair shaft to absorb the dye.  If oil is used as the delivery mechanism instead of blasting it with ammonia, then hair will not be damaged as much.  Hair reaction, check.

Range of color is a legitimate argument, too, since darker hair dyes contain more chemicals and are harder to sustain.  I am sporting red hair these days and am always flabbergasted at how quickly it fades.  Other companies have ammonia free dyes, but offer them in a limited number of colors because they won’t hold.  The more range, the more natural the colors look.  Check.

With L’Oreal being the lead distributor of hair dye in salons, this can only be good news for consumers.  Nonetheless, ammonia is only one of the many problematic chemicals in hair coloring.  It’s just the one we can smell and feel.  “There is no safe hair color, unfortunately,” says Horst Rechelbacher, inventor of Aveda and Intelligent Nutrients in Stacy Malkan’s book Not Just Another Pretty Face. And he is right. One of the scariest ingredients is a family of chemicals called Arylamines, which are a known risk factor for bladder cancer.  A member of that infamous family is p-phenylenediamine (PPD), which can be found on the labels of even non-permanent “natural” products.

So L’Oreal is responded to a market that is demanding “cleaner” hair products, and undoubtedly many haved followed.  But we still have a long way to go before the hype stops the harm.

13 Comments on “L’Oreal’s INOA – ammonia free hair dye”

  1. Reade Adams

    Naturcolor is an Italian hair dye with no ammonia. It does contain hydrogen peroxide. Reports are mixed on its coverage of gray hair, but it has worked well for me on my regular mousy-brown hair. I have used Cayenne for a subtle red color.

  2. Julie UK

    I have been searching for a Salon for long enough who uses Inoa. As someone who has thyroid problems my hair has got very fine and not in great condition. I thought I would try Inoa believing it to be a more natural, gentle product for my hair. However after reading Susie’s government revelations posted on 19 August, I think I will give this a miss. Thanks Susie.

  3. griselda ruiz

    Is there a place where I can buy INOA hair color in Seattle, can it be done at home or only at a salon?

  4. Leslie

    A recent government review has not only revealed that the INOA Hair Color line does in fact contain ammonia, but also ordered L’Oreal to cease making the claim that their line has “no ammonia”. In fact, INOA has multiple times the concentrations of PPD’s found in traditional hair color and more than 10X the amount of MEA (Monoethanolamine) found in some non-ammonia based hair colors. This should not be surprising at all because according to Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of Not Just a Pretty Face “it’s also worth noting that L’Oreal hair dyes commonly score a 10 for their high hazard level in Skin Deep.”

    L’Oreal’s claims about INOA Hair Color to be dangerous as some women who may be pregnant, be recovering or current cancer patients, be allergic to or otherwise have adverse reactions to ammonia may seek out INOA Hair Color because of their false perceptions that the entire line is free of ammonia as their advertising indicates


  5. Susie Breitbarth

    Hmm it looks like your website ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any suggestions for rookie blog writers? I’d definitely appreciate it.

  6. MsMermaid


  7. Sailaway2

    Just had my hair done yesterday using the INOA product and WOW, it is fabulous!! I had blonde on top with shadowing underneath and it was getting old and brassy. Decided to go dark all over to be more like my natural hair color. My stylists added a filler, then the color. The shine is gorgeous and let me tell you, it was so nice to have be tortured with the usual horrible smell of ammonia. Best thing since sliced bread!!

  8. Mpinksunshine

    I had a reaction years ago and now I use henna-found at health food stores most often-and I love it. Mix it up, wait a few hours for dye release( I wait overnight because I’m lazy) put on, wait and rinse off. Viola

  9. LookinGood

    Gaylee: it would be best if you visited a local salon that uses INOA products to see what kind of success their clients have been having. I have heard great reviews about the hair dye, but it is really an individual thing, depending on your level of sensitivity.

  10. Gaylene

    Hi, I have been dying my hair all my life and a couple of years ago I reacted to it and my face swelled up. I have tried organic hair dye but I reacted to that also. Will this inoa hair colour still react to my scalp if its already sensitive?

  11. LookinGood

    There is a L’Oreal Salon locator at this link.

  12. Pamela

    Where can I purchase INOA hair color???

  13. Natalie

    I tried inositol yesterday on my very sensitive scalp and so far so good. My wish now is that they would clean up their shampoos. Even their ‘naturals’ range that it finally paraben and silicone free still has bucketloads of sulfates. Come on L’oreal!

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