Read more as Dr Erum ILYAS discusses hair dye with the Washington Post!

Read more as Dr Erum ILYAS discusses hair color with the Washington Post!



Box or salon?  Hair color can be very personal.  Sometimes the only way you can feel confident you will achieve the color you are seeking is to go to a salon.  However, there are many circumstances where box color can save you a trip. 

Are there certain hair colors that can be safely done at  home? 

Overall, if you are staying within your hair color range- just shifting within 2-3 shades of normal for you- using a box color is great. 

When should you seek a professional? 

If you are planning a drastic color change, say brown to blonde- then it’s likely a good idea to see a professional. Melanin (eumelanin for darker shades and pheomelanin for reddish hues) is responsible for our hair color. It may not be so simple for someone like me with darker hair color to simply pick up a box of blonde hair color and expect to be a blonde after one application:)  

Recent studies on the safety of hair dye. 

This is where it’s important to understand what’s in hair color to achieve the pigments we seek and understand what happens when things go wrong. Scalp dermatitis is one of the most frequent complaints I see- I have had a number of men and women with blisters from using a product they were allergic to. 

 Ingredients to know:

Paraphenylenediamine: also known as ppd. This is the dye responsible for darker shades of hair color. It is found in BOTH salon and at home hair dye products. If you prefer darker shades but have developed an allergy to this, consider using vegetable based dyes. 


Ammonia: ammonia is in my hair dyes to swell the hair follicle to help hair dye penetrate the cuticle and attach. Even though we hear about ammonia free products- it’s difficult to say if they are better. Ultimately these products will still use some kind of alkalinizing ingredients to achieve the same result. If you are not using a permanent hair color this is not necessarily important to have as an ingredient. For me- since I’m always in need of covering my relentless grey hair I tend to use semi permanent colors (I pretty much love L’Oréal’s Feria) and these don’t have ammonia and can be used when needed.


Peroxide: this takes our hair from dark to light and is also considered a permanent change to hair. It will not likely be in our temporary or semi permanent colors because of this. Peroxide breaks down pigment in our hair’s cortex. 

Lead acetates gradually darken the hair over time. Lead is generally not considered safe in our products and it can have health consequences.


Read more as Dr Erum ILYAS discusses hair color with the Washington Post!

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