Color Your Hair Without Worsening Hashimoto's Symptoms, Dryness, or Hair Loss

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How to Color Your Hair Without Worsening Hashimoto’s Symptoms, Dryness, or Hair Loss with Jay Small

Can You Safely Cover Gray Hair without a Hashimoto’s Flare Up?

The Case: 

  • Name: ME! Today I solve my own health mystery…
  • I’ve been covering my gray hair naturally to avoid triggering my Hashimoto’s with chemical dyes
  • I tried Hair Print and at first, I loved it, but after a while, my hair became very dry

How could I continue to cover my gray hair without going back to harsh, chemical hair dyes?

The Investigation

Yep, today’s episode is all about me and a personal struggle many of you might share – the quest for safely coloring grays that doesn’t come with toxic side effects or a side of dryness.

As you know, avoiding chemicals is a big priority for me as it can be a trigger for Hashimoto’s (among other things). Last year, I shared with you how excited I was to discover Hair Print, a natural hair color line that seemed like a dream come true (see episode 121 for the details). I even dedicated a whole episode to walking you through the lengthy three-hour application process so you would know how to get good results (episode 142 has the full story).

After using the product for a while, I’ve discovered that, while it’s a great product,  it’s not right for my hair type because my hair had become quite dry.  

Seeking Professional and Safer Hair Dye Opinion… 

I confided my troubles to the amazing Jay Small, the celebrity hairstylist you may recall from episode 151.  Of course, I had to bring him back on the show to discuss how I was going to solve the mystery of covering my hair without going back to a chemical dye process or dealing with dry hair and scalp. 

Jay is also the co-founder of Array. He’s been working in the industry for 22 years and understands the science of hair on a molecular level. He also used to be my office neighbor! 

Safer Hair Coloring for Everyone, Especially Those with Hashimoto’s and Thyroid Issues

As you know, chemicals are a no-go for many of us, especially if you’re dealing with thyroid issues, Hashimoto’s, or other chronic conditions. Hair dye is notorious for being full of chemicals, leaving us wondering: what are the safer options for keeping our hair colored (and our grays at bay)?

Jay explains why chemicals in hair dye can be problematic. There are many factors at play, like your hair’s texture and what color you’re aiming for. Dyes have coloring agents and “accelerators” that open the hair cuticle to deposit the color.

The Hidden Dangers of Box Hair Dyes and “Natural” Alternatives

An estimated 71% of people color their hair at home and while Jay says that’s an option, he emphasizes the importance of understanding safe at-home coloring techniques or seeking professional help to ensure the process suits your specific hair and desired outcome.

Traditional box dyes are formulated to work on a wide range of hair colors, which means they often contain a broader range of chemicals to achieve that “one size fits all” auburn you might be craving. This can lead to unnecessary exposure to harsh chemicals, especially for lighter hair that needs less processing.

Unfortunately, even “natural” hair dyes don’t always mean safe or chemical-free. Some natural alternatives replace traditional chemicals with ingredients that can be just as problematic.

For example, natural dye may still contain PPD, according to Jay, which is a common ingredient in darker hair dyes derived from coal tar. 

Hydrogen peroxide is another common chemical found in hair dyes. Peroxide is often considered necessary for coloring because it acts as an opener, lifting the hair cuticle so color can be deposited. And, while you may be thinking that it’s safe because it’s used in wound care, it can be harmful in large quantities. Box dyes often contain a higher volume than needed because of that ‘one-size-fits-all’ issue we mentioned earlier. Salon colorists can use lower volume developers to achieve the same results, minimizing damage, according to Jay.

It’s important to remember that hair dye isn’t just sitting on your hair – it touches your scalp and hands, and you might even breathe in the fumes.

Scalp SOS: Why Coloring Carefully Matters

What happens to your scalp when you color your hair? According to Jay, it’s more than just surface irritation.

Hair dye, especially when applied directly to the scalp, can trigger a full-on threat response in your body. The reason is that peroxide is acting as an oxidizing agent. Your scalp swells, redness appears, and you might feel some irritation.

But the real damage happens below the surface. This chemical exposure creates free radicals, which can harm healthy cells and contribute to issues like premature graying and hair thinning – similar to how sun exposure wrinkles your skin.

How to Make Hair Color Less Harsh

Jay suggests considering cream-based colors over the stronger, liquid dyes (typically found in box kits). Cream-based colors are easier to control and keep off the scalp.

If you’re thinking that going pro is the better bet, Jay warns that professional coloring isn’t inherently safer. A good salon will consult with you to determine the lowest volume developer needed to achieve your desired results. Jay recommends asking your stylist about the volume of developer they’re using and exploring lower volume options (like 15 or 10 volume). Depending on your hair and the desired outcome, these lower levels might be just as effective with less damage.

Jay says don’t hesitate to ask your stylist questions during your appointment. Here are some conversation starters:

  • “What volume developer are you using?” (Remember, lower volume is often gentler on your scalp.)
  • “Can we explore using a lower volume to see if it achieves my desired color?”
  • “I’m concerned about the product saturating my scalp. What steps can we take to minimize that?”

By having an open conversation with your stylist, you can work together to find a coloring process that keeps your hair looking fabulous while prioritizing your scalp health. 

Healing Your Scalp After Coloring To Mitigate Damange: Can It Be Done?

We talked a lot about minimizing damage during the coloring process, but what about aftercare? Can we heal the scalp after color exposure?

Jay says absolutely! He warns against adding anything before coloring because it could potentially interfere with the process. However, Jay has developed (through his company Arey) a post-coloring scalp serum called Calm It Down.

Here’s what this serum is all about:

  • Targets Hidden Damage: Remember that free-radical damage below the scalp’s surface? “Calm It Down” uses antioxidants to combat this and promote healthy hair growth.
  • Soothes Above-the-Surface Issues: The serum tackles redness, itchiness, and other post-coloring discomforts with calming ingredients derived from ancient medicines.
  • Nourishment for Future Hair Health: “Calm It Down” also contains peptides, the building blocks of protein, to strengthen hair follicles and promote future growth.

Jay wanted to ensure a multi-layered approach because just throwing antioxidants at the scalp won’t suffice – they need a delivery system to reach those deeper layers. Calm It Down is formulated to optimize absorption, ensuring those healing ingredients reach where they’re needed most.

Soothing Your Scalp After Coloring: How to Use Calm It Down

This serum is applied after you’ve rinsed out your color, shampooed, and conditioned your hair.

Here’s how to use it for maximum scalp relief:

  • Apply directly to your wet scalp and hair after rinsing out your conditioner.
  • Massage it in gently.
  • Leave it in! Unlike some other products, Calm It Down is designed for long-lasting relief.
  • You can use it daily for several days following your coloring session if you experience irritation.
  • It can also be used before coloring your hair. Apply it 6-12 hours beforehand to create a protective barrier and minimize scalp stress during the coloring process.

My Personal Hair Coloring Routine: Safeguarding My Body, Hair and Scalp, While Achieving Beautiful Results

I wanted to share my personal hair coloring routine with you because it prioritizes my body, hair and scalp health alongside beautiful, gray-free, hair color. Here’s what works for me:

  • Prep Work is Key: In the days leading up to coloring, I go easy on my scalp. I avoid excessive brushing, scratching, and massaging. My natural oils are my friend, so I also skip washing my hair for 2-3 days beforehand. The night before coloring, I apply “Calm It Down” to my dry hair as an extra layer of protection.
  • Coloring Choices: I’ve found that a cream-based, oil-based color (I use Schwarzkopf’s Essensity which is now called Igora ammonia free) works well for me. I go a half shade darker than my natural color to achieve my desired results. To minimize irritation, I use an 18 volume developer and I’m even experimenting with going even lower to a 15 volume developer.
  • Targeted Application: I use a brush to carefully paint color only onto the gray areas. The areas that already have enough pigment get skipped! I also have a little where I leave the front section out until the last 15 minutes of the process to avoid having the hairline look too dark.
  • Processing and Aftercare: After mixing my color with an 18 volume developer, I process it for 35 minutes (but this will vary depending on your hair). Once the color is rinsed out, I apply my favorite deep conditioner called Romance and leave it in for 5-10 minutes. A quick towel dry is followed by my favorite part – applying Calm It Down to my wet scalp and hair.
  • Scalp Soothing: Calm It Down feels so great going on. It soothes my scalp and leaves it feeling refreshed. But it also does wonders for manageability and overall hair health. I don’t even need to use additional oils on my hair anymore!
  • Continued Care: For an extra dose of TLC, I recommend using Calm It Down for up to 3 days after coloring, the more antioxidants the better, not just for irritation but for overall hair support.

Remember, even if you don’t experience obvious irritation, Calm It Down can address potential underlying damage. I believe this approach can help prevent future hair loss and prevent more grays (because unfortunately, the ingredients in the developer can accelerate the graying process).

Eliminating Health Mysteries

For me, using Calm It Down and this new hair dye routine solved my dry hair mystery and I was able to get back to having healthy (gray-free) hair without compromising my overall health. Could this be the missing clue for you or someone in your life? 


Resources mentioned

Thanks to my guest Jay Small. You can connect with him at or through Instagram or TikTok

Remember to use the promo code INNA15 to save 15% on your orders when you buy directly from Arey.  You can also get it directly on my website here and also save 15% with code INNA15


Related Podcast Episodes:

Hair Dyes and Autoimmunity – What’s a girl to do? With Jennifer Barker Hair Color and Autoimmunity – My Hairprint Journey Continues Hypothyroidism Turning Your Hair Gray? Try This Natural Solution with Jay Small and Allison Conrad

Thanks for Listening

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