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Thanks for visiting my Hair Color Review Website!

For those of you who are new, I’m Melanie Nickels, a ranking member / educator / evaluator of The American Board of Certified Hair Colorists. I am the only organic / non-toxic educator in the ABCH organization. I am the founder / creator of Raw Hair Organics, a line of organic / natural professional quality hair products that WORK just like traditional chemical-based ones. You can read more about it at www.rawhairorganics.com . I am the founder of the first organic / non-toxic salon in South Florida, the Raw Hair Organic Salon in Naples, Florida. I was internationally trained, as well as part of Inter-Coiffure, a Broadway stylist on the hit show “42nd Street”, and have many certifications and  training much to numerous to list here. I spend no less than 60 hours a week, every week, behind the chair, hands-on in my salon, the Raw Hair Organic Salon in Naples, Florida. I have two college degrees: One in Business, and One in Accounting. My hair color reviews are read in and reach no less than 50 Countries World-Wide every single day of the  year by industry professionals of all ranks, as well as salon clients, etc.  If you would like to know more about me, you can find a more detailed bio on the homepage of this site (which I will be updating). I DO NOT SELL HAIR COLOR. 

I do NOT work for, nor do I own or represent a hair color company. I am NOT compensated in ANY way by ANY hair color company. When I review a hair color line, I purchase the product WITH MY OWN MONEY. I do not receive free product from manufacturers, as I feel this creates an inherent bias right from the start. 

Ok, I should have started with this discussion to talk about MEA vs. Ammonia (or the difference between MEA and Ammonia, if you will) a long time ago.  So lets go back to the basics and get into what is used in haircolor and why:

Let me begin by saying I am not a chemist, so I am giving you the facts as a professional, working haircolorist with a lot of experience in haircolor and ingredient knowledge from working with chemists on a regular basis for the last several years.  I, like most people in the industry, had been taught over the years that MEA is bad….that it doesn’t rinse from the hair and it dries it out over time.  Boy, was shocked to find out the hair color I’ve been using contains MEA because my experience was quite the contrary!  I have used MEA and Ammonia BOTH, for MANY years. I find that there is a lot of misinformation out there being shared by people who either a) have an agenda either for or against MEA or Ammonia,  and b) people who don’t have a vast background using BOTH for an extended period of time (or don’t work behind the chair AT ALL) thus, in my professional opinion, their opinions are worthless to you and me as  working professionals. Frankly, this is why I started http://www.organichaircolorreview.com in the first place.

Hair has a natural ph of 4.5-5.5. So in order to color the hair, there needs to be an alkaline agent to raise or adjust the ph so the color can penetrate the cuticle and get to the cortex.

Ammonia has been the ingredient of choice in hair color for many years because it is good at doing that….typically raising the ph to 10-10.5.  However, the problem is  that ammonia is aggressive on the hair, it is a strong irritating gas that gives off fumes, and when it disolves in water it forms ammonium hydroxide which is highly corrosive.  There are several reports on the possible health risks on this topic from sources like the Dept. of Health and the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, and Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety.

Another problem that arises from using ammonia as the ph adjuster in hair color is that because it is more aggressive  on the hair which causes loss of protein and moisture, it damages  the cuticle.  This leads to the problem of higher porosity, which means the cuticle is not closing down properly and you have increased difficulties with color fadage.

So what is MEA?  The official terminology is Monoethanolamine.  It is in the family of Ethanolamines.  It is an organic chemical compound that is a primary amine and primary alcohol.  It can be toxic, flammable, and corrosive at high amounts.  However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer have decided that ethanolamines do NOT pose a cancer risk to humans.  According to the European Chemical Industry Council, it is a clear viscous, liquid derived from reacted ethylene oxide and …aqueous ammonia.  There is also a Cocomide MEA which is fatty acids in coconut oil reacted with MEA.   Confused?   So basically, it is used as a replacement ph adjuster in haircolor that is considered ammonia-free and used at lower percentages and coupled with emollient oils, making it less volatile and less corrosive than ammonia. That being said, just like any other ingredient, there can be different amounts of MEA used and/or it can be used in conjunction with other ingredients like alcohol in order to perform.  The same rule applies to any ingredient that is replacing ammonia or that is used to raise the ph.  The more that is used, the higher the ph, the more damage.  Other ingredients being used in a similar way are AMEA (Aminomethylpropanol & Monoethanolamine), and AMP (Amino Methyl Propanol).

It’s interesting that the people (meaning manufacturers) who have been or are supportive / defensive about ammonia as used in hair coloring have been lowering the amount of ammonia in their hair color lines,  or are now creating products that are ammonia free, but have been trying to find or use an alternative ingredient to MEA since they have been bashing it for all these years and know now they will look like hypocrites if they do use MEA.  I also find it interesting the amount of people (stylists & colorists) that have been putting products like Sweet & Low in their haircolor in order to reduce the amount of irritation on their clients scalps and thinking this is OK. (REALLY??)  I have had MANY well respected haircolorists tell me the ammonia doesn’t bother them.  I always respond, “well, how about your clients?”  We all have had them asking for a comb or something to scratch their heads while color was processing! What does THAT tell you??!!

Ph levels are compounding, meaning each little increment it goes up is exponential.  So the difference between 9 and 10 is huge!  The magic number for working ph for color seems to be 9.  It is enough to open and penetrate through the cuticle without causing damage

Now that I’ve laid the groundwork, let’s get to the big theory that has been floating around the hair industry forever about MEA.  It is claimed that MEA does not rinse from the hair, and that it dries the hair out.  This is yet to be proven to me, in theory or in the salon, as I have had many debates with very well respected colleagues within the ABCH  (The American Board of Certified Hair Colorists) as well as others, on this topic.  Speaking from MY experience behind the chair using a hair color with MEA in it for over 7 years, every day, I have seen nothing but the opposite in my clients hair!  I have not had any problems rinsing and shampooing the color, and therefore the MEA, from the hair.  All of my salon hair color clients  can visibly see the difference in their hair of how much healthier and shinier their hair is after they stopped using ammonia hair color on it.  ALL of them. Literally hundreds of clients.

Also, while we are on the topic of MEA, another little fact I like to point out is that hairstylists favorite demi, non-ammonia hair color of all time: (Redken Shades EQ) that has been used to freshen/tone/glaze the ends of the hair because it is less damaging and gentler has…….guess what…….MEA in it!!!  Hmmm…

Let me make that clear: Redken Shades EQ has MEA in it 

So there you have it.  In a nutshell, there needs to be some kind of alkaline agent in hair color to raise the ph in order to be able to color hair.  Different sources can be used to achieve this function.  As I like to say, are any of them perfect?  No.  But some seem better for me to work with than others.  You take your pick. But now, you can finally make an educated choice.

Please feel free to leave a comment. I will respond.

Check out my other review websites: http://www.organichairproductreview.wordpress.com ,  www.organicskincarereview.wordpress.com  and also check out my NEW blog area with great professional info http://www.rawhairorganics.com

Until next time, here’s to great, healthy hair and great, healthy hairstylists.