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PPD and Toluene-2,5 Diamine Sulfate in Hair Dye - What's the Difference?

Selecting a Hair Colour

What's the Difference Between PPD, Toluene-2,5 Diamine Sulfate, and Phenylenediamines?

If you're looking into switching to a safer, more natural hair colour product, you're likely to encounter references to the chemical compound p-Phenylenediamine (often abbreviated PPD). PPD is commonly used in many traditional and 'natural' hair colour formulas. It is also the primary cause of allergic reactions in hair colourings.

Semi-permanent and permanent hair colourings usually use either p-Phenylenediamine (PPD) or Toluene-2,5 Diamine Sulfate to activate the colouring pigments. Although they work in more or less the same way, PPD is a more aggressive ingredient. Some natural hair colour fomulas do contain PPD, but at reduced levels.

This does not mean that people cannot be allergic to Toluene-2,5 Diamine Sulfate. Individuals can be allergic or potentially react to all sorts of natural or chemical ingredients. This is the reason hair colour companies advise everyone to carry out a sensitivity test prior to using a hair colouring. Some people have no issue with the lower levels of PPD present in some natural formulas, but generally the number of people having a reaction to Toluene-2,5 Diamine Sulfate is lower than to PPD.


Confusion occasionally arises as natural hair dye formulas often contain a number of similarly named compounds. Both PPD and Toluene-2,5 Diamine Sulfate belong to the same family of ingredients: phenylenediamines. Since these related ingredients belong to the same chemical family, it is mandated by the European Cosmetics Directive to list the official warning text 'contains phenylenediamines' on retail packaging. Natural hair color products that do not contain PPD may still list phenylenediamines in their ingredients; however, they will not contain 'p-phenylenediamine.'

No permanent hair dyes are entirely chemical-free. Most chemicals have been replaced with natural ingredients and natural oils, providing much safer alternatives to conventional hair dyes. Manufacturers and retailers are unable to predict how any one individual might react to ingredients – some people may still experience reactions. Before colouring your hair, patch tests are always advised.

Natural Hair Colour Products

Hairwonder – Colour & Care Permanent Hair Colour

Henna Plus – Long Lasting Colour Natural Hair Dye

Henna Plus – Men's Own Hair Colour

Naturigin – Permanent Natural Hair Colour

Sanotint – Natural Hair Dye

Sanotint Light – Natural Hair Dye

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Related Reading: 5 Chemicals to Avoid in Hair Care Products

Product Note: Naturcolor products are no longer available at Aviva. Only limited stock of Herbatint hair dye is currently available.