oVertone is a hair products brand that sells hair coloring treatments they claim are healthier than regular hair dye. The brand sells coloring conditioners and color maintenance sets, as well as standard hair care products like shampoo.
In this article we’ll review the ingredients in oVertone’s hair coloring products based on medical research to determine if it’s actually a healthier option to regular hair dye, and whether we believe oVertone products are safe.
Is Regular Hair Dye Unsafe?
oVertone’s value proposition rests on the assumption that standard hair dye is unsafe. This topic has actually been studied in medical research.
A 2013 medical review published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology examined 63 individual medical trials to determine if hair dye use caused increased risk of cancer. The study authors found that hair coloring agents are proven to be “potent” carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds) in animal testing, but the results in humans aren’t fully clear.
A more recent medical review analyzed the association between hair dye and cancer risk in over 100,000 U.S. nurses over the course of 36 years. While the risk of most cancers was not increased by hair dye use, the risk of some cancers including breast cancer and ovarian cancer was. The researchers stated the results “warrant further investigation” due to the potentially increased overall cancer risk.
Another meta-study noted an association between hair dye use and bladder cancer, as well as leukemia.
We conclude from the available research that standard hair dye use is unsafe. Although it’s not yet conclusively proven to be carcinogenic, it seems logical for health-conscious consumers to avoid hair dye entirely due to its demonstrated cancer-causing properties in animals and associations with cancer in humans.
oVertone’s Misleading Claims About Hair Dye
oVertone proudly claims throughout their site and on a blog article that their product is “not a dye.” They claim that unlike traditional hair dye, their “coloring conditioners” don’t contain the harsh chemicals that dyes do.
We find these claims to be extremely misleading, because many of the ingredients in oVertone’s products are literally hair dye colorants.
Here is a medical study published in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal examining the toxic effects of two hair dyes: Basic Brown 17 and Basic Red 51. The researchers explicitly refer to these compounds as “hair dyes,” and found that both compounds were cytotoxic and genotoxic to human cells (damaging to the cells themselves and to DNA).
oVertone uses many similar hair dyes in their products. As an example, their Pastel Pink Coloring Conditioner contains the following dyes: Basic Blue 99, Basic Brown 16, Basic Red 76, Basic Yellow 57, Basic Red 46, Basic Violet 1, Basic Yellow 40, Basic Orange 2, Basic Blue 9, Basic Green 4, and Basic Violet 2.
These are all synthetic colorants used to dye hair (among other things).
While it’s true that oVertone products don’t contain ammonia, which is common in traditional hair dye, they do contain many chemical compounds we would describe as harsh and potentially harmful to humans.
oVertone’s Chocolate Brown Daily Conditioner contains a dye called Basic Green 4, which is banned in cosmetics in Europe due to reproductive toxicity and the fact that this ingredient is “suspected of damaging the unborn child.”
The European Union (E.U.) has much stricter consumer protection laws than the U.S., and we find it to be a red flag that oVertone doesn’t even have a warning to pregnant women on their products containing this ingredient.
Another medical review of artificial dyes used in cosmetics assessed the safety and toxicity of various violet dyes. The study authors concluded that due to the carcinogenic potential of these dyes, “insufficient data exist to support the safety of Basic Violet 1, 3 and 4 in cosmetic formulation.” Some oVertone products contain Basic Violet 1.
We have no reason to believe oVertone’s claims that the products they sell with hair dye ingredients are safer than the products traditional hair dye companies sell, as there have been no comparative studies and it’s clear that both categories contain harmful ingredients.
Safer Alternative Dye Ingredients
We searched extensively for safer alternative dyes, and while we can’t find any commercial products that we would recommend, we came across an interesting clinical trial from 2020 introducing a non-toxic hair dye material.
The chemical compound polydopamine, which is similar to melanin, appears to be a safe and effective hair dye that’s compatible with a wide range of hair colors from blonde to red to purple.
We can’t find any hair products with polydopamine as the dye, probably because more safety testing needs to be done, but this is an ingredient for health-conscious consumers who dye their hair regularly to be on the lookout for in future products.