What The Heck Is Low Chemical Hair Colour And How Is It Better For Your Locks?

Low-Chemical Hair Colour O&M

Ever been to the hairdresser to get your hair dyed and felt like your scalp was literally going to burn off, or gone home afterwards and felt super itchy around your hairline? Well, it could be a reaction to the cocktail of chemicals that most hair colour contains. It’s happened to me plenty of times — nothing insane like my whole face swelling up, like what happened to my friend’s poor mum after a salon visit once — but just that slightly ouch-y uncomfortable feeling that anyone with even slightly sensitive skin will recognise all too well.

I’d read a bit about low chemical hair colour and wondered if it a) would actually still give me long-lasting colour and b) help me avoid the itchy burny feeling during and after the salon visit. For someone with dark hair and lightened ends, there’s nothing I hate more than the colour fading too quickly and walking around with brassy locks, especially after coughing up a few hundo bucks to get my hair done. So for me it’s super important that it lasts well.

With this in mind, I decided to give it a burl to see what low chemical hair colour was all about. I visited Paul Galea at Sydney‘s Meanwhile Salon, since he is one of the masterminds behind haircare brand O&M‘s range CØR Colour, co-created with a leading chemist in Italy.


O&M is a haircare superstar brand, with their prods stocked in 300 salons nationwide and 4,000 globally. Paul told me that since 2013, O&M’s COR Colour 110 shades have been free from nasties like ammonia, PPD and resorcinol. PPD, also known as para-Phenylenediamine, is used in many dark hair dyes and is a common skin contact allergen, often causing dermatitis. Explains why I, the brunette, often feel itchy after a salon visit.

Resorcinol, on the other hand, is toxic to both the human immune system and to our beloved wildlife, as it doesn’t break down in water. On that note, Paul adds that O&M are also moving towards being totally vegan, and all their colour prods are approved by PETA.

As Paul applied the colour to my hair, I was instantly struck by how it didn’t have that same chemical smell that you get with other dyes, and that there was zero itching or burning as it sat there on my scalp. In fact, it smelled kinda nice, and it’s because of the ~natural~ Australian native ingredients, like wild seed harvest to nourish hair, as well as macadamia and coconut oils.

A woman sitting near me at the salon said her face used to entirely swell up whenever she dyed her hair, but she doesn’t have those issues with low-chemical colour. One of the other hairdressers at the salon used to suffer from contact dermatitis while working with different hair dye, but since only using low-chemical dyes he no longer has the same reaction.


It all felt great, but was the colour actually going to last? When I left the salon, the colour was quite a dark chocolatey brown — almost a little too dark for me, but I reluctantly usually go darker so that the fading is less of an issue. Within a week (and 3-4 washes) it was a shade I really liked, so I’d say it faded a normal amount. And still, there was no residual itching which I sometimes get for the 2 or 3 days after a colour appointment.

I actually held off on writing this story because I wanted to be honest with you about the level of fading. I can say, hand on heart, that after over a month the colour has obviously faded — all colour does — but it’s faded to such a nice, non-brassy shade that I don’t feel like I need to rush off and plonk down $300-$400 to get it coloured again any time soon.

But mainly, I just feel smug about not having any dangerous chemicals lurking on my head, and the fact that I don’t have to deal with them ever again now that I know there’s another option.

Here’s a bunch of Aussie salons that offer CØR.color: 


Meanwhile Salon, Darlinghurst

Extra Silky Paddington

Vincent & Dupree, Waverley

Urban Fox Bondi

Reesey Original Salon, Mona Vale

Papillion Hair, Avalon


Elliott Steele Hai, Eaglemont

Berdi salon, Geelong West

Mane Tame Salon, Melbourne

Capelli Lunghi Hair Salon, South Yarra


Butterworth & Co, Paddington, Brisbane

Lyla Clare, Brisbane

Fluid The Color Salon, Camp Hill, Brisbane

Luppinos’ Organic Hair, Brisbane


The Loft Launceston