Thursday, October 1, 2009

Product Review: ACT Naturals 100% Plant-Based Permanent Hair Coloring Kit

I've been coloring my hair, on and off, since I was a teenager.  One of my best friends and I first experimented with "Sun-In", then semi-permanent dyes, and then finally, permanent color.  While my friend, who started out in life a dirty-blonde Irish lass, has tried out almost every color in the rainbow, including neon fluorescent pink, I stuck with deep dark reds, and more recently, warm medium browns, to add a little life to my coarse, black, Chinese hair. 

Alas, all of us who color our hair know what we dislike about it the most: the fumes.  Those noxious, burning fumes.  My husband, who normally can't smell anything, even turns up his nose when I sit down beside him, waiting for my color to set in.  Something that smells that bad just can't be good for you; and it can't be good going down the drain and entering our environment.

But today, as I type, I'm enjoying a brand new product from a company called "Advanced Cosmetic Technologies" (aka ACT), and their fabulous 100% plant-based, all-natural, permanent home hair coloring kit!

That's right!  I'm sitting here in my living room, with my daughter playing nearby, the dog at my feet, and no burning fumes!  ACT is free of the chemical PPD and ammonia.  The ingredient list is chock full of plant extracts, essential oils, and no artificial fragrances.  Vegans can enjoy ACT hair color, which comes from renewable resources, and rest easy knowing that this product is not tested on animals.  I'm also glad to see that ACT used 100% wind power to manufacture this kit.  ACT's website describes their hair coloring kit as safe for pregnant/nursing moms, and cancer survivors!

The people behind ACT offered to send me a box of my choice of color to try out!  Click here for their color chart.  So many choices!!  However, there is one major difference with ACT dyes and other conventional hair color kits: ACT does not bleach!! This dye will not lighten your hair.  Bearing that in mind, I knew that my typical go-to color of "Medium Warm Brown" would not work in this case.  I then called up ACT's toll-free number, and spoke to a very helpful lady.  I explained my "Asian hair" predicament, and I was given "Chocolate Mahogany" (4MO) as a color to consider.  Within a couple days, my color kit had arrived!


Looking at the packaging, it looks very similar to what you'd find in a home coloring kit, but with a few differences, in both product and procedure.

The Product:

Just like a typical home coloring kit, there are two small bottles that need to be poured and combined into the supplied mixing bottle.  There is also a comb-style applicator cap for the mixing bottle, and a set of plastic gloves to protect your hands from staining.  There are two more items in the box, that are unique to this product: first is a clear plastic shower cap, and a small bottle of "Stain Guard" liquid (more on those later). 

What's not in the ACT kit is any kind of "perfume" ampule to mix in with the chemicals, to mask the smell.   (On that note, the combination of all the plant ingredients does make for a strange smell (don't expect this to be an aromatherapy session), but at least it's all natural, and the smell does wash out.) There also isn't a finishing, deep conditioner, unlike conventional hair color kits (however, the instruction booklet does mention that a similar product is available; sold separately).

The Procedure:

As I was dealing with one of the darkest dyes, I was pleased to see a product included in the box to help lift stains.  Nothing like tell-tale brown streaks and spots all over the back of your neck, on your ears, and forearms, to tell the world you just colored your hair.  I donned the gloves, and applied the stain guard to my ears, hair line, back of my neck, etc.  About thirty seconds later, my forehead was on fire!  No, not literally.  But one of the main ingredients in this Stain Guard is citric acid.  I tried to wash it off, but it lingered!!  It took some scrubbing with a damp paper towel to get it all off.  Whew!  Time to go back to my old standard "stain guard"; a slathering of all-natural "Un-Petroleum Jelly" by Alba.  This stuff is beeswax based, but it really does look and work almost exactly like regular petroleum jelly. 

Back to the hair coloring, I went to the next step and divided my hair, and then mixed the two colorants in the large mixing bottle.  I then had a dickens of a time trying to get the applicator cap on the mixing bottle.   The plastic threads just would not line up properly.  Eventually, after forceful pushing-while-twisting, and some spillage, I got it on there. 

The next step is pretty much the same as using a regular kit; start saturating sections of your hair, from root to tip.  I always keep a damp paper towel handy to wipe up any smears or drips of dye.  The one bottle was just enough for my long hair.  I piled my hair up on top of my head, and this is when the shower cap comes in; you need to cover your hair with this.  Then comes another different step: you have to blow hot hair on your head (shower cap on), for about five minutes, every eight minutes or so, and continue with this pattern for about 35 minutes, or for as long as the instructions say you should leave the dye in, to achieve the desired results.

With my hair being so coarse and dark, I left my color in for almost an hour.  Then it was off to the shower to rinse.  Wow, what a mess!  Be prepared for a dye that's significantly messier, and more staining, than conventional home color kits.  But it also seemed to rinse out easier and faster than regular dyes.  Still, there are stains on my tub that will fade over time... this has happened to me before. Also, do heed the instructions and don gloves while rinsing.  This may be problematic, as there is only one pair supplied in the box.  I keep extra disposable gloves around for really messy cleaning jobs, but I'm sure not everybody does.  The pair that came with the kit got so messy and dirty, it would have been impossible to rinse them properly, to save them for the rinsing step. 

Now that the dye was all rinsed, this was when I really wish this kit included some kind of deep conditioner.  My hair did not have the same soft feel when I was done rinsing, as with regular home color kits (like L'Oreal Preference).  I ended up applying my regular Jason Grapefruit Smoothing Conditioner twice, and then following with my usual Infusium 23 leave-in spray conditioner.  I blow-dried my hair, and then discovered that my scalp had some dye splotches.  The kit instructions say that the Stain Guard will work AFTER the dyeing process, so I dipped a cotton swab in the remaining Stain Guard liquid, and was able to lift off a lot of the splotches (Ouch! There's that burning sensation again!).

The result?

Well, like I said, ACT doesn't lighten or bleach, so I wouldn't be able to achieve the same results as with L'Oreal Preference (or like my last salon touch-up).  I do notice that I now have very, VERY shiny hair, and under bright light, I can see varying tones and highlights shine through.  But I think the results on me look more like the darkest 4N on the color chart; I'm not seeing much "mahogany" on me at all . So, if I want deep, golden brown highlights like before, I will unfortunately have to go back to the stuff with the nasty fumes.  Still, it was very nice to have tried this product, and I would recommend it to my friends with naturally lighter hair, or a lot of gray to cover.

For those who would like to try this out, ACT is offering a great incentive for the month of October!  10% of all proceeds will go to The October Foundation for Breast Cancer Research!  You yourself can also enjoy a coupon for 10% off your order!  Click on the image below for more details.

Thanks again to ACT for creating this amazing eco-friendly alternative to conventional chemical-laden hair coloring kits!  Please keep up the amazing work you do!!

ACT hair coloring product images courtesy of
No promotional consideration was paid for this post


  1. So it's been a few months since you dyed. Are you noticing any breakage or any ill after effects?

  2. Thanks for asking!

    I'm happy to report no breakage, nor any ill after effects :)

    I would still like to see an updated formulation that does in fact bleach dark hair a little bit, so that the color shows up. I had to re-color my hair in time for a family wedding, and so hated having to go back to using conventional un-eco-friendly dye.

    Hope to see a dark-hair version available in the near future :)

  3. Faye,
    I am ready to try Actnatural hair color. Have tried contacting the 888 number that is on their website but can't get any response from them or from an email inquiry. My computer screen has their color chart looking like many of the colors have a green tint to them. Did you discover that when you were trying to figure out what color to purchase?
    My natural hair color is a medium brown with red highlights.
    I've been using Naturtints 5G Light Golden Chestnut and have been happy with the color results. Just don't want the chemicals and allergens anymore.
    I appreciate your write up on Actnatural hair dye.

  4. Hi Julie! Thanks for stopping by and for your comments.

    You know, it's been a while since I did this review, so unfortunately I'm not sure if they're still around.

    That being said, do you follow the girls over at My Beauty Bunny?

    The team over there specialize in Earth- and people-friendly cosmetics, so they might have some more safe hair color options :)

    Thanks again, Julie! Please drop a line when you find one that works for you. Would love to try it :D