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L’Oréal INOA Hair Color

Is a Solution for:
Dry or Brittle Hair, Limp Hair, Dull Hair
Reviewed by SarahK December 22, 2010 25 Comments
As I was flipping through the Fall-Winter 2010 edition of New Beauty Magazine a few days ago, I came across an article called “Hair Innovations.” First on the list was L’Oréal Professionnel’s INOA hair color line, which was dubbed “innovative” by the magazine for being the first permanent, ammonia and odor free hair dye.

Excited by the prospect of sharing my find with TIA readers (I know you’ve shown interest in finding safer alternatives to the toxicity that often accompanies coloring your hair), I began to research INOA and found some pretty interesting information.

INOA stands for Innovation No Ammonia and according to the vice president for marketing of L’Oréal Professionnel, the dye will leave hair “as smooth as it was before hair color” and will cause no damage. How does INOA work without the use of ammonium? L’Oreal is using a new technology called Oil Delivery System that uses oil molecules (instead of ammonia) to carefully open the hair shaft and soak in the dye. For right now, INOA can only be found in select salons and it costs approximately 15% more than most permanent hair dyes. But the price is certainly worth it, in my opinion, if you get the peace of mind that comes along with knowing you are not drenching your hair and scalp with ammonia.

Ammonia is used in the majority of hair dyes in order to open hair fibers so that color can be absorbed. One article points out that ammonia is a skin-irritant that can be just as easily absorbed into your skin and inhaled – neither of which is good for you.

Finding a list of any INOA product ingredients proved challenging. In fact, one of the only websites that provided them is staunchly anti-INOA. Why? Because it claims that the L’Oréal line does, indeed, contain ammonia. A picture of a bottle of INOA shampoo clearly shows that ammonium hydroxide is listed as one of the first few ingredients. The difference between ammonia and ammonium hydroxide is that the latter is water-based. Though ever so slightly distinguishable, it is outrageous that L’Oréal has created an extremely profitable line based on such an overt lie. And it is even more despicable that more of a fuss isn’t being made over it.

Another site features an article written by a hairdresser who actually complained to L’Oréal about the company’s blatant deception, only to be told that he would not receive a refund for the INOA products he had purchased. The hairdresser also posted a comment only a few days ago claiming that in his correspondence with L’Oréal, he received a letter stating that INOA is "...a professional product and should not be used by consumers unfamiliar with hair color ingredients and there is no obligation to disclose the ammonia or other ingredients in the product."

Yet another website brings up a different disturbing aspect of INOA; apparently, in March 2010, L’Oréal discontinued its popular home hair color line called Natural Match which was advertised as being ammonia-free, and INOA was introduced weeks later. Supposedly, the ingredients in both lines are almost exactly the same, give or take a fragrance or conditioning agent. The only differences are that you can only get INOA applied by a professional at a salon, and it costs much more than Natural Match did. While I can’t verify that both lines contain the same ingredients, I do know that Natural Match was indeed marketed as being free of ammonia – though it was still categorized as high risk by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.

So far, I haven’t found any permanent ammonia-free hair dyes that I feel I can recommend to the TIA community. I will keep searching, though, and if you have come across any dyes with better than average ingredients, be sure to share them with us!
  • August 8, 2016

    by Colleen

    At the time of receiving my INOA color, I was absolutely fine. This was the first time for me at this particular salon for color (blonde).

    Approximately 6 hours after the color was applied I began to feel tightness around my scalp, forehead and neckline.

    By evening, small fluid-filled blisters covered my scalp, forehead, eye area, neckline and throat. Several blisters were on and behind my ears. I managed to get through the night.

    By morning, the fluid filled blisters had turned to weeping welts that were extremely painful. Any changes in my facial expression or movement of facial muscles caused excruciating pain. The blisters began to cluster and grew to touch others as they expanded.

    I tried home remedies and allergy medicine (Benadryl). But by day 4 the first blister began to scab and I then realized what was beneath each blister - a scar and pigment color change in my skin. Over 40 blisters had begun to painfully ooze and scab over.

    I immediately called my doctor. The doctor said I was suffering from Contact Dermatitis, to which the skin reacted just a if it had been severely burned.

    As I type this now, all blisters and welts are scabbing safely with a regimen of peroxide and Neosporin. I cannot be in the sun, cannot wear makeup, and cannot use soap on the affected area until all scabs have fallen off on their own. Aside from a few blisters that have larger, blood-filled scabs, I am not experiencing any pain.

    Please be aware that the worst moments of blistering took place 2-3 days after the INOA color was applied. The allergy, for some, may take several days to manifest itself.

    I am healing well, thankfully. And I thank you all for sharing your experiences. They have helped me through. PLEASE be cautious if this product caused you even the slightest allergic reaction. Now that your body has the predisposition of the allergy, the next color application of the INOA brand could be extremely dangerous or even fatal in extreme cases.

  • February 9, 2012

    by Amy L

    Essencity is awesome! Not only is ammonia bothersome and toxic, but I am allergic to PPD, which is found in all permanent dyes. When my hair stylist told me about Essencity, I asked to see the packaging. Sure enough, no PPD. It, too, has to be emulsified. However, there is no overpowering smell, no tingling while processing, etc. The color is the most natural that I have ever seen in a dye. The stylist charges me $10 more for it, but just being able to dye my hair is worth it! Before I tried it, I was getting full foils, so that no dye would touch my scalp. The last time I had my hair colored, however, I did have a slight bit of itching afterward. I'm not sure if it's because it wasn't washed well enough, if there is a lot of residue, or what. At any rate, highly recommended!

  • December 16, 2011

    by Gayle

    I have been using inoa for over a year. All of a sudden, my hair started falling out. I lost a grea t deal of it. Stopped using it, hair stopped falling out, but hasn't grown back.

    Has this happene d to anyone else? I am praying it will grow back.

  • December 12, 2011

    by Marta

    Hi Rachel, our mission isn't to only review products that meet our criteria. We look at products by L'Oreal, despite the company's poor standards in a number of areas, because they are widely available and readers are interested in our take. While we are constantly looking for safe and cruelty free alternatives, we don't blacklist companies that don't completely conform. There are many readers who come to TIA who want to know what we think of big brands and so our job is to provide as much information as we can so that the reader can make their own mind up. I hope that helps explain this article.

  • December 12, 2011

    by Rachel

    Um, isn't TIA supposed to be researching and recommending safe AND cruelty free alternatives? I agree that this advertising lie is outrageous, but, why is any product by L'Oreal even being considered by a reviewer here? L'Oreal is one of the worst in terms of animal testing. Please explain. Have I misunderstood TIA's mission?

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