Ammonia is used in hair color to raise the pH of the hair sufficiently so as to open the cuticle and allow the color to enter the cortex of the hair. The more ammonia there is in a product, the higher the pH of the hair. Side effects of higher than normal hair pH levels include:
- Moisture and protein loss from the hair.
- Open cuticle that can be impossible to bounce back after using such a potent chemical like ammonia.
- As a result of the hair cuticle remaining open, hair color is not absorbed by the cuticle, color lays on top of the hair and in turn color results are short lived.
More and more companies are now making their hair color ammonia free. This is commendable, as ammonia is an extremely harsh chemical and does not need to be in hair color. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these colors have merely removed ammonia from the color and replaced it with an ingredient called ethanolamine, but the same three side effects mentioned above still apply.
The key difference with Organic Color Systems is that the base of the color (the main ingredient) is not only alkaline, so it raises the pH of the hair, but it is also a conditioning agent, so it softens the cuticle at the same time.