Name / description


Function(s) of this ingredient in cosmetic products


Colours the hair

Occurrence in cosmetics

Use of this ingredient in cosmetics has been prohibited by EU Cosmetics Regulation

Background information on use in cosmetics

Cosmetic hair dyes are subdivided according to different operating principles. There are temporary dyes (tints), semi-permanent dyes (semi-permanent hair colours) and permanent dyes (oxidation dyes or bleaches). Temporary dyes are characterised by the use of direct dyes (eg cationic dyes such as Basic Red 56 or Acid Blue 62). There is no chemical reaction with other components; the dyes adhere to the hair surface and last for one to two hair washes. For temporary hair dyes, azo, triphenylmethane or anthraquinone dyes are used. The temporary dyes are sold as aqueous alcoholic solutions. In combination with hairspray, it is also possible to apply very small golden or silver gloss pigments or even fluorescent substances to the hair. Semi-permanent dyes (tints) also use direct dyes (eg nitro dyes such as HC Blue 2 or HC Yellow 10). The hair is coloured circularly, which ensures that it lasts for eight to 10 hair washes. Nitro dyes diffuse because of their low molecular size into the hair but are washable. Other dyes which are used include nitrophenyl diamines, azo and quinonimine dyes in combination with organic solubilizers such as glycol ether or polypropylene. In the event of permanent dyes (oxidative hair dyes), colourless precursors, also referred to as developers and couplers, are first used. The actual dyes are formed through a chemical reaction. The entire hair is dyed and the colour is not washable.

Information on safe use

Hair colourants are at present amongst the most thoroughly examined cosmetic products on the EU market. Since 2003 the European Commission has pursued a global strategy for the safety assessment of hair colourants and hair dyes in Europe. More than 100 individual hair colourants were considered as safe by the Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety (SCCS) of the EU Commission after a comprehensive assessment and are allowed for use in Annex III of the EC Cosmetics Regulation. Publication of the EU Commission on the Safety of hair dyes

Belongs to the following substance groups

Understanding your cosmetics

How are cosmetics kept safe in Europe?

Strict laws make sure that cosmetics and personal care products sold in the European Union are safe for people to use. Companies, national and European regulatory authorities share the responsibility of keeping cosmetic products safe.

read more

What should I know about endocrine disruptors?

Some ingredients used in cosmetic products have been claimed to be ‘endocrine disruptors’ because they have the potential to mimic some of the properties of our hormones. Just because something has the potential to mimic a hormone does not mean it will disrupt our endocrine system. Many substances, including natural ones, mimic hormones but very few, and these are mostly potent medicines, have ever been shown to cause disruption of the endocrine system. The rigorous product safety assessments by qualified, scientific experts that companies are legally obliged to carry out cover all potential risks, including potential endocrine disruption.

read more

Are cosmetics tested on animals? No!

In the European Union, testing cosmetics on animals has been fully banned since 2013. Over the last 30 years, long before a ban was in place, the cosmetics and personal care industry has invested in research and development to pioneer alternatives to animal testing tools to assess the safety of cosmetics ingredients and products.

read more

What about allergens in cosmetics?

Many substances, natural or man-made, have the potential to cause an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction occurs when a person’s immune system reacts to substances that are harmless to most people. A substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an allergen. Cosmetics and personal care products may contain ingredients that can be allergenic for some people. This does not mean that the product is not safe for others to use.

read more


Cosmetics matter to people and play an important role in our everyday life. On average European consumers use over seven different cosmetics daily. You too? It’s only natural that you want to know more about the ingredients in those products.

In the digital world we live in, there’s a deluge of information on cosmetics. However, it can be difficult to know which sources are reliable. COSMILE Europe is a European cosmetic ingredient database that offers reliable, verified and scientifically supported information on almost 30,000 ingredients used in cosmetics.

This database will help you understand why certain ingredients are in your cosmetic products; which properties they have and much more. The database is currently available in fourteen languages with more to come.

Search the Database