Hair Dye Continued: The Truth About Manic Panic

September 21st, 2009 - filed under: The Fashion » Beauty and Cosmetics

Last week I wrote an article that explained my love affair with hair dye. We covered natural dyes, box dyes, salon jobs, and vegan hair dye. Finally, I wrote a bit about my current colorant of choice: Manic Panic.

I use Manic Panic because its a ‘non-toxic, non-noxious, vegan vegetable-based semi-permanent product’ . . . but what does that actually mean? I wrote to the company for more information, but alas, they were silent.

So I took matters into my own hands (as I tend to do) and began an investigation. An inquiry into each and every ingredient in my hair dye: what is it?, what does it do?, and is it going to hurt me? Here I present my result, in black and white:

Manic Panic ‘Classic Cream Formula’ hair dye
Ingredients: Synthetic beeswax, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth20, Humulus lupulus extract, Anthemis nobilis extract, Acetic Acid, Methylparaben, Propylene glycol

May Also Contain: Orange 4 (CI 15510), Red 33 (CI 17200), Blue 1 (CI 42090), Yellow 10 (CI 47005), Green 5 (CI 61570)

Synthetic Beeswax

  • blend of fatty esters, fatty acids, fatty alcohols, and hydrocarbons, with properties similar to natural beeswax.
  • Acts as a thickener and emulsifier.
  • Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database Page
  • Skin Deep Rating: 1 (out of 10)

Cetearyl Alcohol

  • Another wax, not really an ‘alcohol’ in the traditional sense.
  • Vegetable derived fatty alcohols, like coconut alcohol.
  • Acts as an emulsifier, emollient, thickening agent, and moisturizer. Also a ‘carrying agent’ for various ingredients.
  • Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database Page
  • Skin Deep Rating: 0 (out of 10)


  • Helps ingredients to dissolve within a solvent that they wouldn’t otherwise dissolve in.
  • Not advised for use on ‘damaged skin’.
  • May contain traces of 1, 4-dioxane, a nasty no-no, but this is removable with proper purification.
  • Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database Page
  • Skin Deep Rating: 5 (out of 10)

Humulus lupulus extract

  • This is hops extract (yeah, the beer stuff)
  • Acts as a strengthener and conditioner in hair products.
  • A very understudied additive, with virtually no data.
  • Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database Page
  • Skin Deep Rating: 0 (out of 10)

Anthemis nobilis extract

  • This is chamomile extract (yes, the tea stuff!)
  • Used for conditioning properties as well as fragrance.
  • May increase skin absorption of other ingredients.
  • Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database Page
  • Skin Deep Rating: 1 (out of 10)

Acetic Acid

  • Essentially this is vinegar, in a concentrated form.
  • Classed as ‘Generally Recognized As Safe’ (GRAS) by the FDA.
  • Acts to stabilize the pH.
  • Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database Page
  • Skin Deep Rating: 2 (out of 10)


  • Eek! This one is no good.
  • Implicated in a slew of health concerns, including allergies, immunotoxicity, organ toxicity, and skin/lung/eye irritation.
  • May have an estrogenic affect.
  • Added as a preservative.
  • Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database Page
  • Skin Deep Rating: 8 (out of 10)

Propylene Glycol

  • Considered safe in concentrations up to 50%.
  • However, it’s implicated in a slew of health concerns, including carcinogenic properties, allergies, immunotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin/lung/eye irritation, and bioaccumulation.
  • Added to absorb water and maintain moisture.
  • Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database Page
  • Skin Deep Rating: 7 (out of 10)

May Also Contain . . .

Orange 4 (CI 15510)

Red 33 (CI 17200)

Blue 1 (CI 42090)

Yellow 10 (CI 47005)

Green 5 (CI 61570)

And that’s that, the ingredients profile. If you want see how they all work together, here is the Skin Deep Database page for a sample color. I chose my most recent inspiration, Infrared. As a whole the product receives a Safety Rating of 5.

Whew! That was a lot of work. I sorta wish the company had just written back to me, but oh well. Now you have the information, plain and simple. And you can make your own, informed, choice.

[ sources: (1) (2) (3) ]

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  • Valora Abbett

    Oh, man! I used to love Manic Panic. Thank you for including such thorough info on all of the ingredients. If only they would stop using parabens and couple of the other nasty ingredients…

  • Cata

    HI! thank you so much for care!!! so you think that this is safer than the average dyes? and other question, im kind of new in this organic and vegan worl but i want to learn hoe the page works. i can assume that all the products with a rating down to 3 are safe? thanks a lot!

  • Illusinism

    Greetings! I would like to ask, based on your personal research, do you think Manic Panic prevent water from seeping through strands of hair? I do understand the color will coat the hair, but wonder if the water can go through when it’s coated? Thank you very much in advance

  • Nicole

    Could you update with new formula? They now claim to not contain parabens.

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  • Jessica

    Hello Island Girl,

    As it is 7 years later that I am replying to your comment, I can only hope that my message will be received!

  • Courtney Luke

    Manic panic has always been my go to color! I’ve used just about every shade they have, minus the pinks as I am not a fan of pink, but I always wondered how truly non-toxic they were. Thank you for breaking their ingredients down like that!!

  • stauggiemom

    Its definitely NOT safe.
    In the very same way that RX drugs and vaccines are approved by the FDA but Kill hundreds of thousands of people every year.
    Vanity is not worth poisoning yourself over.

  • Val Kyrja

    Same…this is the second time i’ve used it in such a large quantity…and I don’t feel right…