With April hopping along and Easter just around the corner, it’s time for dyeing eggs (and inadvertently,  dyeing hands.) It’s easy to grab an egg-dyeing kit at the local supermarket or drug store, but those dye ingredients are not pretty.

Typical kits contain dyes loaded with artificial colors, like FD&C Yellow #5, FD&C Red #40, and FD&C Blue #2. Although these colors are appealing, EWG’s Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives highlights the many questions that have been raised about their safety, especially for kids.

The scientific community continues to debate the potential health impacts linked to artificial colors. Some studies show a correlation between them and increased hyperactivity in children.

According to a 2010 report from the Food and Drug Commission’s Food Advisory Committee, “Certain food additives may exacerbate hyperactive behaviors (inattention, impulsivity and overactivity) in some groups of children.” Scientists from the University of Southampton, in the U.K., have also found that artificial colors and sodium benzoate, a preservative used in some egg kits, resulted in elevated hyperactivity in 3- and 9-year-old children.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy organization focused on food safety, an estimated half-million U.S. children show adverse behavioral reactions after consuming food dyes. CSPI also reports an association between artificial colors and hypersensitivity reactions, including urticaria, sneezing, sweating and a variety of other symptoms.

So if you’re dyeing eggs this season, we recommend avoiding artificial colors, if possible, and choosing natural alternatives instead – especially if you plan to eat the eggs. Look for a natural egg-dyeing kit or, for more fun, try making your own dye. To make egg-cellent natural egg dye follow the recommendations below:

What you’ll need: Eggs, food for the dye, water, vinegar, pots, a strainer and bowls.  

Assembling dye ingredients:

    • Orange: 2 cups yellow onion skins, water to cover skins by an inch, 1-2 tablespoons vinegar.
    • Yellow: 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon turmeric, 1-2 tablespoon vinegar.
    • Light green: 2 cups red onion skins, water to cover skins by an inch, 1-2 tablespoons vinegar.
    • Blue: 2 cups purple cabbage, water to cover cabbage by an inch, 1-2 tablespoons vinegar.
    • Pink: 2 cups water, 2 cups peeled, chopped beets, 1-2 tablespoons vinegar.

Making the dye:

  • Bring water and dye ingredients to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15-60 minutes or until the desired color is reached. Deeper water color will produce darker eggs.
  • Let the water mixture cool, then strain the liquid into dyeing bowls. Add one tablespoon of vinegar for every cup of liquid.

Dyeing the eggs:

  • Place hardboiled eggs into the dye and let them soak in the refrigerator until they reach the desired shade. Soaking them overnight will result in richer colors. 
  • Retrieve the dyed eggs from the dye and place them on a drying rack or in an egg carton.
  • Admire your work!

For extra credit, wow your friends at your next “Game of Thrones” viewing party, and use these dye recipes to make deviled dragon eggs!