Sunday, July 19, 2015

Henna Happens

At the age of 32, I had never died my hair. However, I did want something different and didn't want to use harsh chemicals. I tried several tea rinses to little effect and ultimately resigned myself to try the standard natural hair care and color cure: Henna.

While multiple combinations of herbs and additives masquerade as henna these days, lawsonia inermis leaf powder is the real thing.  Often called "red henna," lawsonia inermis powder releases a red-orange dye when heated. The dye is translucent (like lip gloss rather than lip stick) and blends with your natural hair color to give it a reddish appearance. It is also touted as a deep conditioning treatment for hair, and cultures within which it's prevalent consider it a sign of good fortune.

I have now used henna three times and have been very pleased with the results. The first time I mixed the henna and applied it directly to my hair. The next, I mixed the henna and then blended it with a deep conditioner, which I applied to my hair. In my opinion, the second method works best. It created deep auburn highlights throughout my medium brown hair and tinted the gray strands copper. It is noticeable in any light, but especially in the sun. Using henna without the conditioner resulted in a more solid orange-red tint for about two weeks, which faded into highlights for a couple weeks after that.  I definitely intend to continue using the conditioner application method. Here's a summary of what I did.

1. I purchased Light Mountain Natural's Red Henna. 
2. Per the instructions provided, I mixed henna with boiling water and let it set for approximately 2 hours at which point I could see the dye had released. When mixing. I used a plastic spoon because metal can affect the the color of the henna. I used a small glass mason jar for the same reason. I also found that mixing in the mason jar helped contain the mess.
3. In another glass mason jar with another plastic spoon, I mixed the prepared henna with Shea Moisture's Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque. The final mixture was approximately 2 parts henna mix and 1 part conditioner. It was creamy and easier to apply than the henna alone.
4. I added several drops of sage essential oil to the mix. Supposedly this helps grey hair receive the henna and also adds a nice aroma to the mix. 
5. I lined my hairline, ears and neck with  EarthKeeper's Organic Herbal Salve. This prevented the henna from dripping down and staining my skin.
6. I put on the plastic gloves included with the henna and massaged the henna/conditioner mixture into my hair. I piled my hair on the top of my head and covered it with a plastic cap.
7. I left the mixture in place for around 3 hours. Then I rinsed it out and enjoyed the results!

Some tips:

  • It is wise to conduct sensitivity and strand tests before using henna. 
  • The color will deepen over a couple days' time. Give yourself time to adjust to the color. 
  • The henna is less strong than what is used to dye your skin with henna tattoos. If some of your skin appears stained by the henna, don't freak out. Adding some herbal salve or olive oil to your skin and then rinsing thoroughly has removed this for me.  
  • Prior to adding henna, wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo as it will remove any build up which could interfere with the henna's absorption. However, after applying henna, avoid clarifying shampoos as they could strip away the henna!
Here are some variations I'd like to try in the future:
  • Mixing the henna with hibiscus tea rather than boiling water. 
  • Adding rosemary oil (for darkening hair and increasing growth) along with sage. 
  • Using one of these recipes for shampoo alternatives to complement  weekly rather than monthly henna treatments. 

On the left, I had never used henna. I'm at a hay maze with my dad in the background. My hair had blonde undertones in the sunlight. On the right, I have used henna. I'm at a park with my son. My hair has red undertones in the sunlight and is a bit brighter overall. The change is subtle but significant and WAY more obvious in person. Have you used henna? Let me know!

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