You guys knew I was a bit of a granola girl, right? Except that now I'm a bit of a grain-soaking-granola girl. Because regular granola is pretty hard for our bodies to digest. But that's a different post.
Anyway, as a bit of a granola girl, I like to keep things as natural as possible. But I am only a bit of a granola girl. If I was a full blown granola girl, I would have smiled sweetly at my first grey hairs and embraced the next stage of woman hood. Instead, I panicked and ran to the nearest drug store for a bottle of hair dye.
That was nearly 20 years ago (I know, I know.) At first, my desperate runs to the drugstore seemed like a good solution. But my hair grows incredibly fast, so that means I have to color often. All those chemicals were destroying my hair. The more I colored, the dryer and duller my hair became.
Then I heard about henna. Not the weird stuff in a box that has other things mixed in. That can really mess with your hair. I'm talking about pure, body-art quality henna with nothing added. If the henna you are using gives you different shades of color, honey, it's mixed. Pure henna only comes in one shade and that's RED.
If you are blonde, henna will turn you into a carrot-top. I'm a brunette, so henna just gives me great red highlights and an overall healthy glow. If you're nervous, I recommend doing a strand test. You can "harvest" hair from your hairbrush, do your coloring process, allow to dry and then check the color results.
Why Use Henna?
*Henna is very mild and gentle. Almost no one is allergic, so it is often a great alternative if you have trouble with chemical dye.
* You can safely use it when you're pregnant or nursing. In fact, some practitioners even recommend it as a safer alternative to chemical dyes.
*You aren't soaking your brain in chemicals. If you don't think chemicals are absorbed through your skin, just ask yourself why nitroglycerin, nicotine and birth control hormones are all delivered using skin patches.
*Henna acts as a hair treatment. That means that the more you use it, the stronger your hair will become.
*Henna doesn't change the color of your hair, it works with it, so the color is very natural looking and will have beautiful, natural highlights.
*Smearing mud on your head helps you get in touch with your inner child. Okay, I'm stretching a little bit here...
How to Use Henna to Dye Your Hair:
There are a lot of ways to apply henna. This is the method I use:
First, you'll need to get your henna. I use about 200-300 grams for my very long hair. One cool thing about pure henna is that you can freeze it after you mix it. I scrape my leftovers into a freezer container each time I color. Eventually I have enough in there to do my whole head. Then I just thaw, stir and apply. It's like getting a free hair color session.
I get my henna from Mehandi.com. They have wonderful henna for a good price. You can also get lots more information about henna on their Henna For Hair page, including how to use real indigo with your henna to get colors like shades of brown and even jet black. There is even information for blonds who don't necessarily want to become carrot-tops.
The henna varies a bit based on where it was grown and what the temperature and rainfall was like that year. Mehandi.com does a good job describing what you will be getting. I have a lot of grey, so I need something with a strong dye content. This is what I am using this time:
When you are ready to color, you'll need to put some gloves on. This is the same stuff they use for henna tattoos. It WILL stain your skin. And you'd look really funny with orange hands.
Dump your henna powder into a non-reactive bowl. I use glass and I stir with a stainless steel spoon.
You need something acidic to release the dye content in the henna. Most people use some lemon juice, but that is too harsh for me. It makes my scalp itch -- and constantly scratching your head makes you look like a monkey. I use not-from-concentrate orange juice, instead. It is more gentle, but still has enough acidity to do the job. For 200 grams of henna, I use about 1/2 - 1 cup orange juice.
You definitely want to strain your orange juice before use. Don't skip this step. Trust me on this one. One time I decided it would simplify things if I didn't bother to strain. After all, I was going to cover my head with mud. What would a little bit of pulp hurt? I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed. Then I rinsed some more. Those little pulp thingies grabbed my hair like glue and would not let go. Yuck. It was days before I could get it all out. Strain.Your.Orange Juice.
Add some filtered water to your orange juice (I don't like the idea of chlorine in my henna mix... it might do strange things. Smearing mud on my head is strange enough. I don't need any help.) -- I start with about 2 cups total liquid and go from there. Pour it in.
Start mixing. It will be all clumpy and weird at first.
Keep mixing. The henna will start sucking up the liquid. You may need to add more water, just don't add too much. You want it to be about the consistency of mashed potatoes. If you add too much, it won't be the end of the world. It will still work fine, it will just be a lot messier.
If there are still a few small lumps, don't worry about it. They will smooth out as it sits. It will look kind of like green pond scum at this point. Why we ladies think this kind of stuff is pampering, I don't know...
Cover your pond scum...er...I mean henna...with plastic wrap and go do something else for about 6-8 hours. It needs that time to fully release the dye. If you aren't going to use it for awhile, you can refrigerate it after 8 hours. If you aren't going to get to it by the next day, you should probably freeze it until you're ready for it.
Just to warn you, it kind of stinks. Not in a rotting food sort of way. More like a rained-soaked hay sort of way, which I guess is kind of what it is. If it bothers you, you can hop over to my cleaning recipes and get some ideas to make your house smell good.
After 6 hours or so, it will have turned to a lovely shade of brown. If you squint your eyes, cock your head to one side and stand on one foot, it kinda looks like chocolate. Otherwise it just looks like mud.
Now you're ready for the fun part. First, make everyone leave the house. This is private. I affectionately call this my "Day of Ugly." No one should ever see us looking this ugly. Shiny, auburn red hair -- nice. Hair covered in pond scum -- not so nice...
Next, spread some old sheets on the floor, or go outside with a mirror. This is going to get messy. Put on some old clothes and your gloves. (You'll need another pair before this is done.) Take your hair in small sections and start smearing that mud into your hair from roots to ends. I use a hair clip to keep the dry hair out of the way of the part I'm working on. Smear, glop and slime your way all over your head, doing your best to keep it on the hair, and not on the skin. Pay particular attention to your roots if you are going grey or if you have done this before and have growth to cover.
Once you have slimed up you whole head, pile your hair on top of your hair and cover with a shower cap (a plastic bag would also work). Change your gloves and clean up any drips with a little soap and warm water. Henna that gets on you ears, face or neck will only turn you orange for maybe a day, if at all. Henna that gets on your hands and arms, etc will last longer. The quicker you get it off, the faster it will fade.
Once you have removed any drips, wrap your shower capped head in an old towel to keep the warmth in. I got one of those microfiber head towels because they are lighter weight. You're going to be wearing this for a long time, so you don't want something too heavy.
Now go hide and wait. And pray no one comes to the door. For the best results (especially if you're covering grey), this needs to sit on your head for at least 4-6 hours. I usually try to do this when Mr. Hubster isn't around -- because I want him to think I'm attractive, not scary. Sometimes I wait until everyone is asleep, apply the henna, cover my pillow with a couple old towels and sleep on it. It's not terribly comfortable, but I'm not running around with a mud head, either. Besides, it's easier to hide in the dark.
When the time is up, it's time to rinse. I just lean over the tub and rinse under the faucet until it runs clear. Then I grab the shampoo and wash my hair. That will usually get a little more. The I put conditioner on my hair and rinse. Ta Da. Style as usual. Then go outside in the sun with a mirror and admire yourself. Freshly henna-ed hair just glows in the sunshine. If it seems too red, don't panic. Over the next few days, the color will oxidize and deepen.
Enjoy your all-natural hair color. And try not to flip your hair too much. People might think you're vain or something.