Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Going greener series: Henna

Early this year, I decided to do something I've always wanted: dye my hair red.  I loved the results, but my hair didn't.  Chemical dyes make my head itch during the process, smell awful, and then I end up with dry, damaged hair.  To add insult to injury, my hair just didn't hold on to the red color long enough to justify such crazy processing.
Cue the search for a healthier option.  Fortunately, there is a very cost-effective option for those wishing to color their hair in a more natural process: henna.
I will not go into the specifics of henna dyeing here, just my personal experience.  If you are interested in learning more about henna, I suggest you check out henna for hair, a wonderful website with a comprehensive guide to all things henna.
After browsing the above-mentioned site for several days, I decided that, at least for my first henna, I didn't want to mess with mixing my own color.  Instead, I went with a "ready-mix" from LUSH (found here).  LUSH also has a henna picture gallery with fantastic reviews and tips for their product, delightfully called "pictures of happy caca heads".
My henna arrived via UPS a few days later, looking like:

Sort of like a big brick of chocolate
I cut off two of the squares, and following some of the reviewers suggestions, I grated them.  Some reviewers complained about the smell, but I found it pleasant, like a spicy, grassy tea.  At the last minute (perhaps inspired by the scent?), I decided to brew a strong cup of Earl Grey and use that to mix with my henna, rather than plain hot water.  After obtaining what I thought was the proper consistency, I donned the gloves that came with my henna, and pasted the mess all over my head.  Instructions say to leave the henna on for 1-2 hours, and many reviewers leave it on even longer.  I planned on leaving my henna on for 6 hours, but got too impatient to see what was going on after 2.  I rinsed it out (which, yes, is more difficult than chemical dye, but wasn't a nightmare), and beheld my new, shiny mane.

Before
Dark blonde, dry

Styled, before.
After



Red! And conditioned.
Styled, after.
Wowza.  I am pleased with the results, it has mellowed to a light red auburn with gorgeous copper highlights (henna is a tone-on-tone color, which means it will pick up on your natural high- and low-lights).  I have received many, many compliments on the color.  Also, my hair is nicely conditioned and feels wonderful.  I still have 4 squares of henna left for later, and plan on leaving it in longer now that I know good things are happening under that mud.  *wink*

Pros:  Healthy!  LUSH's henna is mixed with a healthy dose of cocoa butter, making it super-conditioning.  My usually dry hair is happy.  No allergic "itchy" reaction to the henna.

Cons:  Depending on how much, and what type of henna--it can cost more than chemical dye, unless you are used to having your hair dyed at the Salon, then it will definitely be cheaper.  It takes a lot longer than chemical dye.  Also, you need to be cautious about dying with henna if you have previously chemically processed your hair, a strand test is highly recommended.

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