Throwback Thursday - this is by far my most popular post from my old gluten-free blog. And, yes, Zoolander fans, this is definitely a mommy version of blue steel (ha ha), but I like it anyway.
In preparing one's body for conscious conception, one of the biggest toxins we can eliminate is conventional hair dye. Henna is one option, but I also love that young women are rocking their silver locks with confidence more and more. There are also purportedly ways to mix henna and amla powder to create a pretty ash blonde color. As my hair gets greyer and greyer, I'm really tempted to try it. Will make another post about it if I do!
Not a month goes by where some random stranger doesn't comment on my hair color and ask me how I get my hair to it's particular shade of red. I excitedly reply, "It's henna!" and they are intrigued and often want to try it, but don't know where to begin. This post is a reference point for those future random encounters because I think a lot of people want to try henna, but a) don't know where to buy the good quality stuff, and b) don't know what to do with it once they've purchased it. This is part of my natural beauty series but if you don't entertain thoughts of going ginger anytime soon, you may want to skip this post.
Every three to four weeks I apply henna to my hair. It's a process that I never look forward to, but I'm always happy with the result once it's done. It's messy, and inconvenient, but it does leave my hair shiny, soft, healthy and covers up the grey. I began going grey at around age eleven, which is not uncommon when thyroid issues are present. I was chronically exposed to fluoride from infancy to around age twelve and fluoride is a known thyroid depressant. I cringe when I see "nursery water" as it is nothing more than distilled water with fluoride added and I believe it is setting a future generation up for thyroid troubles, but I'm pretty biased on this topic. Through my teenage years I just rolled with the ever-increasing grey hair, but by my early twenties I had this white streak and I was feeling quite self-conscious about it. I decided to dye it, but after the chemical treatments, my hair was getting pretty thrashed. Not to mention all those nasty chemicals that inevitably seep into the scalp. I knew this was not something I could do for the rest of my life. I had never planned on going red, but as it turns out, the color does suit my complexion. I've been using henna for over twelve years now and I've learned a few tricks:
If you are considering trying henna and already dye your hair, first and foremost, do a tester strip somewhere not so obvious as henna can react with certain dyes and literally FRY your hair. Tread cautiously if there is already chemical dye in your hair.
I buy my henna from Mehndi Skin Art located on Vancouver Island. The customer service is exceptional, the shipping is reasonably priced and very, very fast and the product is of very good quality Don't bother buying from one of the better known sellers in the States. I did that for several years before learning of Mehndi Skin Art and paid way too much. I'm partial to Jamila brand henna, but I'm not picky when it comes to the type of amla powder or indigo. Just make sure your indigo does not contain paraphenylenediamine (PPD) or you could experience an extremely bad allergic reaction. Mehndi Skin Art is a safe source of indigo. (*Note - since first writing this blog post many years ago, I now purchase my henna in Indian Grocery stores for convenience and economy. Noorani is my current favorite brand, but Jamila mentioned above is great too.)
Henna adheres to the hair best if you mix something acidic with it. When I order my henna, I also order amla powder which is a powdered Indian gooseberry that is very high in vitamin C content. I use about two tablespoons with each batch, so, although a little pricey, a package of amla powder does last a long time. I've noticed that it really conditions the hair and my skin responds well to it also. I once mixed lemon juice in my henna for the acidity - this was a huge mistake as it made my hair very dry and it began breaking off mid-length. It was an eyesore.
I also always order indigo which is actually the dye that traditionally colors denim. This darkens the hair and provides better grey coverage. Henna applied to grey hair on it's own will show up as bright orange, which would look like highlights if you only have a little bit of grey, but will look like Ronald McDonald if you have a lot!
There is also a right way and a wrong way to mix henna. Always one to complicate things, I used to mix boiling water with my henna. The heat actually degrades the staining power and the result is not as nice. Just use room temperature beer, which makes hair shiny and conditioned.
Normally, I will mix my henna and amla powder (2 tbsp) 12-24 hours before I want to use it as it goes through a chemical reaction where it will stain better. If you just mix it with water and apply it immediately, the result won't be as nice. The same is not true about the indigo. You'll want to put the indigo in about 5 minutes before you apply the henna so that the indigo doesn't degrade. Experiment with the amount of indigo to add, but be careful and start small as too much and your hair might go darker than you may want - it's powerful stuff. When applying the henna, amla and indigo, you want it to be the consistency of a paste. It will probably remind you of mud. If the smell bothers you, you could add some essential oils to the mix. Start at the roots and work your way through. Try not to get your skin as it will stain. Some people apply Vaseline around their hairline to avoid staining the skin. Also, use gloves to avoid staining your hands and nails. Once it's in there, it has to stay there for at least 5 hours, so I tie it up in a plastic bag, put a towel over my pillow and just go to sleep. I won't lie, It's not a great night's sleep with wet hair and a plastic bag crinkling around your ears every time you move (and it's not that sexy either!), but for me the pay-off is worth it. My hair is at least 60% grey now and grey hair generally takes on a courser, wiry texture which is something that I don't think regular hair dye hides, however henna does correct that texture. I would rather have the soft, shiny hair with no adverse effects to my health than the color options and convenience that conventional hair dye affords. When it's time to rinse the hair, clear all items from your shower as it's going to stick to everything. I don't recommend rinsing it in the bath tub and especially not if you have jets as it's going to go in the jets and leak out and stain - don't do it! Three shampoos and your hair should more or less be clean. You may find little specks of henna for the next few days, but by the second washing, it should be out. If you find that you've accidently stained your skin, try exfoliating it with some granulated sugar and whatever you have on hand for moisturizer.
That about sums up my experience with henna. I've never tried to remove henna, but I've read that it can be done with a lot of patience and application of oil. The more you apply henna, the richer the hair color, yet I find it is gentle and gradual enough that you won't have noticeable lines of demarcation (tiger stripes) between colorings as you might with conventional hair dyes. I also don't think it fades as much as conventional reds do.