Thursday, October 30, 2008

To Dye For

A while back I wrote in my other blog about dying my hair bright red and in the comments section a couple people mentioned that they prefer to use henna instead of so many chemicals. After having dreamt about henna tattoos last night, I woke up this morning realizing it was time to look into this process, especially since my roots are starting to grow in.

Henna, as defined on is: An Asian shrub or small tree, Lawsonia inermis, of the loosestrife family, having elliptic leaves and fragrant flowers. The natural aspect made me feel much better about using it on my body, and subsequently washing it down the drain, so I pulled up quite a few websites dedicated to the history of henna, where it originated from and its early uses, as well as differences between the dyes used in body art as opposed to those used for hair. The natural source of the pigment comes from the leaves of the plant. The most reliable way to achieve the best results is through mixing of the powder of the leaves with other natural sources (such as lemon juice, tea, oils, wine, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.) depending on the color desired (in its natural state the pigment dye released by the leaves is a reddish-orange tone, black henna has an indigo additive to darken it).

I discovered this website, Henna for Hair, dedicated to about 200 different people and how they have achieved their henna hair colors. As I read through many of the individual stories it occurred to me why so many more women and men choose to dye their hair through the salon or little box of chemicals -- henna application sure is a lot of work! Although, as the process becomes more familiar, I imagine the work involved is less than it first appears.

Mystified at the different mixes of color, especially those in the bright red family as that is the color I seem to be gravitating toward lately, I read through handfuls of the stories. Many of the henna mixes will need to sit in a bowl overnight to release the dye and it was made very clear that pre-mixed paste is likely loaded with just as many chemicals as the box kits. Many of the stories involved putting a shower cap, foil, and a towel on top of the color, and leaving all of them on over night. There was no single mix that I read about which suggested leaving the color on for less than four hours.

The pro to this time investment is the insanely gorgeous color these people have achieved without chemical interference. Almost all of the colors shown I have had on my head at one point or another. They wash the color out and sometimes complete a vinegar rinse which helps remove the remainder of the dye in order to prevent it from transferring to the towel (something I wish I knew months, scratch that, years ago!). I am anxious to attempt this very different style of application of color and am scouring through these individual color mixes to see which I like the most. Due to the con of time investment but the super environmental pros of this plant based dye, and the ability to achieve such vibrant color through its use I am granting henna as a natural hair coloring alternative Four Green Leaves!

After the application, I will report back and let everyone know how it went; luckily I have pixie short hair so it should be a little bit easier to complete.

Have any of you used henna?


High Desert Diva said...

I've never used it, but my sister has. I had no idea the process was so involved. Sheesh! What we do for vanity, eh?

Looking forward to seeing before & after pics. I know you don't like your photos floating around on the 'bout a hair shot at least!

Bridgete said...

Yeah, I'd love to see results since I dye my hair red too. Although that is definitely a lot of work. And I don't even do it myself with the boxes from the store, I go to the salon. I'm too afraid of missing a spot or messing up.

Bridget said...

I tried it many many years ago...whenever I think of a "henna rinse" I think of Lucille Ball.

Ginger said...

aahhhh!!! i love henna! it's not all that complicated if you get a good mix though so don't be scared.

it's a little messy, but it doesn't take more than an hour (or a little more if you want really intense color). one thing you should definitely do is a color strand test because some hennas react to regular hair color if you already have that in your hair. however, if it's been at least 3 or 4 weeks since your last chemical color or process you should be okay. and if it comes to it there are ways to wash it out (baking soda).

the color is temporary so it washes out in about 3 weeks, depending on the detergent in your shampoo, but it's totally worth it because you know you're using a product that's completely earth/animal friendly.

as a matter of fact jenn, i have a box of henna specifically for hair coloring at home (i think it's red) that i will never use. i'm done coloring my hair. if you email me your address i will send it to you and you can try it for free. if you like it then it costs less than $10 a box and for your short hair you'd get 2 or 3 applications out of it.