Monday, 28 April 2014

Henna hair: about henna.

If you're into natural products, henna may be up your street! I'd been wanting to try dying my hair with henna for a long time, and last autumn, I finally went for it! By now it has faded and grown out a lot, so it was high time for a touch-up! In this and the next few posts I'll be sharing some info, my experience, and results.

What is henna?
Henna is a plant that goes by the botanical name of Lawsonia inermis. It is native to northern Africa, western and southern Asia, and northern Australasia, in semi-arid zones and tropical areas.
For the purpose of dying hair and henna tattoos, the leafs are dried and milled to powder.
The active compound in henna is Lawsone. This reacts chemically with the protein (keratin) in skin, nails, and hair and in that way stains them orange.

Why use henna?
If you use henna, you can dye your hair with all natural ingredients if you like. As opposed to synthetic box dyes henna doesn't do any damage to the hair, it's even said to be good for your hair!
Also it's very budget proof: my pot of henna cost me €4.69 and last me twice. So it's only €2.345 per treatment, whereas a semi-permanent box dye may cost €10-12 here.
It's a lot of work and it can get very messy! You may not like the smell either, but I don't mind it. If you don't, keep in mind that your hair will continue to be slightly henna-scented for a while.

Pre-mixed colours.
You can buy pre-mixed "henna colours", to which you only have to add water. These are usually not pure henna: they may be mixed with cassia obovata, indigo or amla which are other plants that will result in different shades. But these pre-mixed packs may also contain metallic salts and other chemicals. Have you ever read the warning never to use metal with henna because it may turn your hair green? Or that you shouldn't use synthetic dyes after henna? Well it's not the henna that's the problem there, but the metallic salts. Be sure to read the ingredients list!

Pure henna.
Pure henna will always add orange to the colour of your hair. If you want a different colour you'll have to mix it with other ingredients. You can mix it with other ingredients like indigo or cassia to achieve a different colour. But there are loads of other ingredients you can add to alter the colour as well. For instance, to achieve a redder shade some people add paprika powder or red wine into their paste. I have no experience with any of these and don't know how effective or long-lasting their effects are.
Dye release.
It's often said that you need to add some kind of acid to your mix for the dye to release, but I've also read that hot water does the trick just the same. As an acid some people add a bit - or a lot - of lemon juice to their mix, others mix their henna with tea, coffee or even vinegar.

I've also read in a few places that the colour of your hair will darken in the next few days after dying it. As mine doesn't change notably, I suspect it depends on what you add to your paste. I saw this one video in which it's shown that henna with lemon juice makes for a darker stain on skin than henna and black tea or water. I'm not sure if this goes for hair too though.

Henna gloss.
You can also do a henna gloss, which I believe is a mix of a bit of henna and conditioner that is left on the hair for a shorter period of time. The conditioner will make application and rinsing easier and the colour change will be more subtle. This is a deep treatment for your hair.

Strand test.
Before you dye your hair, it's best to do a strand test. Gather some hair from your brush or dye a strand of your hair to see the results on a small scale.

There's a wealth of information on henna out there, so do some research! I spent a lot of time reading about it and looking for before and after photos and recipes. The one thing I found most most helpful was this YouTube video by Katrinaosity:
The next post will be on how I hennaed my hair.