05 December, 2012

Experiments in … Henna!

Last night I [finally!] got around to dying my hair.  Yes, that’s right, I did it myself.  But I didn’t use any of those stinky-chemicals-in-a-box deals.  I went old school with henna.  For those who may not know, henna,also called Egyptian privet or Mignonette Tree, is a tropical shrub whose leaves, when powdered, create a safe and natural dye for human hair and skin.  It has been used by humans for ages and ages.  According to Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal, “records dating back more than 5,000 years specify its use as a medicine, talisman, ceremonial substance, and cosmetic used to color hair and paint the body.”  It is often associated with the ancient Egyptians.  It is even purported that Cleopatra regularly used henna in her beauty rituals.  And, well, if it’s good enough for Cleopatra, then it’s good enough for me!

Rosemary Gladstar goes on to write the following in her amazing Family Herbal (which is an excellent book, and should absolutely be on your bookshelf):

“The basic shade of henna is red, and all henna has a whisper of red in it.  But by carefully blending different parts of the plant that are harvested at different times, a whole range of colors is created.  Colors range from neutral to blond to the reddest of reds to black.  I further like to blend the shades together to get more specific colors. … Not an instant dye nor a neat and easy process, hena requires time and patience.”

rainbow henna
I’d bought a jar of Rainbow henna about six months ago with the express intent of dying my hair.  I finally got around to doing it last night.  (I am highly skilled in the art of procrastination.)  I went for a simple dark brown.  I just wanted to add a little richness to my own color, cover up my annoying, persistent grays, and give my hair a good conditioning. 

Let me just warn you, if you’ve not tried it before, that henna is a messy business!  In fact, it’s much more fun if you henna with a friend (or several).  Check out Meghan Currie and her best friend using henna here to see what I mean.  Unfortunately, I was solo on my henna hair project, so you won’t get to see all the behind the scenes shenanigans and green-goo-splattered bathroom snapshots from my experience.  I can, however, tell you that there was lots to clean up afterwards. 

before mixing ...
... after mixing

I whipped up my henna cocktail with black coffee (to help with covering the grays), apple cider vinegar (again, to help with covering the grays), and an egg.  The egg was for extra protein and conditioning since my hair’s a little dry and neglected right now.  Then I oiled the skin around my hairline with a little kukui nut oil, wrapped a towel around my neck, donned my vinyl gloves, and started slapping henna all over my head.  In case you’ve not experienced my hair before, it is super thick.  I mean, I have thick individual hair strands, and I have A LOT of it.  So, this took a long time to do.  It was crazy messy.  And, let’s be real, my arms were getting stupid tired.  So, I may have gotten a little lazy distributing henna to every single hair strand.  Still, I think I did a pretty darn good job considering I was all by my lonesome.  When most all of the henna goop was on my hair, I smooshed it up into a weird mud-covered-looking kind of beehive and wrapped it in a plastic shopping bag.  I know you are so envious of my mad style right now.  


Before I cleaned up, I used the leftover henna mixture to make a little viney design on my arm and hand and a little heart on my neck.  Unfortunately, the heart got rubbed off almost immediately by the towel.  Oh well.  Ninety minutes of watching Once Upon A Time and Glee, and I was ready to rinse.  Now I have soft, shiny, bouncy luxurious chestnut colored hair (with a few dull spots where my arms got tired).  Yay! 

post-henna luxuriousness

admit it ... you want to run your fingers through it!

Have any of you every used henna on your hair?  How was it?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

Hope you’re having a swell Tuesday today!



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