Thursday, May 5, 2011

Using Henna - Part 1

I have tried all sorts of hair coloring, dyes, etc.  My hair is mostly straight, but some is wavy and a small portion makes tight, kinky curls that are impossible to comb down or flat iron.  Before finding henna, I noticed that Joico's Kpak helped a lot with keeping my hair manageable.  I decided to try henna on a whim, and I LOVE the stuff.  It is a natural dye, and there is some reluctance when most look at natural dyes. 

Henna is a plant (Lawsonia inermis) that is commonly grown in India, Africa, and Arabic countries.  While stores carry brown, black, and even blonde "henna", real henna only dyes orange or red, depending on your hair color.  Colors other than red are made from other plants dyes like cassia and indigo.  Henna adds protein and shine to hair, and if used weekly, it can help release curls. 

If you choose one of these other colors, make sure to get a body-quality dye.  Cheap dyes may contain other ingredients that could cause reactions.  I get my henna either from a health food store, or in bulk from an herb shop in Rancho Cordova called Starwest Botanicals.  In the mix below, I am using cassia and henna.  This would provide a light red dye if it were your first time.

- Measure out your henna if you did not buy a kit.  Four ounces of powder will completely coat my medium length, thick hair. I prefer to mix the henna in a disposable plastic container, or a plastic bag.  (You can use whatever you like, as long as it is not metal.)  Cool trick - if you use a ziplock-style bag, wrap it in a white paper towel.  When the towel starts to turn orange, your dye is ready to go.  Otherwise, you will notice a brown layer on top of the henna mixture.

- Wet henna has an earthy, plant-like scent.  My husband likes it, but my daughter thinks it smells like dog.  If you don't like the smell, feel free to add some cinnamon, cloves, lavender essential oil, etc.  

- To aid in the dye release, I add apple cider vinegar and the juice of a lemon.  You do not need to add an acid to the mix, but it does speed up the prep time.  If you are sensitive, you can use orange juice instead of lemon.

- Mix in the apple cider vinegar and lemon.  The mix will probably be pretty dry at this point.  You will want to add warm to hot water.  Make sure to not boil the water - that is too hot.  Keep adding and mixing until it takes on a yogurt-like consistency.

- Cover your container, and wait for the dye to release.  I usually let it sit overnight, but it may need to sit longer if it is cold in your house.  Some brands release dye in just a couple hours, some take two days.  I recommend allowing for a day or two the first time.  If the dye is ready and you'd like to dye at another time, you can store it in the fridge for a few days, or the freezer for six months or so.

Part two - coming soon!

*I realized after the fact that I used a metal spreading knife to mix the henna.  Whoops!  It will turn out okay, but avoid metal if you can.  If too much metal gets in the mix, it can turn you hair green.

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