So, my hair is naturally thick and wavy, which would be awesome, if it wasn't for the frizzy mess it tends to become on a daily basis. Still, if that was not enough of a challenge, I also have natural red tints to my hair, which have left me exasperated much of my life. See, during the summer, my hair wants to turn to a more natural strawberry blonde when out in the sun a lot, then during the winter months, it tends to turn a dark brown, almost black. Yay for me, because that means I would have a multitude of colors that made my hair look like a nightmare color job.
A little annoyed by this, I started dying my hair. My intentions were to maintain a single color throughout without the wavy mess. Unfortunately, not even a $250 specialist could accomplish the intended color for my hair :( We would select an auburn color with blond highlights, and end up with a burgundy black color and sweet potato highlights. Yuck!
Needless to say, black was the only option which proved to at least turn out decent. Unfortunately, I am very pale skinned, and black made me look like a corpse. I decided to live with this look for many years. Then, one day my husband (and co-owner of Simple Creations) points out as much as I do to avoid chemicals, why did I keep using chemical products. Hmm, good point! So, the search began. I wanted an all-natural, chemical free hair color and I discovered henna. Only one problem, despite many of the claims for all-natural henna for red hair, contains PPD (or p-Phenylenediamine) and I wanted to avoid the addition. Do you know how tricky that can be?
Finally, I discovered the perfect product, which contains only the leaves of Lawsonia Inermis (Red Henna) and Indigofera Tinctoria (black henna) leaves. So, I immediately discussed the possibility of providing the product to our customers here at Simple Creations, if my experiment worked. The only problem was, I needed to learn how to prepare and apply the henna, without making a mess and while also accomplishing a good overall color. Shockingly, I managed to make it correctly the first time! I was super happy!
Preparing and Applying Henna to the Hair
So, every eight weeks for the past year, I have used the henna using a method I have discovered, and unlike with artificial hair colors, it turns out pretty close to the right color every time. Henna, unlike artificial hair color, works to cover every strand of your hair, coating and protecting it. Furthermore, while the henna does have some impact on the color, it works to enhance your natural hair color, while also sealing your hair cuticle, protecting from further damage!
Yes, the pictures are images of what our product look like when it arrives, and you remove it from the package. Like I said, definitely different from your artificial hair color removed from the box. So, how did I turn the powder into an amazing, muddy glaze I could put on and wash my hair you ask? Well, these are the steps I take. As I mentioned, I use mahogany, so I want to "add" to the red. Other colors require a change in the tea you choose (or you can use water or coconut milk if you prefer):
- Remove the henna from the package and pour into a bowl deep enough to add some more ingredients. Take a fork or a whisk to break up any chunks that may have occurred because of packaging and shipping.
- Place two cups of water onto boil, almost like you are making herbal tea. Since I use a teapot on the oven, I just wait for it to start "screaming" at me before I remove it.
- Place two tea bags into a container that can withstand the heat from the boiling water and add the water. (Since my aim is red, I use a hibiscus tea, turns into a lovely red).
- Let this set for about 10-15 minutes.
- Add 2 tbsp. of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar to the Henna Powder, trying to incorporate it into the mixture.
- Then, gradually add the tea into the ACV and Henna mixture. This step is a little tricky. Typically, I need about 1 1/2 cups, but apparently, the weather, like with cooking, can have an effect, and I may need both cups.
- What you want to do is add the water and stir (almost like making cake batter, or in this case, pudding) until you achieve a "pudding-like consistency."
- Pick an essential oil you are fond of and add 3-6 drops to take away the grassy smell.
- Now, use the shower cap included with your henna to cover the bowl and let set for at least 1-2 hours (I prefer to leave it like this overnight and then apply it the next morning).
- When it is time to use, you need to make sure your hair is clean and fresh. (Unlike chemical hair colors, take a shower and dry your hair before applying, it does help).
- Make sure you have on an old shirt you do not mind getting messed up, put on the provided gloves, and if you have one, use a hair salon "cape." Believe me, it is about to get messy.
- Starting at your crown, you need to smear the henna from root to tip, covering it well. Twist on top of your head, almost like a "mini-bun" and then add some more of the henna.
- Keep pulling your hair into sections and applying the henna, then adding it to the "mini-bun," watching it grow, and then smearing the henna on top of the "bun" before moving to the next strand.
- Once you have gotten all your hair into the "bun," you need to clean off any excess on your skin (I try to have my husband help do this as I apply) because if it stays on, you will stain your skin!
- Place the shower cap on your head, and give it 2-3 hours to set. Watch t.v., read a book, prepare that awesome ice cream recipe you found on Pinterest, it doesn't matter, just make sure your head has the shower cap on and all the "drips" are washed off your skin.
- At the 2-3 hour mark (honestly, I shoot for three because I like the results a little better), it is time to move to a sink and start rinsing. Make sure you have gloves on during this step! (I tried the shower one time, but that was a nightmare, so trust me, use the sink with the sprayer, you won't have a huge mess to scrub out of the shower and also will avoid any "odd skin stains."
- This takes about 15-20 minutes because you need to remove every bit of the henna from your hair.
- Once the water runs clean, use a non-chemical shampoo and begin washing your hair. You want to use only the shampoo and let it suds up well; this will let you know if you missed any of the henna.
- Rinse and dry!
- The first 2-3 days, your new hair color will need to adjust, and you may see traces of the odd color in a shower or bath, but you are ready to go for 6-8 weeks!
Tips and Hints
- When you are looking for the right consistency, the above picture is when you need to consider adding less of the "tea" into the mixture. I add just a touch more, and it looks like a mix between pudding and mashed potatoes. If you go much thinner, you will have a mess! The liquid will be running out underneath shower cap and stain your skin!
- Always ensure enough time to make sure you prepare to color your hair. This is a slow, gradual process. I average around 20-30 minutes to apply it; then I have another 3 hours to waste as I look like some creature from a sci-fi flick. You are not going to want to make a quick trip to the store and probably will not want any witnesses.
- Some people suggest using vaseline around your hairline to prevent staining. I leave that as a personal choice. Since I do not use vaseline, I typically try to have my husband help me wipe off any that drops on my skin (here, I have to note, he is amazing that way). No matter the method of removal you choose, make sure you clean it off with warm soap and water immediately. Again, STAINING IS A CONCERN!
- If you have porcelain granite cabinet tops, remove any of the henna that may have fallen on it immediately! AGAIN, STAINING IS AN ISSUE!
I will be posting a video shortly of the process, so stay posted!
Things you Need to Know About Chemical Hair Dyes
Again, I knew it was time to make a switch from the final chemical product I used, but there was a statement on the National Cancer Institute which helped to give me the final push to change:
Over 5,000 different chemicals are used in hair dye products, some of which are reported to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in animals ... Over the years, some epidemiologic (population) studies have found an increased risk of bladder cancer in hairdressers and barbers ... Some studies have linked the personal use of hair dyes with increased risks of certain cancers of the blood and bone marrow, such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and leukemia ... Studies of breast and bladder cancer have also produced conflicting results.
Wow, that was an immediate eye-opener. Even if I had switched to the greater whole body care products, the use of hair color was creating another area the switch needed to occur. So, what exactly is found in chemical hair color that you need to avoid? Good question! Check out this list of only seven of the dangerous chemicals found in most commercial hair colors:
- PPD: Check out the EWG Database to verify the information, but overall, it presents a high concern for irritation of the skin, eyes, and/or lung and non-reproductive organ system toxicity. This chemical is created from tar coal and includes additions like benzene, naphthalene, phenols, aniline, among other chemicals. (Really? No wonder there are several countries which ban this ingredient!)
- Ammonia: This is another moderate to high concerned chemical. It presents several hazards including organ system (non-reproductive) toxicity, and irritation to the skin, eyes, or lungs. The Center for Disease Control notes "If your skin comes in contact with concentrated ammonia, your skin, eyes, throat, or lungs may be severely burned. These burns might be serious enough to cause permanent blindness, lung disease, or death." (Wow, really?)
- DMDM Hydantoin (Formaldehyde Releaser) - This moderate hazard is a formaldehyde-releasers that cause numerous problems. Again, look up the information at EWG or elsewhere to get detailed information. It is commonly used to help preserve the hair color while it sets on the shelf in stores. It is important to note, this ingredient is found in approximately 20% of all cosmetics found in the United States. (Yikes!)
- Parabens (Most commonly Methylparaben and Propylparaben) - Since there are two common names (as well as numerous others) just going to touch base on the dangers of this ingredient briefly. Methylparaben and Propylparaben, both have been known to create endocrine disruption as well as biochemical/cellular level changes because it is a preservative which can mimic Estrogen.
- Lead Acetate - EWG notes this chemical creates a high concern for ecotoxicology, as well as non-reproductive organ system toxicity. There are studies which lead to concerns of this ingredient being connected to the development of anemia and several types of neurological problems.
- Resorcinol - Once again, there are some sites where the information can be discovered; however, to remain brief, the reference information is uncovered at EWG. This ingredient commonly found in hair color is a major skin irritant and has been known to prove toxic to the immune system. It is important to recognize why Resorcinol is regulated in a workplace environment, no such regulations exist within the personal care industry. (Hmmm, that does not sound promising)
Some Things You Need to Know Before Making the Switch to Henna
I am going to be as upfront as possible. I love henna. Since I made the switch, I always have the even, normal hair color I have always wanted, and every day, at least one person will comment about how much they love my natural hair color. Of course, I smile and then admit I use henna. The shock is tangible! (The lady who cuts my hair says she loves my hair now that I use henna because it is so much healthier!) Still, there are some things you need to know about making the switch:
- Unless you are looking for common hair colors, then henna is not an option. You are limited to the colors available! Also, be weary, there are some henna products with added chemicals which can prove just as dangerous as the chemical counterpart.
- When you take the plunge and make the switch, many hairstylists will refuse to deal with post-henna hair. If you are committed to making the switch away from chemicals, this is not a concern, but because this is natural, you need to recognize the importance of the difference which may occur. If you have highlights, you will have some natural highlights left. (Occasionally, some hairstylists will use a semi-permanent dye to correct what you do not like, but the semi-chemical dyes have the same dangers as permanent)
- Henna works with your natural hair color, so it is possible you may not get the "actual" color. (If you look at the henna products we have available, you will discover some details on what to expect)
- Exercise caution! This is a stain type process, any on your skin or cabinets needs to be cleaned immediately. The reason for the rush is a health hazard, but instead, an attempt to help you understand, if you leave it in your work area or on your skin, there will be discoloration.
Altering and "Assisting" Your Henna Color for Hair
The last section, I promise! So, if you are working with henna, the following tips can help mix your henna and accomplish a "better" color:
- If you want to intensify the color, try adding a tea that has a hint of the color. For example, since I use Mahogany, always use hibiscus tea, not water! You can also use either cloves or brandy to help it really "pop."
- If you want to bring the color down for your first attempt (wanting to go from a less red to a more auburn or brown) try using coffee or black tea. Of course, if you are using the brown or black, use the options as well!
- Do you want a darker color? Try adding in Nettles or maybe some walnut extract!
- Trying to achieve a lighter or golden tone (or using a blonde?) then add something acidic to the base!
If you notice, earlier I mentioned I mix hibiscus tea and ACV (apple cider vinegar) into my henna. It is because I want a brighter, highlighted red, that is still deep, and that is what I accomplish every time!
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