Recently, there was a discussion about herbal hair dyes on one of my email aliases. Somebody suggested using Henna as a herbal hair dye for people who are allergic to chemical hair colors and dyes. I was like...."but of course, I don't have a lot of gray hair yet but I have been using Henna for hair-conditioning for years now". After applying Henna my hair feel really silky, shiny and healthy, but its a lot of work too. Just thought of sharing my recipe for hair-conditioning and some thoughts on what to expect while using Henna for the first time.
Henna has been used in India for centuries as a natural dye. Its most prolific use has been for henna tattoo mostly on palms and feet. No wedding is complete in India until the bride has a beautiful tattoo on her palms. Over the years as people got tired of applying chemicals to their skin and hair, Henna has also caught up as a natural hair-dye. It has a orange-brownish hue which lasts about 3-4 months. Since people in India normally have dark- brown to black hair, henna works well for dyeing gray hair there. The color of Henna mixes well with the non-gray hair and if the right additives ( more herbs) are added to Henna you can get dark-brown or black color as well. Although my experience has been that those herbs do not impart long lasting colors, and after a month the Henna color ( brownish-orange) becomes prominent. In India that's not a big deal because that hue is in vogue and people like it. However here in US, a lot of people have light brown and golden hair and dyeing them with Henna would change the color of all the hair and unless you wanted Henna color you may not like the color that it gives. If you have dark brown or black hair then you can also try Henna and enjoy its natural hair-conditioning and coloring. It may also work for brunettes, but I would suggest trying it on a discreet lock of hair before coloring all of them.
Here are a few ways I have used Henna:
For coloring hair (black color):
1 tbsp Henna
1 tbsp Gooseberry powder ( available as Amla powder in most Indian stores)
1 tsp Coffee
Mix all these ingredients in an iron skillet ( available in Indian stores, ask for the small one used for soaking Henna ). Add some water to get a toothpaste like consistency. After the paste is ready add some more water but don't mix it, this water will prevent the paste from getting dry. The gooseberry powder reacts with the iron of the skillet and produces a black color. Coffee powder also boosts the color of the mixture. Let the mixture sit for 2 days. After that mix the extra water in the Henna paste to make it slightly watery ( thinner then the toothpaste). Wear disposable gloves and a garment that you can afford to discard ( or use for Henna only). Use your fingers to take a small lock from the top of your head and cover it with this paste, once it is covered, try to fold it into a ring and let it sit at the top. Take another lock nearby and repeat the process with it. Slowly work your way through entire head. At the end, you should have a bun on top. Cover it with a shower cap. Keep your head away from any pricey furniture or curtains as Henna stains are very difficult to get rid of. Also wipe of any droplets that run down on your face or you will have a blemish on face that would last a couple of days. Keep it for one and a half hour and wash it with plain water (don't shampoo). Once your hair dries apply some olive oil to it. Oil boosts the colorant in Henna. Leave overnight and shampoo in the morning.
I know, it sounds like a lot of work ( and mess) but I do this every single month because I love the way my hair feel after I wash them. Henna is a proven hair-conditioner and gooseberry is also said to be good for hair.
If you have dry hair like me, you can make the paste with yogurt instead of water. For dull, lifeless hair add 1tbsp of Fenugreek powder ( Available as Methi powder in Indian stores).
If you want to condition your hair without changing their color you can try this:
1tbsp fenugreek powder ( methi powder in Hindi)
1tbsp gooseberry powder ( amla powder)
Mix with yogurt in a regular bowl ( don't use iron skillet because that enables amla to impart black color). Let sit for a day and apply like Henna and also follow up with oiling. This should work wonders for dull looking hair.
Below, is a picture of the Henna tattoo that I made on one of my friend's hands. It has nothing to do with this post but I just love it.
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