Like many women, I have always loved to play around with my appearance. Whether it was makeup, clothes or hair color, I tried just about everything. In my early twenties, hair color was my favorite way to change my appearance. I liked browns and reds, but I very often experimented with shades of blond. Or should I say orange. I could never afford to get my hair professionally colored, so I did it on my own – and as many of you probably know, bleaching your own hair can have disastrous results.
It wasn’t until nearly ten years later that I started to become aware of the chemicals in these hair dyes. The streaking kits are the worst, as many of you may have found. The fumes from those can knock you out, not to mention the irritation they cause the scalp. By the time I was 28, I promised myself I would not dye my hair anymore – I didn’t want those chemicals in my system. I also wanted my hair to be as healthy as possible – and pouring chemicals onto my scalp was definitely not contributing to the health of my hair.
I didn’t much think about it after that. I have to admit, I have been blessed with a naturally beautiful shade of hair (if I do say so myself). It is dark brown in back with light brown and dark blond natural highlights in front. These natural highlights hide the few gray hairs that have cropped up over the years, thankfully.
Despite this blessing from Mother Nature, I do get bored from time to time. Back in January, I found myself so bored with my appearance that I felt the desire to color my hair for the first time in many years. However, I never considered using the chemical-based dyes. Thanks to yoga blogger Callah, who wrote a guest post here about her experience with henna, I was dying to try it for myself.
Callah used Lush’s henna, which includes the dubious ingredient “perfume.” She talks about that a bit in her post. I decided to try to find a brand that was 100% pure henna, and ended up choosing Light Mountain, a brand carried by Whole Foods. I didn’t want to go too red (and that can definitely be a danger with henna), so I chose the auburn shade, rather than red (they have a surprisingly wide spectrum of color choices).
Callah’s post illustrated that using henna is definitely a messy experience. But I was up for the task. All I can say, though, is to make sure you have at least 5 hours to invest in this process.
Every henna product is different, so make sure you read the directions carefully, well ahead of time. This brand recommended pre-mixing the henna with water THREE HOURS before application. (This was not the only option, but it was the one I chose.) I foolishly did not take the time to set out newspapers in the bathroom as Callah wisely did – a big mistake! Applying this muddy mixture certainly creates a big mess no matter how careful you are! Once applied to my damp hair, I let it set for about two hours. Unlike with normal dyes, I was not at all worried about leaving it on for too long – I knew it wouldn’t hurt my hair and I wasn’t really concerned that it would get too red or too dark. It turned out to be a pretty relaxing experience (except for the mess, of course), allowing me the time to sit around and read for a bit.
The end result: fantastic. These pictures don’t do it justice, I have to say. I made two photo mistakes. 1) The pictures were taken indoors, and only natural light does henna-colored hair justice. 2) The pictures were taken from behind, where my hair is dark to begin with. The henna darkened the front of my hair significantly, which of course, you can’t see in these pictures.
I couldn’t believe how much I loved the way the henna made my hair look. It started out super dark brown with an undertone of red. Within four washings, the color lightened a bit, and two weeks after that, the color had lightened significantly. Now, three months later, it is mostly back to normal, though I can still see a beautiful red tinge to it.
I love that you can use henna much more often than regular hair dye. It also – somewhat surprisingly – made my hair feel really soft and healthy.
There was one major downside for me, though (aside from the mess and how long it took). The smell. Now I know why Lush uses perfume in their henna! Henna smells a bit like alfalfa, a smell very familiar to me, having spent half my childhood on a goat ranch. It didn’t bother me at all for the first few hours. I expected the smell to wash out when I rinsed out the henna – but it didn’t. Later that night, when I went to bed, the scent was as strong as ever. And another day passed and another and another…yes, my hair smelled strongly of alfalfa for about a week. I got really sick of the smell and did not enjoy that at all!
However…I was happy enough with this product that I will definitely be using it again, alfalfa smell or not.
There is just something magical about henna. Rosemary Gladstar notes: “A wise old man told me that henna aligned with the polarities of the earth and attracted lay lines, powerful magnetic forces of the earth… I use henna as a transformation tool, not to cover natural hair color but to enhance it; to change not the way you look but the way you feel about yourself.”
Call me crazy, but I felt the henna magic when I used it. It is truly amazing, and I highly recommend it!