While we found henna as a body art first, and learned about the hair applications later, we find that hair applications are becoming more popular and personally interesting as well. Our family has a history of going gray early. Really early. As in, I'm 26 and I'm surprised I don't have any yet (fingers crossed!). I don't remember a time when my mom wasn't dying her hair. But over the years, that kind of chemical interaction can really harm you. You can become sensitized to the dye which leads to skin reactions, rashes, tenderness and worse. Many hairstylists have to give up coloring because they can't work with the chemical dyes any longer.
Thankfully, Henna is a fantastic hair dye. It has been used since ancient times, in conjunction with other natural dyes like indigo and amla, to dye hair a range of colors. And it has a very very low allergic reaction rate- about .01% of the population may experience a mild reaction- think itchy wool gloves. This is in contrast to PPD sensitization which can cause severe contact dermatitis, chemical burns, and internal organ damage. When given the coice between PPD chemical hair dyes and good old fashioned natural henna, henna is the way to go.
At Henna Caravan, we get a lot of questions about dying hair different shades and especially covering gray hair. Grays are notoriously tricky to cover, and tend to fade very quickly. With henna, indigo, cassia, and amla, however, you can customize your dye to accentuate your natural coloring and cover those stubborn gray hairs! If you want to keep your hair light, stick with cassia. If you want to darken it up, get the other three dyes involved. A double application of henna is the best way to permanently, naturally, and safely cover your grays. Here's our favorite recipe for a deep burgundy hairstyle (assuming your roots are the only grays visible):
4 ounces of natural henna paste (about 20-30 grams of powder, mix 1 day in advance)
4 ounces natural henna paste (20-30 g) (mix 1 day in advance)
4 ounces natural Indigo paste (20-30 g) (mix immediately before use)
Mix about 50 grams of henna powder with lemon juice the day before you plan on dying your hair. The activation time for lawsone (henna) can be quite long and you will achieve better results if you let your paste rest for at least 12 hours before use. Divide this paste in half (2 oz for Application 1, 2 oz for Application 2)
Apply to roots:
Use Henna Caravan aftercare balm or A&D ointment to create a barrier around your hairline. Put on gloves to make sure you don't stain your fingers while applying the henna. Use half of your pure henna mixture (about 2 ounces). You can apply henna to your roots using a small ziploc bag or Henna Caravan storage bag. Try to thoroughly cover every inch of gray. Leave on 1-2 hours then shampoo out. Quickly towel or blow dry your hair and get ready for step 2!
Mixing your Indigo powder:
Mix 20-30 grams of indigo powder with water or room temperature chamomile tea. Start with 1/4 to 1/2 cup to reach your desired consistency. Let the paste sit for 15-20 minutes. At this point, there should be a shiny blue sheen on the top of the paste. Add your remaining henna paste to this indigo mixture and stir thoroughly. VERY thoroughly. Once the pastes are completely incorporated you are ready to apply your dye to your full head of hair.
Check out the hair application videos to the right to see the super simple beehive method of application. Put on a showercap and let the dye soak in. Leave the paste on 35 minutes under a salon heater, or 1.5 - 2 hours at home. Rinse thoroughly. Then rinse again. Then rinse again. Natural dyes may be a bit tricky to rinse out, but the results are fantastic! Avoid shampooing your hair for about 48 hours. You can use a light conditioner to help with tangles.
Naturally dyed hair is healthier than chemically treated hair and you will notice more shine, less breakage, and all around happier scalp with a natural hair dye regimin. Natural dyes like pure henna and indigo are safe to use during pregnancy, and are perfectly fine to use over chemically treated hair. Old-fashioned henna dyes (in the 60s and 70s) may have had additional chemicals that interacted poorly with PPD dyes, but pure natural henna has none of these. As always, do a strand test first to test for color and suitability. Natural dyes may take a bit of extra time, but they are definitely worth it in the end!