It’s no great secret that I love to color my hair. I’ve written about my many adventures with various hair dyes, and how I came to settle on my current product of choice, Manic Panic. I have no illusions about the ‘natural’-ness of my obsession, but it’s a huge part of who I am and not something I’ll soon give up. So I found my compromise in Manic Panic – it’s vegan, non-toxic, and veggie based. And that was good enough for me.
That is, until I got pregnant. And suddenly I was much more interested in keeping things completely natural (no way was I going to stop dying my hair all together, the horror!) It seemed the perfect time to play with henna, that strange plant powder I’d always eyed but never tried. And so I began experimenting.
‘Henna’ refers to the ground leaves of the plant Lawsonia inermis. These leaves contain the lawsone molecule, which is responsible for imparting that classic dark red dye. To be clear: there is only one color of henna. Anything claiming to be ‘black henna’, ‘brown henna’, ‘blonde henna’, etc, is a compound containing more than the actual plant. Be wary!
In order for the dye to be effective, the lawsone must be liberated. The leaves are purchased dried and ground, and then mixed with acid to coax out the pigment. Common acids are lemon juice, tea, or vinegar. The wet mix is then set aside overnight (6+ hours) while the lawsone renders.
Looks like just the kind of thing you’d want to rub into your head, right? Let me tell you, the first time I tried it I was pretty skeptical. It smells funky! And I was sure it was going to turn my hair some horrible shade of green. Just look at that stuff!
But I slopped it on and rubbed it in. They say to let it sit for an hour or so, but I left it for over five (I always do with hair dye). It smelled like earth and dried in crusty brown clumps. My skepticism continued.
This is what my hair looked like prior to the treatment, faded reddish with dirty blonde roots (the shame!):
So I’m a henna convert now. I used it all throughout my pregnancy (I find that lemon juice acts as a better acid than, say, vinegar). It has great lasting power and barely fades; you need to fix your roots before you ever need a color boost. And of course the best part – it’s completely natural, just a single ingredient!
We even used it to decorate my belly at my baby ‘sprinkle’! (henna dyes skin as well, lasting 1-3 weeks depending on the quality)