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Well, I’ve done it! I took the henna plunge! The picture above is my pre-henna color so you can get an idea of what it looked like before. I tend to adjust my pictures to the hair color I want (I didn’t even realize I did that until I looked through my Facebook album recently – ha!) but this is pretty accurate. I have some past chemically dyed low-lights and red highlights that have faded and my hair color was not one I liked. I was born with light brown hair and it became a dirty blonde that I have always wished was auburn. So what’s a girl who wants red in her hair to do? Why, use henna of course!
The Part Where I Tested a Strand of My Hair
The henna I bought was from Mountain Rose Herbs, and after much deliberation I chose Mahogany color. According to their color chart, since my hair was in the light brown hair range it would turn out auburn. I waited ever so impatiently to receive it, and the first thing I did when the box came was use a bit of the henna for a strand test. I used very hot water for each mix and left one “cooking’ for 75 minutes and the other for 3 hours! This is how the 75-minute strand came out:
Honestly, I was a little scared when I saw that orange! haha I did not want orange hair. The 3-hour sample came out a little darker so I decided the longer time was probably a good idea. In the bathroom when I washed the henna out of the strand, it looked perfect, but when I brought it out into the natural light it looked very orange-red. The thing is, I had read enough of others’ experiences to know that the color will change over the first three days! So it was either wait three days to see how it looked… or just do it. I decided to wait until the next day and see how it looked, and it was definitely more auburn and less orange so I just DID IT. (Sorry for the terrible iphone pic!)
The Part Where I Put Mud In My Hair
I pulled out the henna, hair clips, coconut oil, latex gloves, an old stained towel, and wore old clothes. I put the henna/indigo powder (it’s pre-mixed at MRH) and almost-to-boiling water in a plastic bowl and used a wooden spoon to mix it into what I hoped was the right consistency – like thick yogurt. Then I put the large bowl into the bathroom sink (pretty much filled it up) and clipped my hair into sections. I put on some thin gloves from a hair dye kit, began at the front and gooped that mud into my hair, first putting the mud on the length then the roots.
I was SO nervous I wouldn’t be able to cover it all! When I thought I had everything covered I gooped (that’s really the only word that is accurate) the last bit on my head all over and massaged it in, hoping it wouldn’t be a huge matted mess when it was all over. Yes, little drips of the mud ended up on the floor and around the sink even though I was trying to keep it contained, but it really wasn’t TOO bad mess-wise. I think putting the chemical dye on is just as bad. And I’m happy to say that I got all of my hair covered just fine, no gaps. :)
The Part Where Emma the Stinker Shared Her Opinion
I have to mention here that Emma walked in once when I was putting the mud on and told me, “Mom, I am never ever ever EVER dying my hair! Ever!” She thought it was terribly stinky and looked like more trouble than it was worth. I just laughed at her because I know someday she will do crazy things to her hair, too. Though I don’t want her to, the girl has a gorgeous strawberry blonde color I LOVE! (Note: After I was finished she told me when she grows up she will probably dye her hair pink. Fickle child.)
The Part Where I Waited. And Waited.
Anyway, I covered my muddy head with saran wrap (there’s an art to wrapping your head in saran wrap, did you know?) put a hat over it to keep it warm, and waited. And waited. Okay, it wasn’t that long. I cleaned up my mess, fed the kids, chatted with a friend on Facebook about henna and weddings, perused this awesome thread people post their henna’d hair pictures to, and before I knew it it had been three hours! About 20 minutes before the end of the 3 hours I used a hair dryer to warm everything up, giving it a boost. The instructions actually say you don’t have to leave the henna on your hair for 75 minutes if you have a heat cap on or can sit under a dryer.
(Another lovely iphone pic)
The Part Where I Tried To Get Packed Mud Out of My Hair
I rinsed it out in the shower. This was rather complicated as the “mud” in my hair was very firmly packed down on my head. It wasn’t about to rinse out easily. So I ended up putting my head upside down in a deep bowl full of water, swishing my hair/head around and working the mud out slowly. This method was sooo much easier than using the shower head! I will definitely do it again. I just kept changing the water and doing it until the water finally ran clear – a good way to know for sure that every little “crumb” is out of your hair. After that I washed with just conditioner.
Warning: Henna will end up all over your shower! Be ready to rinse it off. ;-) Or maybe I am incurably messy.
While my hair was still wet I looked in the mirror and WHOOOEEE there was some red hair already! It made me a little nervous, it looked pretty bright. So I started drying my hair with a hairdryer on a warm setting (I was impatient) and I have to admit I freaked out initially. I thought, “What have I DONE?” And not because the color wasn’t nice because it was gorgeous! Such a lovely red-auburn.
I just wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. And right at the temples (where you can’t see in the photo) it was kind of an orange-red. Now I know why the people posting to the forums I was reading called it a “glow” the first couple of days. It does seem like that! But I reminded myself that it takes a few days for henna to oxidize, meaning that this wasn’t my final color. I needed to wait! And as the day went on I found myself getting used to the color and really loving it – so I think part of the initial reaction was getting used to the new color.
In sunlight, first day. A bit more copper/orange than the picture shows I think.
As far as condition goes, my hair is SO soft and shiny! Seriously, loving what this does to my hair! I am going to be doing this again, just for that effect. I love the way it feels and looks, and how healthy it is!
The Part Where My Hair is Finally Oxidized (Day 3)
In the photos I think day 1 and day 3 look pretty similar but the orange was waaaay toned down by the third day (thankfully!). Especially in the area right at my roots. The color darkened a bit, and I also had an auburn eyebrow pencil by then and that helped me see that this gorgeous color really was going to work for me. ;-) So happy!
The Part Where I Talk About Mountain Rose Herbs Henna
So a little about what you’ll get if you order Mountain Rose Herbs henna (because I wish I had been able to find a thorough review of their henna!). It’s only $7 for 4 ounces of henna which will cover maybe a little longer than shoulder length hair (depending on how thick your hair is – mine is pretty thin and fine so I had a lot to work with). Here is the container the henna comes in and the information written on it:
And this is a small part of the instructions they sent:
Although the brochure says if you have any questions to call them, they were no help at all on some of the henna questions I asked via email. I asked if there was any reason I wouldn’t want to leave it on for longer than the recommended 75 minutes, and if putting another layer of Mahogany on might darken it, and they said you just have to learn through trial and error and do test strands because they aren’t trained to help with that kind of advice. However, the two times I did email them they answered back quickly (within 24 hours) and were very nice in their replies. It makes sense that a bigger business that sells so many different products wouldn’t be able to give everyone advice on how to henna, especially when the results are so different for each person. That said, it makes me wary when a company doesn’t have any advice about their product…
I did ask about ingredients, whether there were any additives like the metallic salts so many people say to stay away from and they answered, “Our Henna is the pure henna with no fillers or harmful ingredients. The Mahogany contains simply Lawsonia inermis and Indigofera sp. Which is a henna species and indigo.” The website says, “The Henna we offer is 100% natural and organically grown, and is free from pesticide residues, with no synthetic additives or artificial coloring agents.” I think that’s pretty clear, it doesn’t have anything harmful added to the dye.
Space for an update after about a month
I will update this post after some time has passed and let you know how well the henna held up over time! It is supposed to fade enough that roots aren’t extremely noticeable. I’ll let you know how that goes. :)
Edited Two Months Later: I’m ready! So after about three weeks I started noticing my natural color at my roots. Now I think part of this was because I freaked at one point after henna-ing, thinking that it was too dark. I read that baking soda would lighten it so I attacked my head with baking soda. *sheepish* I also shampoo’d the same day I henna’d and later learned that you shouldn’t do that.
At four weeks I definitely had roots and my light hair with the auburn wasn’t looking great so I knew it was time to henna again. I decided to try to tone the auburn down and went with a mix of light brown and medium brown along with something called amla, which I also bought from Mountain Rose Herbs. Amla is supposed to be good for bringing back curl/waves which henna can relax, and also is known for toning down the red in henna. I did a few strand tests to make sure the color was one I would like, and henna’d my whole head. This did make it quite a bit darker so I don’t know if I would recommend that (just do the roots if you like the shade you have) but I wanted the amla in my hair and to cool down the entire head color so that’s why I did it. My roots blend beautifully with my henna’d hair so I’m really happy with the experience. And I have to say that the amla gave me a lot of extra body! Even if I decide to stop hennaing in the future I will definitely use that again!
Will I Henna Again?
Yes! I absolutely LOVED what it did to my hair. It has never been so soft, shiny, voluminous, and manageable. I am definitely going to be using Mountain Rose Herbs henna again, too – I like the ease of working with the premixed colors.
Want to Learn More About Henna?
The best place to go to learn about henna seems to be Henna for Hair. They don’t use pre-mixed dyes for the most part (they recommend mixing indigo and henna yourself for longer lasting results) but there is a wealth of information there! Their forum is very helpful, too. Lots of people experimenting and having fun, helping each other out if there are any mistakes made, and enjoying sharing photos of their gorgeous hennaed hair!