Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It's Henna Time!

Ok. Bare with me this is a long one (scroll down for details on how I henna). I have mentioned Henna a few times in my blog. Before I dive into the topic in depth I thought I would start with a basic introduction. Henna is a natural substance that is derived from the Henna Plant (Lawsonia inermis). This plant produces a dye that when used on the skin produces a red or brown colored stain. Henna is commonly used for cosmetic purposes such as hair dye and skin art. It is said to have both positive and negative effects. The following information was found on written by Nightshade. For the full article click here.
Henna has some undeniable benefits for hair, which is why so many people use it and love it. Some of these pros include:
  • Stronger Hair - The lawsone (dye) molecule goes into the hair it penetrates the hair shaft some, binding with the keratin in the hair. This makes hair stronger, but also is one of the qualities that makes henna removal near impossible. Henna also coats the hair and fills in rough spots on a frayed cuticle. This adds a second layer of strength, but it DOES NOT lock out moisture.
  • Smoother, Shinier Hair - Henna, as stated above, does coat the hair, but it is a permeable coating that does not lock moisture out. The henna helps fill in rough spots on the cuticle. With the cuticle rough edges smoothed over the hair feels smoother and the cuticle takes a lot less damage during combing and manipulation. It takes several days for Henna to stabilize. It becomes more flexible and durable as it oxidizes and cures--it is in fact a plant resin that is flexible and solvent enough to penetrate the hair at the cuticle, carrying pigment with it.
  • Non-Fading Red - Anyone that has used red chemicals dyes knows how badly they fade. Henna may fade a little after the first application, but after the second application fades very little.
  • The Absence of Chemicals - Chemical dyes are not only VERY damaging to hair, they can also cause scalp burns, allergic reactions, and recently studies have linked long term use to cancer.
While there are benefits, there are also some drawbacks:
  • Ease (or lack thereof) of Application - Henna can be hard to apply evenly on your own, can be a huge mess, and is tiring on the arms and neck. It also has to be left on for a longer time than commercial chemical dyes, so more time has to be slated for the process.
  • Experimentation - To find your ideal mix, dye release time, application time, rinsing method, etc. all require some experimentation. It is not out-of-a-box color, and it make take some tweaking to find your ideal results. Your perfect color is never a guarantee. You can see the complete LHC Henna/Indigo/Other Herbs Experimentation Thread here. 
  • Dry Hair - Some people report dry hair after using henna. See the Troubleshooting Section for information on what may be causing this, and how to combat it.
These may be pros for some, cons for others:
  • Loss/Reduction in Curl - Many users of henna report a loss of curl. This is by no means a universal effect, and should be neither discounted, nor counted on. It seems that waives are the most susceptible to this, though some curlies are as well. See the Henna Texture Poll for the exact numbers or vote to add your own results!
  • Cannot Lighten Hair - Henna cannot lighten your hair, ever. On some colors of hair it may appear to brighten it, but you should count on any color you get with henna being darker than what is already on your head.
  • Darkening with Multiple Applications - Henna will darken with multiple applications. If one wants to keep a lighter color, only the roots should be touched up, and repeated whole-head applications will progressively make the color less orange and more burgundy. Check out this thread for techniques for Henna Root Applications. 
  • Cost - Depending on your mix, how much hair you have and how often you henna, it may either be more or less expensive than chemical dyes. Though that doesn’t factor in one very important thing… the price your hair pays on chemical dyes. Many people find that they only need to do a full-length application one or two times, and the because henna doesn't fade much, they can save a lot of cost by only redoing the roots.
  • The Smell - Some people love it, some people hate it, but the smell of henna lingers in your hair for awhile after the application, often reviving when your hair is wet. Some herbs, such as ginger, can be added to shift the smell of the mix, but nothing will eliminate it entirely. Most people feel it has a smell somewhat like grass or hay. See the Poll Do You Love or Hate the Smell of Henna? for more specific responses.
  • Variable Color - Henna can and does shift in color depending on the light the hennaed hair is placed in. The same head of hair can go from burgundy to fiery copper, just depending on the light.
I have been using Henna since the fall of last year. I would say that I’ve applied it about three or four times during that period. More specially, the last time I used Henna in my hair was December 2010. As part of my hair challenge, I stated that I would use Henna once per month as a part of my Ayurvedic hair care regimen.  My decision to use Henna particularly was to make my hair stronger since it has the ability to suffuse cracks in the cuticle and mimics a protein treatment. My hair seems to be protein sensitive and  I desire to have hair that has a natural sheen to it without the need of glossers and other shine products. Lastly, I like the subtle color that Henna adds to my hair. I cannot wait until the summer so I can show off my henna hue even more.
One problem with Henna in my opinion is the amount of time it takes to add to my hair. This is the reason I haven’t been able to Henna my hair in the last two months.  Secondly, the smell like Nightshade mentions above was something to which I had to adjust. Henna is derived from a plant that smells, well, very green. For example, I usually don’t mind the smell of say cut grass, but it is the kind of smell that lingers and may not be for everyone. Yet another concern that people have been known to report is Henna can reduce or even loosen your curl pattern. I am not sure if it is the Henna or my general new hair maintenance routine, but I have noticed that the coils in my hair are much more apparent now. I will keep an eye on this as I continue to use Henna going forward.
How I Henna:
·         The night before I plan on Henna’ing my hair I create my Henna mix. Currently, I am doing a Henna gloss because I discovered that using Henna alone makes my hair look and feel dry. I use three green tea bags steeped in a cup of water and a conditioner. This week I used Suave Professionals Almond and Shea Butter conditioner (it was on sale a few weeks ago at Target J ).

·         After pouring the contents of my Henna into a plastic bowl (I used one box of Jamila Brand Henna 100 grams because that was all I had left. I usually use a box and a half). I slowly stir with a plastic fork in the green tea followed by the conditioner. I do this slowly alternating between each and stirring until I get mashed potatoes like consistency.
stir, stir, stir

·         I then cover the bowl and leave it overnight to have the Henna dye release.
·         I detangle my hair with Grapeseed oil by hand and then with a wide tooth comb. I typically do not comb through my hair to detangle, but when using Henna I believe my hair becomes more susceptible to tangling so I try to prevent that by giving my hair a thorough detangling treatment.
My new detangling comb. <3

·         Once my hair is detangled I shampoo it in six sections. Currently I am still using my new love Herbal Essence’s Hello Hydration 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner. I shampoo once and then rinse.
Freshly washed. Looking a little like Side Show Bob! ; )

·         I paper towel dry after the shampoo treatment and put gloves on to apply the Henna to my hair.  I try to keep the consistency of the Henna on the thicker side to avoid spills all over my floor.  I apply the Henna in sections starting from the back and working my way to the front.
As you can see I would have benefited from that extra half of a box. : (

·         After all the Henna is applied I place a plastic cap on my head, a plastic bag over it, and then I wrap a towel around my head and move around to generate heat .
Me! Looking crazy in my plastic cap. : )

·         Typically I would keep the mixture in all day or overnight, but this time I left it in for three hours before I rinsed it out.
·         I use my kitchen sink to rinse my hair. I simply place my hair in the water until most of the Henna is out of my hair. Once the water turns clear I begin rinsing my hair with conditioner at least two or three more times.
Rinse, Rinse, Rinse 

·         I follow this up with a deep conditioner and sit under my hair dryer for about 30 minutes. This time around I used Yes to Carrots mixed with shea butter, olive oil, and honey. 
Remember this?

Have I noticed a difference in my hair after applying the Henna? I think I have to do it on a more consistent basis in order to tell. I haven’t given up on it just yet!

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