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No-bozo henna for grey

My henna recipe, so I don’t have to keep looking for it.

What I actually did:
Read this:

Decided to try it. So the exact recipe I used, in “just try it” mode, was:

1 cup Frontier organic henna (nice consistency, bright color resulted)
1 cup Cassia Obovata from Amazon
1 tablespoon organic turmeric powder
1 can warmed Natural Value coconut milk full fat.
1 tsp acacia powder (gum arabic)
Pinch ginger, pinch cloves

This made twice as much as I actually needed. I just mixed everything together (no vinegar, no honey because I forgot the honey) and glooped it on (thick paste which went where I wanted and didn’t drip at all) and then rubbed it in and wrapped my head in plastic and sat under a blanket for a couple hours to keep things warm, then rinsed, used conditioner, rinsed some more. No vaseline, no gloves, no packing the plastic wrap with bits of kleenex to stop the drips… Little bit of color around the edges of my fingernails, if it bugs me I’ll paint them.

Put the rest in a plastic bag in the freezer.

Dye release was instant. My scalp is not stained, my hair is. Vibrant, vivid color. Less nuisance than usual by a long shot.

Hair feels soft and not at all greasy or dry, doesn’t have the usual pickle or hay smell of henna either.

Thumbs up! I’ll give the color a couple days to oxidize in and then take a picture. It’s vibrant right now, but I know it will settle down in a day or so.
Updating for 2015
I have more grey, so will be adding a small amount of coffee this time. I have new sources and will update with how I like them once I’ve actually done it.

The plan:
Ingredients (I’m making a lot and freezing the excess so I can keep up with my roots and scalp, as I’m going to be experimenting with painting the skin in the worst of the bald spots):
1/2 pound natural red henna from Frontier Co-op (havent’ opened the bag yet, if it is not fine enough I will grind it myself.)
1/2 pound Cassia Obovata from Amazon. This spares me trying to get “blonde” henna in bulk from a store with unknown extra ingredients.
1 tablespoon ground coffee
2 tablespoons Turmeric
2 teaspoons saigon cinnamon
hearty pinch of ginger and clove. I thought about not adding these as my head kind of ends up gherkiny for a day or two, but ginger and clove both have medicinal reasons for being a good idea on my poor balding pate. (Can’t blame the balding on this, I just cut off my hair from mid-back and it was all virgin-never-been-hennaed, it’s been that long.)
Teaspoon of acacia
And I think I have tapioca flour. Might even do tapioca maltodextrin? Have to check on the thickening properties of that.

The liquids
2 cups raw apple cider vinegar
2 cups filtered water
1/4 cup raw honey will be added when the mix drops below 115 degrees.
Skipping the chai.

2009 recipe:
My goal: apply henna with less mess than usual, get “all” the spots, cover my grey, brighten my hair back up so people actually can tell I’m a redhead.

1 part body-art-quality pure henna. Probably 2/3 cup.
1 part Cassia Obovata, aka “Blond” or “Neutral” henna.
Tablespoon, maybe less, of turmeric. Would have used 2-3 tablespoons of paprika, but we only had smooked and I didn’t want to smell like smoked paprika.
Teaspoon of Saigon cinnamon. Could be ordinary cassia cinnamon, true cinnamon would be wasted in this application.
2 tablespoons of sugar
Pinch of each of ginger and clove.
Sprinkle of gum arabic (acacia fiber) powder
Tablespoon or two of potato flour (could be cornstarch, sweet glutenous rice flour or tapioca flour, or even arrowroot. Just needs to be something that has thickening capabilities.)
Mixed those with a fork while the following was boiling:

1 part (probably 2/3 cup again) of raw apple cider vinegar
1 part water
2-3 tablespoons honey (could theoretically substitute Karo syrup, but honey is a better humectant)
3 teabags of Redbush Chai from Yogi Teas

Once that had boiled and reduced to a total liquid of around 1 cup, give or take, I removed the teabags and poured the boiling liquid into the dry ingredients, stirring with a fork until everything was moist, and it was about the consistency of chocolate mouse (and the color of mud). I covered it with plastic, then did other things for an hour or two.

Once it had cooled and started to release dye, I put on gloves, gave the stuff a stir, found it was thick but not too thick (thank you honey, gum arabic, and potato starch!) and glooped it onto my hair, making sure to get right up to the hairline and all the way down to the scalp, all over my head. When I was done, my head was a smooth paste of “mud”, but nothing was dripping liquid, so I wrapped in plastic wrap and took a nap for a couple hours, Still no henna drips, washed it out, waiting for it to dry to see the color, but I can tell I got down to the roots everywhere and it’s a gingery color already.

Now, some words to the wise about henna:

1. The color is “dynamic”, i.e. it takes a couple days to oxidize into a nice reddish brown and settle down into the permanent “glaze” of color.
2. It can tend towards brassy.
3. The stuff you buy in boxes or even in bulk at the health food store is usually crap. Find some body-art quality pure henna (none of that black crap), I get mine from our local alternative shop, Lazar’s Bazaar. However, pretty much the only place I can find “neutral” or “blond” henna is at the health food store, that’s cassia, and different from henna in all sorts of ways, but blends nicely.
4. It is a translucent glaze on the hair, not an opaque color, and it doesn’t penetrate the shaft unless the shaft is damaged.
5. Henna turns bright orange when used alone on grey hair. That’s why I add cassia. Others add coffee grounds to the dry mix for a browner color, or even chamomile tea for a more golden note. Cassia is a golden note too, but tones the bright bozo-orange of henna-on-grey perfectly.
6. Henna over chemically treated or bleached hair gives… unpredictable and occasionally profoundly unpleasant results. I use mine only over natural hair or hair which has been previously hennaed.
7. For best results, leave on for as long as you can stand to have your head covered with muddy gloop.
8. Henna stains skin. If you are not using some sort of gelling/thickening agent on the henna, you will end up with the occasional brown/orange drip mark. This is… not ideal. I don’t apply henna to clean hair specifically because having some oils on my scalp helps prevent my scalp from being dyed orange. Some people will cover their hairline with vaseline, I find that I end up “masking” some of the hairs from henna, not the desired result.
9. Henna has some natural UV blocking properties. If you get a henna tattoo, for example, you will find that your skin doesn’t sunburn there while the tattoo is visible, which can lead to some interestingly ornate tan lines. I find my hair tends to resist sun-fading with henna in it. Healthier, but maybe not always what I’m looking for.

My hair is almost dry, and I can tell that it’s well covered to the root, my hairline isn’t stained or missing color, and the color is a pleasant red which should settled down by Friday or Saturday into a color that looks just about what I had in high school.

Published in Home Remedies LIfe Recipes


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