Adventures of a Henna virgin

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Despite having been experimenting /destroying my hair since 1996 it wasn't until this year that I ventured into the world of Henna.  I have been through a rainbow of colours over the years yet always seem to return to either black or red.  I'd been Henna curious on multiple occasions yet stories of mess and dripping and waiting all day quite frankly put me right off.

Then after yet another rather disastrous attempt at going blonde I decided the only way to temporarily ban myself from further dying/bleaching would be to use something which has to be grown out as opposed to simply changed in some desperate attempt to let my poor hair recover.

So I thought i'd share a henna-virgin's first experiment with Henna.  For ease of both purchasing and usage I  decided to use Caca Rouge from Lush. I know the Henna experts will most likely suggest Body Art Quality Henna (BAQ Henna) but i'll experiment with that some other time.  This is by no means a definitive guide, your own googling will show that there is much variation in methods and indeed additional ingredients  this is just how I chose to do it.

So to those who've never seen it before this is what Lush Caca Rouge Henna looks like (you can also get caca marron, caca noir and caca brun, I wanted as red as possible though.  You can mix and match to create your own unique shade)  If you have very short hair you will probably only require one square per application and adversely if you have very long hair you may require four.  My hair is roughly shoulder length and not at all thick so I used two cubes which means one purchase will last me three applications.

You can slowly dissolve the henna in hot water yet to make it quicker and application smoother I chose to grate mine.  This proved to be somewhat of a hand wrecking task and was incidently the most time consuming element of my experience.  However I remain convinced that in the long run it made things much easier.   For the record I found a grater with a handle much quicker then a knuckle grazer grater.

I then added the following:

* Paprika (to intensify the red)
* Cinnamon & Ginger (to emphasise the golden tones)
* Lemon juice to maximise colour release.

I then added freshly boiled water a bit at a time to the dry henna, continually mixing until I had a paste that was the consistency of thick yogurt before placing the bowl over a pan of boiling water as a bain marie for around 5 minutes, stirring continuously.  It's important you apply it whilst it's still warm.  It's also important you don't use a metallic bowl or spoon.

This is where the pictures end as I'm quite sure you really don' need to see me looking like a right tit.

Whilst the bowl was still warm I went to the bathroom and covered it in towels, the bathroom that is...not the henna.  Having learned from adventures with semi permanent vegetable based dyes in the past with rainbow coloured ears and the like I made sure to coat my hairline, forehead, neck and ears with vaseline.  Then I kind of haphazardly slapped it all on using a children's baking flexible spatula type thing which is ideal for getting every last scrap out of the bowl.  I've heard some people buy empty bottles like mainstream hair dye applicators and put the mixture into them (preparing in bulk and freezing the excess) but i'm just not that prepared nor patient.  It's worth mentioning at this point that this process is akin to slapping cowpat on your bonce.

Once the mixture had all been used I piled my mop upon my head, wrapped it tightly in cling film (how utterly kinky) then put two shower caps om, yes two.

It's recommended you leave it on for four hours however many people leave it on for longer and indeed shorter.  I think I lasted around 3 hours.  I was awfully surprised at how unmessy this waiting time was, not a drip did I experience.  So far so good.

After the initial rinse, I emptied about half a bottle of cheap conditioner onto my hair and prepared myself for hours of rinsing crap out yet was pleasatly surprised that it seemed to take no longer then rinsing out vegetable hair dyes and not as long as colourb4.

It's important to remember with henna that the colour you get after application isn't the colour you will end up with,  As if by magic it will deepen and change as it oxidises over the next three days, yes really.  Isn't that terribly clever?

It's safe to apply three days in a row if you so wish as with each subsequent application the colour builds up and longevity increases yet if you're happy with the result you can leave it much longer.

I did mine again around three days later.  This proved messier then the first application as with the first i used lazy jif lemon juice, with the second I thought i'd be clever and use a fresh lemon yet forgot to take the pips out which proved somewhat interesting whilst applying the henna as little pips of henna coated doom dripped everywhere. It also made rinsing it all out absurdly crappy.

All in all I was rather happy with the results and indeed the less arduous then expected process, it was rather a cathartic ritual.  However, be warned.  It hum dings a bit.......


  1. I've never ever ever dyed my hair but think I might one of these days. I started off reading thinking "ooh yes, I'll try Henna" but I think I've been putt of now. However, I love the idea of adding paprika and cinnamon and things.

  2. Erm utterly useless without before and after pics?!

  3. Madeleine, you should give it a go! Henna is also good for your hair :)

    Sam> Google is better for photo's my hair was reddish blonde to start with and is now a darker red, so it's just different shades of red in my case.

  4. I am now resolutely blonde but was a henna addict back in the day.

    Pleeeease post a pic or two though!


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