Henna and blondes: a cautionary tale

SalamanderSalamander Registered Users Posts: 328
For the benefit of those of you considering henna, I thought I'd share a few things that I learned through experience:

1. Always, always, ALWAYS do a strand test. I mean it. You know how the strand test instructions on commercial dyes are mostly there because the lawyers insist on them? It's not like that with henna. There really is no predicting what it will do with your particular hair, and the only way to tell is to do the strand test.

2. Just because a particular henna recipe gave someone with similar hair a particular color does not mean it will do anything remotely similar on yours. See Rule #1 above.

3. Blond roots coming in look REALLY noticeable against bright red hair. If you are the sort of person who is really bothered by obvious roots, henna may not be for you. And touching up your roots is not a 10-minute process; it involves mixing up a bowlful of odd-smelling goop, letting it sit over night, smearing it on your roots, sitting with aforementioned odd-smelling goo on your head for anywhere from 1 to 4 hours, and investing a good bit of time scrubbing your bathtub afterward.

4. The orangey-red color of hennaed blond hair looks Really. Bad. In. Pink. If your spring/summer wardrobe includes a lot of pink, you may wish to avoid henna -- or else buy a lot of new clothes.

5. Henna acts as a sort of a sunblock, so if you like those natural highlights your hair gets from being out in the sun, you may wish to avoid henna.

6. Henna is really, really, really permanent. And I don't mean permanent like box dye permanent - I mean permanent like bad credit. You may be able to lighten it somewhat; if you can lighten it sufficiently you may even be able to dye over it to tone down the red somewhat, but it will always be there and will be ESPECIALLY noticeable in the sun. So if you get bored easily and change your mind frequently, you may with to avoid henna.

7. Henna comes out bozo-orange initially; it takes about a week to fully oxidize and reach its final color. By the time it looks good, your roots are showing again.

8. Henna tends to look fairly natural in indoor lighting, but it has a rather unearthly orange glow in direct sunlight. If you spend a lot of time out in the sun, be prepared to be very ... bright.

9. Because henna bonds with the keratin in your hair shaft, the only way to remove it is to bleach the hell out of your hair with really strong bleaches, which will destroy your hair in the process. So going from henna to a pale blond color is impossible; the blondest you can get back to will be a fairly dark blond color and you'll just have to wait til it's all grown out and cut off. There are a few ladies on the Long Hair Community forums who had to cut waist-length or longer hennaed hair into very short bobs or pixies after attempting to bleach it back to blond and ending up with gummy, sticky, damaged pale orange hair.

It's not all bad. Henna is very good for your hair, strengthening it and repairing damage. It is natural and doesn't have all that scary stuff in box dyes. Also, it doesn't fade, so you only have to touch up roots. Some people enjoy the whole henna procedure. If you have dark hair, you probably won't see much of the red, except as highlights in bright sun, and growing it out won't be such a big deal.

But blonds should think long and hard about whether they are prepared to commit to a haircolor that will last longer than many marriages...

I recently found myself longing to be blond again; I missed my sun-bleached highlights, I wanted to wear pink, I was tired of touching up my roots every 3 weeks, and I was tired of having to dye my blond eyebrows to match.

Fortunately for me, I only had done one full-head application of henna, so it wasn't terribly dark. I was able to lighten it with peroxide to approximately the same level as my roots, and then I colored over it with a dark ash blond commercial dye which toned down the orange significantly. But you can still see the red tones when I'm out in the sun, and I fear I won't get my beach highlights this summer.

So I'm sort of kicking myself that I didn't leave well enough alone ... I have always been fickle in my hair color and really had no business messing with something so very permanent.

I just thought I would post this in case there are any other impulsive and/or indecisive blonds thinking about going henna red...
2a/b right now; 2c when it's longer
Fine/iii density/high porosity

Current favorites:
Suave Naturals Coconut co-wash
GVP Protein Restructuring Conditioner
GVP Conditioning Balm
Eco-Styler, LALSG, BRHG, Garnier Curl Shaping Spray Gel
ACV rinse 1x per week

Comments

  • MimsTXMimsTX Registered Users Posts: 3,482 Curl Neophyte
    +1

    very good post :) Luckily, all the cons you had about the color are reasons I love it (i like the bright color, I HATE having to constantly touch up color because it's faded, my roots are fairly close in color so I don't have to dye them every week and I almost never wear pink so meh). But yeah, definitely these are things for people to consider before taking the plunge. Once it's on, it's done... there's no going back.
    CG/Mod CG (soap bars) since 8/12/08
    CO wash/Cond: Kathymack & Flowermoon Castille soap bars, V05 Chamomile Tea, Suave Ocean Breeze, Biolage Conditioning Balm
    Styling loves: DIFFUSING! CK, KCNT, KCCC, FOTE (on dry hair only), Re:coil, Proclaim gel
    Not sure about: Boots, Tweek, KBB Milk, DMHJ
    HATE: plopping, FOTE on wet hair, BRHG
  • anniemaeanniemae Registered Users Posts: 1,702 Curl Neophyte
    Thanks, Salamander, for all of this information!! I remember reading about it when you first used the henna back in the fall. I always think your hair looks very pretty on you.

    I've often wanted to try henna, but I've always been scared. Thanks for giving us all of the pros and cons!! :)
    Hair Type - wavy/curly, fine texture, thin/medium density
    2b-c/F/ii
    :dog:
  • wavyblondewavyblonde Registered Users Posts: 1,637 Curl Neophyte
    Excellent post! Thanks for the warning.
    2c/3a with 2b underlayer. Fine, porous. Loves protein. But not hydrolized wheat protein. Yuck.

    Wash: WEN Sweet Almond Mint or Pomegranate
    Gels: LA Looks Sport Gel
    Mousse: Tigi Catwalk Curlesque
    Curling creams/gellies: Coffee Coco Curling Cream Lite, Spiral Solutions Curl Enhancing Jelly, Curls Gel-les'c
    SOTC: JC N&S (LOVE)
    http://public.fotki.com/wavyblonde/hair-2010/
  • playtonicbubbleplaytonicbubble Registered Users Posts: 36
    i have med. brown hair with natural blonde red highlights that will sometimes brighten in the sun.. i was wondering what do i have to look for if i henna my head>

    im no where near a blonde and my hair stylist said that if i dye my hair red i'd be back in 3 months to redye.
    Curl Pattern:2c/3aFii
    Texture: medium
    Porosity: low to medium in the winter
    Density: medium
    Elasticity: normal
    Characteristics: flat top, no root curl, easily weighed down, protein sensitive
    Hair ingredient likes: Honey,olive oil, deva low poo
    Hair ingredient dislikes: coconut oil, wheat protein, hemp, henna, protein
    Hair Twins: still seeking.
  • MimsTXMimsTX Registered Users Posts: 3,482 Curl Neophyte
    i have med. brown hair with natural blonde red highlights that will sometimes brighten in the sun.. i was wondering what do i have to look for if i henna my head>

    im no where near a blonde and my hair stylist said that if i dye my hair red i'd be back in 3 months to redye.

    lol, not if you use henna. This stuff does NOT budge. Seriously, I only touch up my roots monthly, and the ends haven't seen hair dye in over a year and they're still a bright red.

    Do a strand test on stray hairs (gather from your brush or something) before putting it on your head. That's the best advice I can give. That way you know exactly what color to expect and you can alter the time it stays on your head accordingly. Surprises are typically not a good thing when it comes to henna.

    The blonder/redder bits are going to turn out brighter, so keep that in mind too.
    CG/Mod CG (soap bars) since 8/12/08
    CO wash/Cond: Kathymack & Flowermoon Castille soap bars, V05 Chamomile Tea, Suave Ocean Breeze, Biolage Conditioning Balm
    Styling loves: DIFFUSING! CK, KCNT, KCCC, FOTE (on dry hair only), Re:coil, Proclaim gel
    Not sure about: Boots, Tweek, KBB Milk, DMHJ
    HATE: plopping, FOTE on wet hair, BRHG
  • SalamanderSalamander Registered Users Posts: 328
    Also, be sure you have the sort of coloring that can carry off an warm red. Henna on lighter hair comes out anywhere from strawberry blond to orange to fiery red, depending on how much you use, how long you leave it on, and your hair's individual pigment. I saw a lot of ladies on the Long Hair Community who had "cool" coloring and found that the henna red just didn't work on them.

    Henna is VERY permanent. Not box-dye permanent, it is permanent like bad credit. You don't date henna, you marry it -- so make sure you are REALLY into having red hair before trying it!
    2a/b right now; 2c when it's longer
    Fine/iii density/high porosity

    Current favorites:
    Suave Naturals Coconut co-wash
    GVP Protein Restructuring Conditioner
    GVP Conditioning Balm
    Eco-Styler, LALSG, BRHG, Garnier Curl Shaping Spray Gel
    ACV rinse 1x per week
  • PreciousHoneyPreciousHoney Registered Users Posts: 254
    MimsTX wrote: »
    i have med. brown hair with natural blonde red highlights that will sometimes brighten in the sun.. i was wondering what do i have to look for if i henna my head>

    im no where near a blonde and my hair stylist said that if i dye my hair red i'd be back in 3 months to redye.

    lol, not if you use henna. This stuff does NOT budge. Seriously, I only touch up my roots monthly, and the ends haven't seen hair dye in over a year and they're still a bright red.

    Do a strand test on stray hairs (gather from your brush or something) before putting it on your head. That's the best advice I can give. That way you know exactly what color to expect and you can alter the time it stays on your head accordingly. Surprises are typically not a good thing when it comes to henna.

    The blonder/redder bits are going to turn out brighter, so keep that in mind too.


    +1 This is why I LOVE henna because it stays put. I did my last application in Feb and its pretty much the same color as it was a week after I did it. In fact I straightened this week (first time in years) and everyone was like did you color it too cause its really pretty? Nope, just can see more of the highs and lows with it straight but I havent done it in months.


    And like salamander said it can range in color on the lighter hair but you can also add things like indigo that you can add to your mix and end up with something more brown.

    Hennaforhair.com has a lot of info and there is a woman in hawaii that has her own organic salon and she does wonderful things with henna

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Honolulu-HI/Megumi-Organic-Salon/133907238857

    If you go to her pictures tab you can look at hair dyed with henna.

    Oh and +1 to Salamander and the post because there is a lot of research people should do before they do henna, blondes and brunetes alike!
    Precious Honey :)
    3c with some 3b at the bottom.
    Im lovin HENNA
    Light protein use

    Co-wash: Suave Daily Clarifying Co
    Rinse-out: Back to Basics Pom Peach (old bottle) or GVP Conditioning Balm
    DT: GVP Condidtioning Balm with heat
    Leave in: Elucence MBC
    Gel: HEBE or Aussie Instant Freeze gel.
    Shampoo: Elucence Moisture Balance
    http://public.fotki.com/Precioushoney/
  • SalamanderSalamander Registered Users Posts: 328
    +1 This is why I LOVE henna because it stays put. I did my last application in Feb and its pretty much the same color as it was a week after I did it. In fact I straightened this week (first time in years) and everyone was like did you color it too cause its really pretty? Nope, just can see more of the highs and lows with it straight but I havent done it in months.

    If you are someone who is very consistent when it comes to haircolor, like for example someone who has been coloring your hair red for YEARS and wishes it would stay red longer...then henna is GREAT.

    If you are as changeable as the wind and go from blond to red to dark blond to highlights to whatever in the course of a year (like me)...then henna is probably NOT a good choice, lol!

    And also if you have dark hair so the henna doesn't really show much color change on you, it isn't terribly noticeable if you stop hennaing and let it grow out. The other thing that makes henna easier for brunettes is that if you hair is already dark, you can just do full-head applications w/out having to worry about it getting too dark. But multiple full-head applications on a blond result in a dark burgundy coloring that can be either quite striking or freaky unnatural, depending upon your coloring and your tastes.

    But if you have blond or light colored hair, the henna will be QUITE noticeably different than your roots and will either require a lot of touchups or a high tolerance for two-tone hair.

    Adding indigo to the mix can tone down the red; but anyone who has ever had a yearning for highlights and/or blond hair should stay VERY far away from indigo as it turns green when you try to lighten it. Again, not a problem for brunettes who are happy as brunettes; but many of the dark blondies and light brownies like to keep the option of highlighting or bleaching.

    I did love the red color (for a while) and I loved how strong and shiny it made my hair, but I'm a basically lazy person and all that mixing, waiting, glopping and rinsing was just too complicated for me to deal with every couple weeks. So I've gone back to demipermanent color -- I still have to touch up my gray streak every few weeks, but with an ash-toned demi that fades over time it isn't anywhere near as noticeable as bright red w/ white roots so I can put it off longer, and 10 minutes for touchup is something I'm more likely to keep up with.

    Henna is fabulous -- for some people. I'm just saying make sure you are one of those people before trying it!
    2a/b right now; 2c when it's longer
    Fine/iii density/high porosity

    Current favorites:
    Suave Naturals Coconut co-wash
    GVP Protein Restructuring Conditioner
    GVP Conditioning Balm
    Eco-Styler, LALSG, BRHG, Garnier Curl Shaping Spray Gel
    ACV rinse 1x per week
  • ElletteEllette Registered Users Posts: 3
    I almost always like having red hair, and before I went on seizure medication I had a serious reddish tone to mine. The thing is, I like the purple highlights I have right now. How difficult do you think it would be to do a henna dye but leaving out bits here and there for highlighting? That way, if I wanted blonde/purple/pink/whatever streaks, I could have them but the rest of my hair would be more low maintenance.
  • HateRelationshipHateRelationship Registered Users Posts: 100
    Is it a good idea to henna bleached hair? I want to go from dark brown to red, so I'd never go lighter, just darker.
    I'm growing my hair from chin length to mid-thigh length!
  • SalamanderSalamander Registered Users Posts: 328
    If you use 100% body-art quality henna, it is safe to use over bleached or chemically dyed hair. Henna will strengthen and condition your hair, so if it is damaged and porous from bleach it can really improve the texture.

    However...bleached hair often takes the henna differently than virgin hair. Sometimes it takes it way, way darker than virgin hair; sometimes henna will fade from bleached hair; and in general the lighter your hair is, the more potential you have for Bozo-orange with henna. You can get a darker, cooler red on light-colored hair with repeated applications, though.

    If you do several henna applications and get your bleached hair to a nice deep auburn/burgundy, the problem is root touchups will always be lighter. But, if your roots are coming in dark, that wouldn't be as much of a problem as it is for people with blond roots.

    The big thing is DO A STRAND TEST FIRST! ALWAYS! In fact, do a LOT of strand tests with different mixes and let them oxidize for a full week before trying anything on your head. Henna is VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY permanent so take the time to tweak your mix and experiment BEFORE you do your whole head.
    2a/b right now; 2c when it's longer
    Fine/iii density/high porosity

    Current favorites:
    Suave Naturals Coconut co-wash
    GVP Protein Restructuring Conditioner
    GVP Conditioning Balm
    Eco-Styler, LALSG, BRHG, Garnier Curl Shaping Spray Gel
    ACV rinse 1x per week

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