Friday, January 25, 2013

Day 25: What I spent Day 24 Doing...

I have been coloring my hair since I was 17 years old.  That is 20 years of damaging my hair with synthetic dyes.  I've colored it burgundy, auburn, black, copper, pale blonde and strawberry blonde.  My natural color is dirty blonde with a whole lotta grey and I've always made a point to hide it the moment it starts showing again.

I have known about henna for a long time, but had always been wary of trying it.  A lot of the women I've seen with hennaed hair have odd colors of red or orange that look less natural than the synthetic dyes I've used.  But the girls at Lush Cosmetics finally convinced me to give their henna a go.

Les Cacas aren't just henna.  Each one is red henna set in Fair Trade cocoa butter (that's how they make it solid, in the design of a tea brick) with essential oils.  The darker three (Brun, Marron and Noir) also contain indigo henna.

Caca Rouge is now my favorite.  I've been using it for about five months now and have received all kinds of advice about it.  One person told me that it's easier if you grate the henna brick or finely chop it.  So, so not necessary.  All you need to do is cut the henna brick into the 6 tiles and plop the ones you need (my hair only needs 3 tiles) into a bowl.  If you let the tiles steep in the hot water for at least a few minutes, it will give the cocoa butter a chance to melt.

I have also been told that the henna will stain everything it touches.  As messy as the process can be, it's really not much more than with synthetic dyes.  The big difference with clean up is that any henna I've missed hasn't actually stained anything...but there are still blotches on my bathroom door and cabinet from the last time I used a box dye - which also stained my scalp and face if I didn't wipe it off in time.  To protect my face, I apply Ultrabland (also from Lush) to my entire face.  You don't have to do anything beyond your hairline and ears, but I love this stuff, especially leaving it on for a couple of hours.  Ultrabland is gentle, but a seriously effective cleanser and taking it off in the shower with Ocean Salt feels just lovely.

One more - I was once told not to use a metal bowl or spoon when making it.  With traditional henna, that may be true (as most are made using metallic salts), but Lush's henna does not contain anything that will react to metal.  In fact, in the video below, you see Mark Constantine (one of Lush's inventors/co-founders) using an all-metal double boiler to prepare the henna.

Then there is the good advice I've gotten (and not always stuck to, regretfully):

It is true that this process is easier with someone around to help you.  Mostly because someone else can see your head from all angles.  It's also a hell of a lot more fun with company.

I believe I read in the instructions to apply the henna from back to front, but I disobeyed the first few times I did it.  Turns out it's easier to start at the back.  The henna is a muddy texture and will make the hair stiff as it dries, so this method really is the best.

Covering my hennaed head with cling wrap has been wonderful - no more flaking Caca onto the floor or having to stay in the bathroom for the two hours that it takes for the henna to finish up.  However, if you want a "bluer finish" instead of more red highlights when using Brun, Marron or Noir, don't cover up.

This is another excellent video that shows you all the steps:

And the last is a piece of advice just from me:  Don't start by rinsing in the shower - you'll end up with muddy shower walls that are a pain to clean.  I do my first rinse kneeling in the tub, with my head under the faucet.  That water is stronger anyway, but I also follow the initial rinse with a conditioner, then rinse again.  And I shampoo last.  I don't feel like I need the conditioner to nourish my hair after having the cocoa butter in it for a couple of hours (I use it after the first rinse to remove more of the henna)...but sometimes I use it anyway.  And it may take me longer than most to get it all out because my hair is coarse and curly.

In the end, my hair looks as if I've never done it harm, much less 20 years of it.  My curls are bouncier and my hair looks shiny without adding any product to it.  What's more, my hair stays in this condition for weeks and even once my roots start coming in and it's time to henna again, my hair is still healthier and happier than it has ever been before.  I can never go back now.


  1. interesting! I am going to have to give this some serious consideration. I just starting coloring my hair in the last few years and I have not been happy with the results.

    1. If you have a Lush nearby (check, see if they can give you a tile to do a strand test. That way you can test the product to see what color it will turn your hair and see what the process is like. It IS messier than synthetic dye and takes a lot longer, but I just remind myself how lovely my hair turns out (both super conditioned and a lovely shade of red I've never been able to achieve before) and how bad for me the quick 'n easy synthetic dyes are. Oh, and I've heard a rumor that some Lush shops will actually apply henna for you, but I've never had that confirmed and it seems a bit crazy...unless you have a Lush Spa near you...

  2. that was fun! i love the lush videos!

    1. Aren't they fantastic?! I watch their YouTube channel regularly. I especially love all the British ones, though the Canadians aren't bad either (North America manufacturing for Lush is in Vancouver and Toronto).


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