Henna: a compendium (and alkanet’s sad story)

I’m not used to flaunting, I don’t feel like I have anything to flaunt and even though I had it wouldn’t be a nice thing to do. But I give credit where it’s due. And in this case (for cupcakes sake!!!) I do know stuff about henna and hair.

One hundred and ten centimeters long stuff.

By the way, it’s about 10 years I play with henna, last 6 in a consistent way. Thus, I’ve finally decided to snap pictures of the procedure and explain you how to do it, if you have no clue, or how I do it, if you’re the experimental kind of girl.

In time I’ve tried a bit of this and that, lawsonia with some curcuma, infusions of this and that, oils, acid things and oxidating times.
I’ve decided that I like some sort of cherry red, and since I start from a dark ash brown (or so it seems) -plus, if you’re familiar with Fia’s hairtyping system I’m 1aMiii :)my recipe is now this:

-2hg “strong henna” (lawsonia with a very small percentage of sodium picramate, wich is a coluring and colour fixative salt)
– 75 ml boiling water (almost, I add it as needed, but I’ve tried to measure the quantity and this should be it)
various red infusion bags I put in said boiling water (3 pu-her + 3 hibiscus tea it’s a wonder, but a couple of bags of any “red fruit” tea is fine, my wonder works for red itself, “any teabag” works thanks to tannins)
– a spoonful of honey (any kind)
– sometimes, if I fancy it, I add a spoonful of yogurt, but I’ve noticed that acid ingredients are no use on my hair
– put it on my head right away, if I let it out for oxidation it won’t work
– wrap in clear plastic film, food type, for about an hour or more (lately one hour is fine, after all hair aren’t endless, right? So at some point they will stop absorbing colour!)
– shampoo, conditioner and last rinse with cold water and vinegar (so that hair scales can close up and I won’t loose much dye… some people don’t shampoo afterwards, let alone conditionere “because it looses colour”… I prefer to be able to comb my hair without snapping them, since henna is the very tiniest bit drying, instead of worrying about how much colour it looses right away!)

This time I wanted to try alkanet (alkanna tinctoria root)… too bad I looked up informations about it just after the purchase… it came out it releases colour in oil or alchool and it DOESN’T bind to hair (though it colours fabrics wonderfully…).
My gloves were more pink-ish than orangey, but apparently alkanet works wonderfully on plastic.
Plus, it has the horrendous texture! It dries right away, clumps up (then drying and falling off… now I’m quite good at applying henna, to the point where the bathroom has nothing to fear… this time it had) and in the end, rinsing, I had a lot of sand to rinse off… Oh, of course there’s no colour from henna, luckily I paired it with my usual “strong henna” instead of normal lawsonia, otherwise I would have had no colour at all…

But let’s talk procedure!But let’s talk procedure!
1) Boil water, it has to be boiling with big bubbles, “warm” is not enough (like those water heaters for teas… I tried it but it cools off too soon)
2) put in your teabag of choice (if you have any)
3) weight and pour henna powder in a plastic bucket (or sort of)
4) with a mixing tool (mine’s inox, never had oxidation problems), break clumps
5) wear gloves, I wear them before adding wet ingredints, some people wear them all the time, it’s up to you. And then rinse with cold water all the things you used and don’t need anymore.
6) add water, a little at a time, and stir to break clumps.
7) the ideal texture is like greek yogurt nice and thick, so it doesn’t run down your neck (well, this texture works wonders for me)
8) add the honey (and/or yogurt, if you like) and stir well. Notice the magic happening: everything takes a wonderful consistency
9) wear some kind of hairdresser cloak or an old towel on your sholders (if needed, during the first times, clear up the bathroom and protect it, but do this before putting everything in place, otherwise it turns cold)
10) apply with “bucket method”

The “bucket method” is:
– wearing a lot of shea butter or oil on your forhead, ears and back of neck, all around the hairline, to avoid colour stains on skin, since henna doesn’t work on oily things
– comb your hair, detangle them well
à some people like to apply henna on wet hair, some right after shampoo, some on dirty hair. I’ve noticed that what works for me is on clean dry hair. These first three steps are to be made before you start anything at all.
– with an applicator brush (synthetic bristles and rat tail handle) part your hair in the middle, paint some henna on one side only (I “paint” just 3 or 4 cm to cover regrowth) then part your hair just a tiny bit on the side of the first parting and “flip” hair strands like in a book, putting colouring paste only on one side (so that the uncoloured goes on top of the pasted one… like in a book: you paint on page two, flip page, and paint on page four, while page three sticks to page two, got it?)
– when you get to one ear, you flip everything and start on the other side
– when you get to the other ear, flip your head upside down (if your hair end up in the bucket don’t worry) and contour your neckline
– at this point grab hanful of henna and spread it randomly on the rest of your hair, the first times you might want someone to tell you if you’re leaving clear spots, if you don’t have such an helper don’t worry
– go on like this until the henna mix is over, sometimes you’ll need to flip your head back to place, because it’s not going to be comfy and if you have a lot of hair it’s also heavy. So since you’re up and you’re holding your hair, check out for dry spots (tip: your hair don’t need to be covered completely in a thick layer of henna mix, ok?)
– when you run out of colouring mud massage everything well, it’s a treat too, then wrap you hair on themselves, then around your head (I wear them puffy and high, very sixties, and the henna mud helps keeping everything together) and wrap everything up in plastic food wrap, pull it tight so it’s nice and snug and stands on its own.

This method lets me “paint” hair a meter long in less than half an hour… not bad, uh? ^_^

Wait one hour or more, as you please, if you like you can keep the head in the sun or heat it every now and then with the blowdrier, then wash and enjoy your hair with henna.

Why is henna so good for hair?
It’s antiseptic. You didn’t expect this to be the first point, did you? Well, it’s antiseptic, it means no parasites will attack it, cures dandruff and keeps nits away. (So, if mommy’s worried for the pipes of the sink tell her henna melts with water and it also cleans up pipes!).
It inserts into hair scales, making it plumpier and strong and really (not like those fancy-shmancy simulation into shampoo commercials) repairing damaged parts.
It creates some sort of film on your hair, coloured film ok, but it protects it from pollution and random nastiness, this is what makes the hair so shiny. Also because if there’s a film, the scales are closed.
It gives a wonderful colour, always in a natural effect, because it sums up to your natural colour, without completely changing it, and we all like to have nice hair, therefore it’s good for your mood U_U
It’s a little drying, right, but a little conditioner works just fine. To some people it may seem that it adds up to the frizzy effect, well no, the thing is that the hair becomes plumpier, maybe a little heavier so that it looks somewhat “straightened”, so it seems, to those who have curly hair, that they are less defined. Nothing some conditioner won’t fix.

I didn’t manage to snap pictures of the procedure… But I hope the “book”-like explanation is fine, if not you can always spy on some hairdresser and do what they do, it’s really simple… and after all it’s a procedure you’ll do only on your roots, so it’s quick!

One last note: if you’re hoping henna solves all your problems with one application like a chemical hair dye (a thing that causes a lot of problems, but as far as look is concearned, it solves them right away), be patient, henna has a cumulative effect, it depends on what you put in it and on how it reacts with your hair… basically you need patience to find your right way to use it. Please don’t give up, when you’ll be skilled with recipes and applications the outcome will pay you back ten times more!

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11 thoughts on “Henna: a compendium (and alkanet’s sad story)

  1. Euforilla Post author

    Io incoraggio tutti a provare!!!
    Sì, bisogna insistere perché è con la pratica che si capisce come fare la fanghiglia al meglio (ingredienti, consistenza, ossidazione, tempo di posa, applicazione), ci si deve anche abituare all’odore, a me piace, è molto molto erboso… Però ne vale la pena assolutamente!!! *_*

  2. goddessinspired

    Ah, questo post è stupendo!!! Me lo metto subitissimo tra i segnalibri così ogni volta che mi servirà lo potrò consultare… Anche se ammetto che avevo intenzione di chiederti se potevo sfruttarti per farmi l0henné le prossime volte ahahah, io sono proprio incapace coi capelli! XD

  3. stella

    Io faccio ossidare (almeno qualche ora), metto ingredienti acidi (aceto o limone), non uso il picramato…al contrario non ha mai preso 😀
    tra l’altro ci sono diverse varietà di henné che danno sfumature diverse…per il ciliegioso il Jamila è perfetto.
    Se volete henné di super qualità a buon prezzo e ottimi consigli di tintura, cercate su FB Le herbette di Janas. Anche l’indigo è strepitoso, ha una consistenza che non ho mai visto. Testato personalmente!

    1. Euforilla Post author

      Proprio vero che ogni testa è diversa e non c’è come la pratica per trovare la ricetta migliore :)
      Il Jamila è carissimo per le mie tasche… ma proverò di sicuro a cercare Le herbette di Janas (poi con un nome così!)

  4. Cristina

    Scusa una cosa ma se fai l’henné da 10 anni dovresi avere capito che è meglio non aggiungere troppi adittivi per una resa migliore del colore. (Va bene acqua, meglio se distillata + aceto/limone). E che la resa del colore è fortemente influenzata dall’ossidazione (+ o meno lunga a seconda della temperatura ambientale) e dal fatto di congelare il pappone di henné.
    Questi fattori influiscono molto sul tono rosso + rame o + ciliegia.

    1. Euforilla Post author

      Ciao Cristina!
      Sì, ormai ho la mia ricetta preferita, quella che ho scritto, però sai, spignattare e provare cose nuove mi piace!!! Quindi ogni tanto capita di fare pocci inenarrabili o, al contrario, ottenere risultati incredibili e non si sa bene perché (e quindi hai voglia ad andare di nuovo di esperimenti per ritrovare la combinazione miracolosa).

      Ho notato che varia tanto soprattutto (e forse è anche superfluo dirlo!) per la qualità di partenza dell’henné: se è di ottima qualità uno se la cava anche solo con acqua!

      L’acqua distillata non l’ho mai provata, magari sarà il prossimo esperimento di spignatto :) E nemmeno il congelamento…
      Però ingredienti acidi e lunga ossidazione prima dell’applicazione per me non hanno funzionato gran che :S

      Grazie per il tuo commento!!!

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