For a number of reasons and over many decades, the hair struggle, for me, has been very real.
Since my trendy 80’s bob at about age 5 to my first perm at the age of 7 to the day when I attempted to Blondissima my entire head of brown hair (which resulted in an orangish melted mush and gave me half the head and length of what I started with), figuring out how and what to do with my hair has been a challenge.
Besides poor style, wrong colours or bad choices of choosing to cheap-out on hair care, I’ve had health issues that have played their contributing part toward the hardship of my locks.
The lack of nutrients due to teenage anorexia was followed by a decent career as a bulimic which also threw a blow to my system’s ability to function well. I made it very hard for my body to properly produce healthy hair and after spending a portion of my life making poor nutrition choices, I was later diagnosed with cancer which came with chemo and multiple surgeries.
My body became a mess.
To complete the assault on my follicles and what took away any chance of being able to have enough hair to even have a small braid, was having more surgeries (that came with more harsh medicines) and silicone breast implants from reconstruction that ruptured, gave me an overlap connective tissue disease and quite literally almost did me in last year.
I have a dear girlfriend who has used henna hair dye for as long as I can remember. She is my go-to for anything health. I trust what she says and she is one of my favourite people so I knew when I had decided to try something new for a dyeing alternative, she would be my trusted advisor.
Done fighting with my wallet and my brittle, dry, near 100% completely grey hair that was unbelievably thin, I went out and purchased a box of brown henna hair dye. My girlfriend recommended ‘Colora’ brand and I was able to find it locally at Fortune Health Foods…which is an amazing store with an amazing owner for over 30 years btw.
Along with personal recommendations, I did my own in-depth research on how to apply it, what to expect, what not to do and read some stories that I hoped I wouldn’t copy.
To activate the colour it is suggested that it be mixed up 24 hours before the application. So I mixed it up with warm water, in a glass container with a silicon spatula the day before I applied it. FYI- You must not use anything metal just in case your henna has ingredients that will interact with the alloy…or it will light on fire or start to smoke.
When the next day arrived, I already had my gloves, my black towel and my bobby pins ready. Starting at the crown of the head, I took a piece of hair and with my spatula applied the thick-muddy-coffee ground-very earthy smelling mixture to the strand. I then twirled it up into a mini bun and continued the same way wrapping each piece around the mini bun and so on with my entire head until it was gone. At the end of the procedure, I made sure to focus on my roots and around my face to ensure adequate coverage. I grabbed the Saran wrap, wrapped my head and threw a light toque on to keep it all in place.
Henna has to process for a lllooooonnngggg time. I left mine on for 4 hours but many people go up to 6 or 8 or even overnight.
When the time came to wash it out, I used only water then a bit of conditioner at the ends, as instructed, to maximize the colour saturation. I was able to use shampoo only a short two days later. It looks like coffee grounds when it washes out and the earthy smell lingers. I don’t mind that part though.
Because henna (regardless of the stated box colour) is red by nature, even though I chose ‘brown’ my hair ended up being quite red and I didn’t love it. It did, however, leave my hair feeling thicker, healthier and nourished so I was super stoked about that. Knowing it was going to be a multi-attempt lengthly process and seeing as though I had previous experience with having mush hair, burnt hair and no hair, I wasn’t overly concerned about going out in public nor did I give a lot of cares about the aesthetics.
The great thing about henna is that you can virtually dye it again, like, the next day so I went out again and bought black (which is actually indigo).
Even though I wasn’t really into the hours-long ordeal, the black henna toned down the red and made it a warm brownish colour. I was ok with that!
Side note: Another cool thing about henna is that it freezes so it can be mixed and frozen into little containers, thawed and used for roots etc. if you ever have excess.
After many more henna applications and about 6 months later, a few weeks ago I wanted to have a bit more solid grey coverage. Henna is great but grey hair is stubborn so as you can see in my bottom right pic, it was time to do something more.
Knowing that if the henna powder has any metallic salt in it (which Colora brand is all natural and does NOT) when mixed with conventional hair dye containing ammonia, the hair will literally light on fire. I wasn’t up for that and have been generally trying to limit the use of harsh chemicals so I made sure to find a brand that was ammonia-free. I ended up going with GARNIER’s Olia box dye in medium brown.
I started with a strand test…just to make sure I didn’t go up in flames…and all was well so I went ahead and did my whole melon.
Being extra careful not to overprocess my fragile mane or cause too much breakage, I left the dye on for about 15 minutes. I could have only done 10 and that would have worked well too.
Again, because henna helps, protects and coats each strand of hair, it doesn’t allow for full conventional dye penetration.
Though that might seem like a bad thing…it actually ended up being amazing.
Not only did I get a rich reddy/brown full head of hair, the protection made the final product present with natural ‘foils’ and this added some really cool dimension to my hair.
I was sold.
Moving forward, I will use henna for a few treatments in a row to keep it healthy and then intermittently use Olia medium brown to get the grey coverage I need.
At about $10.00 per box for either of them and doing the switcheroo of products, after 39 years of living with hair (most of the time), I have finally found a system that keeps my hair, my health and my wallet in check.