After finding out that chemical hair dyes were linked to an increased risk of cancer I decided it was time to look into a healthier alternative. Luckily there are several plants that can safely add pigment to your hair and can actually make your hair feel softer and healthier. With herbs though you can’t completely change your hair color. For example if you have black hair but want to dye it red you would still need to bleach it first. But if you have light colored hair or grey hair you don’t have to worry about bleaching your hair. Bellow is my favorite recipe for red hair that I use once a month. Following that are recipes for brown and black hair plus general tips on how to not make too much of a mess in the process.
Warm Red Hair Recipe
-100 grams henna powder
-50 grams cassia powder (adds golden highlights)
-1 tbs honey (lightens and conditions hair)
-1 tbs olive oil (conditions hair and improves consistency of mix)
-lemon juice (adds warmer tones to the henna)
–hibiscus tea (adds shine and deepens color)
Pour the henna and cassia into a non-metallic bowl. Add the honey and olive oil. Then mix in just enough lemon juice to make a thick paste. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 8-12 hours. After sitting add freshly made tea (or warm water). Use just enough to make the mix a yogurt-like consistency. Section hair and apply starting at the roots. Once hair is covered put on a plastic shower cap or wrap hair with plastic wrap. Keep the mix in your hair for at least 3hrs. For best results apply at night and wash out in the morning. Henna will stain fabrics and counter tops! See tips at the end of this post before trying this at home. This mix makes enough for shoulder length hair.
Medium Brown Hair
-50 grams indigo
-50 grams henna
-50 grams Amla powder (this will tone down the red from the henna creating a deeper brown, skip this if you prefer a warmer brown color)
–rosemary tea (adds shine and soothes scalp)
-water (or use lemon juice for a warmer color)
Prepare henna ahead of time by adding just enough water or lemon juice to make a thick paste. This needs to sit for about 8-12 hours. Stir in indigo, amla and rosemary tea (or warm water) till it is fully mixed and has a good consistency. Apply to dry hair making sure to cover your roots. Leave in at least 3 hours or longer if you want darker hair. The ratio of henna to indigo can be altered depending on how light or dark you want your hair to turn out. Results will vary depending on what color your hair initially is. The color will fade over time but is basically permanent. So if you’re unsure if you will like the results testing a small strip of hair in an unobtrusive area might be a good idea. Also keep in mind that indigo takes about two days to oxidizes so the “true color” won’t show till then.
-100 grams indigo
-black tea (darkens hair)
Indigo produces a dark blue color so if you are looking to cover up gray hair it is best to dye hair with henna before using indigo. You can use the henna recipe above and just skip the cassia, honey and lemon juice which lighten hair. Mix the indigo with enough warm water or black tea to make a smooth paste. Apply to hair and leave on for 3-6hrs depending on how dark you want your hair to be. Again the color will fade over time but will not fully wash out so don’t dye your hair with indigo unless you want to commit to having dark hair. You can use chemical hair dyes over herbal hair dyes but the results will be hard to predict.
Things you should know before using herbal hair dye!
Just like chemical hair dyes these will stain clothes, skin and possibly your floor or counters. Keep an old towel next to you to clean up spills before the dye has a chance to sink in. Also to protect your skin you can put Vaseline around your hair line.
Buy some decent latex gloves instead of using the ones that come in the box. My first time dying my hair with henna I just used the thin plastic gloves that came in the box and my hands became stained brown around my nails. It was rather gross looking.
If you are inexperienced at dying your hair try to get a friend to help you. It can be easy to miss spots at the back of your head and unless you want a funky two-toned look you probably wont be happy with the results.
If you want to leave the dye in overnight for more intense color cover your pillow with an old towel. Even with your hair covered by a shower cap or plastic wrap some of the dye will likely rub off while you sleep.