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Can I bleach henna out of my hair?

The answer is, it depends. And are you sure you really want to?

I discovered henna for hair when I lived in San Francisco. If you read my earlier blog entries, you’ll discover my love affair firsthand.

This is the color and state of my hair before I went the henna route. It’s mostly my natural color; I intermittently got a highlight here or there, but they mostly all faded and grew out and got bleached by the sun. It’s pretty dry, especially at the ends.

My mostly natural hair color before henna

My mostly natural hair color before henna

And this is what my hair looked like after doing henna on it for two years (full-head applications each time — so the ends have probably been treated with henna a dozen or more times). I didn’t maintain that length the whole time, by the way; it was collarbone length for a while. Nice and shiny, eh?

This is the result of two years of consistent, full-head henna coloration over blonde hair.

This is the result of two years of consistent, full-head henna coloration over blonde hair.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was in love with my henna head. I loved the color, the conditioning, taking time to do something nice for myself every six weeks or so.

But moving back from San Francisco to Reno, I was in for a surprise. In the Bay Area, henna made my hair silky soft and shiny. In Reno, time and time again, it would dry out my hair for days afterwards. Olga, a HennaTribe friend from Germany, has said multiple times that henna gave her hair the texture of straw. I had no idea what she was talking about until I started hennaing my hair here in the Nevada high desert.

I modified my mix, but to no avail. My hair was inconsolable.

The only theory I could come up with was humidity. What if henna absorbs moisture? In San Francisco, it would absorb it from the air and transfer it to my hair. In Reno, though, the air is bone dry. Perhaps the henna drew moisture from my hair and transferred it to the air? Or, perhaps the henna residue that coats your hair for a few days post-coloring wasn’t able to remain very supple without that ambient moisture to support it. I should note here that my hair softened up after a few days, and it was still incredibly shiny. But that first week or so, I was not liking it at all.

Anyway, henna wasn’t doing my hair any favors here in the desert, so I decided to make an experiment out of it and see if I could get it bleached back to blonde.

Very important note: If you don’t know exactly what is in your henna for hair paste, DO NOT BLEACH OVER HENNA. Lower quality or mass-produced henna sold for hair often contains metallic salts. Metallic salts plus bleach will melt your hair. You will leave the salon bald. My stylist described it like using a hot curling iron on a synthetic wig. Not pretty.

Anyway, I’m not good with chemicals at home, so I went to my stylist to see if she could help me out. She was extremely reluctant to try it because she didn’t want to melt my hair. I told her that I would take all responsibility for any negative results, so ahead we forged. I always bought my henna from Darcy at the Henna Lounge, using body-art quality henna for my hair, so I knew I didn’t have to worry about additives.

It took us three major bleach applications in a row to get the henna out. This was not a very pleasant experience, because I have a pretty sensitive scalp. I left the salon with chemical blistering on my scalp and hairline (ouch!). Also, if you’ve ever used bleach on your hair, you probably have an idea of what it did to the texture of my hair. My notes from that day:

So it is possible to bleach years and years of henna back to blonde. However, I wouldn’t recommend it. The morning I took this photo I was crying because of how much my hair was breaking. :( However, I’m fixing that with hardcore deep reconstructing and conditioning treatments!

Long story short, here’s the result of bleaching out my henna:

After the henna was bleached out

After the henna was bleached out

It was damaged enough that I ended up cutting it, but lots of deep conditioning treatments helped while I let the damaged parts grow out.

It’s been about two years now since I bleached out my henna, and I’m just now growing my hair back out. I missed the color a lot, though, so I recently went to an Aveda salon and got demi-permanent red. Leaving the salon, I looked in a mirror and got so incredibly nostalgic! The Aveda red is like a naturally toned-down shade of henna red, and the Aveda products did make my hair noticeably softer. I’ll have to post a photo for comparison’s sake soon. :)

Thus ends the frightening tale of a head of henna, a move to the high desert, and three industrial applications of bleach.

E-mail Snafoo

It came to my attention yesterday that e-mails to elaine(at)handfulofhenna.com were bouncing back. I logged into my host admin panel and discovered that my e-mail address simply didn’t exist anymore! This is now fixed.
I’m not sure how long this was going on (or why it happened in the first place!), but please be assured that I’m still alive, kicking and doing henna here in Reno. Please feel free to drop me an e-mail anytime!

March Mehndi Madness 2007

Darcy of the Henna Lounge hosted a wonderful weekend of henna, Indian food, craftmaking and crude jokes!

See more photos here and here.

Henna on Eyebrows

So a few people have asked about henna on eyebrows. I actually rememberd to take photos of the results the last time I did it. :) It took me a few tries to perfect it — you really need to take care to keep water from lightening it up too much for the best results.

First photo: A few hours after taking the paste off. It’s a little orangey. In the shower, I put beeswax lotion (courtesy Darcy) on my brows, because normally, a shower will significantly lighten them.

Second photo: The next morning (over 24 hours later). It’s more of a henna red color, and stays this way for a few days. I did the beeswax lotion again this morning to maintain the color.

I used to glob it on and clean it up with a Q-tip. Now I just outline my eyebrows with a cone and then fill it in. I use a heavily molassessed paste, because it stays soft, making it easier to get out of your eyebrow hairs after it’s been on there for a few hours.

Oh, and a tip: Don’t go to the DMV to get a new liscence photo taken the morning after hennaing your eyebrows! It looks kind of funky to have uber henna hair with these weird orange eyebrows, lol.

Now Serving Reno/Tahoe

After several months hiatus from the internet, I’m back with the news that I’ve moved home from San Francisco to Reno! The main Web site is also up with basic pricing info, contact info, etc.
Here’s a bit of what I’ve been doing lately, with promises of more to come!
http://www.handfulofhenna.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/frommovabletype/uploaded/2006/09/kenzi-kiran-thumb.jpg
http://www.handfulofhenna.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/frommovabletype/uploaded/2006/09/amira-thumb.jpg

Glitter!

Summer festivals and some leaky glitter poofers have reintroduced me to the joy of sparkles!
http://www.handfulofhenna.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/frommovabletype/uploaded/2006/06/blueglitter-thumb.jpg
I like having glitter poofers for festivals because it breaks up the monotony of eight hours of squirting green goop on people. It gives me a reason not to hate my less favorite festival designs (because who can dislike glitter?). I think it also adds value to designs, which is integral for those tiny kanji or horoscope signs people want that barely meet the minimum design dollar amount.
This particular design is from Darcy’s Indo-Arabian e-book. The glitter was kind of a mistake — I meant to sprinkle a little bit on, but I hadn’t used the blue glitter poofer from Amerikan Body Art yet, so I didn’t know that the particular bottle was “looser” than the other bottles of glitter I ordered. After dumping a large amount at the tip of the design, I figured, why the heck not completely glitterize it?? It certainly goes well with jeans!

Paste consistency, and pretty cones

I’m experimenting with different henna recipes to get a consistently good consistency for doing designs — not so dry that it immediately cracks, not so sugary that the design flattens out and bleeds like a bad batch of cookies, not so thin that it just dribbles down the skin.

Last night I mixed the following recipe:

  • 5 teaspoons powder (scooped and leveled off with a knife)
  • 5 teaspoons chai tea, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon essential oils (mostly terping oils, but with some fragrant oils too)
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

I tried it out immediately after mixing, straining, and coning it and was able to do a beautifully delicate design:

Mandala

Unfortunately it won’t stain because the henna didn’t have time to set, thus there was little to no dye release. :) I coned it and left it out overnight, and popped it into the refrigerator this morning before work. I’ll test the staining power of it tonight sometime.

For a sealant, I nuked a bit of lemon juice, sugar, and honey in the microwave, stirred it up, and dabbed it on with a paper towel. That stuff did NOT want to come off in the morning! Nor did any of it flake off in the tissue I wrapped it in.

After I get this straight, I’m going to experiment with using molasses instead of honey, making my henna vegan.

Also, I found out that these oversize holographic origami papers from Japantown make awesome cones:

Prettycones

In other news, be on the lookout in the next couple weeks for the launch of my new henna site, HandfulofHenna.com! My ultimate goal is to integrate this blog and gallery into the new site using Moveable Type, adding sections for articles, recipes, designs, and booking information should you need a Bay Area henna artist. ;) I promise to dedicate an entire section to henna hair care with photos and summaries of the experiments I blogged here in the past year or so.

Thanks, and happy hennaing!

Challenging the norm

A lot of interesting things have been going on in my blogging absence! Here’s an attempt to keep you guys up to speed.

The UK-based henna artist Cat Hinton, who has a background in biology, is running a series of henna experiments that challenge the Western notion that lemon is the ideal liquid for henna mixes. She hypothesizes that lemon juice inhibits enzymes from breaking down plant cell walls. The dye in henna, lawsone, is in a plant cell wall. So, lemon juice might actually inhibit staining, rather than make it darker and better. Her experiments deal with lemon juice vs. papaya and pineapple juice, two fruits that have an abundance of enzymes. The nitty-gritty comes to this: Henna Tribe artists are discovering that mixes with plain water stain way better than lemon mixes.

For those of you who find tap water less than romantic, try substituting plain water for your favorite tea. You may need to add more sugar to your mix, because lemon juice has a certain amount of fructose that makes a lemon mix need less sugar for the right consistency than a water mix — around a tablespoon or two per 100 grams of henna, as estimated by Henna Lounge artist Darcy Vasudev. And don’t forget your terps!

In the world of henna for hair, results are similar. I’ve pared down my henna for hair recipe to henna mixed with hot chamomile tea. (You can also use hot liquid in your mehndi mixes if you want to use them sooner rather than later.) I also learned that there’s no need to shampoo it out. Henna is a natural cleanser and conditioner for hair. Drawing a bath and soaking it out is a wonderfully relaxing experience, and leaves your hair clean and silky-soft. (You may have to scrub your tub with some baking soda to get any residual henna stains out, but don’t worry — it won’t permanently stain your tub.) No conditioner is needed, either.

However, if you do want to condition your hair, a few drops of oil (olive, coconut, or a hair oil like Weleda’s rosemary hair oil), you just need a drop or two combed through your wet hair. For a deep conditioning treatment, saturate your hair with oil, wrap with a scarf, leave on overnight, and wash out in the morning. (Beware that coconut oil starts to smell sour after 5-10 minutes; if it bothers you, you might want to use a different oil.)

I should be doing more henna as spring and summer come into full-force, so look for more updates soon. Until then, happy hennaing!

Happy New Year!

Things have been quiet lately here — I haven’t done much henna since Thanksgiving. :(

Today things were extremely slow at work because all of our clients skipped out early for the three-day weekend, so we had nothing to do. I had a couple old cones and lemons in the fridge there, and some design ebooks on my flash drive, so I sat down and started doing henna on whoever wanted some.

Rand_moroccan

I started with the boys, ironically. My good friend told me just to doodle (and requested Spiderman’s face after I outlined the Moroccan frame — so I gave him a spider in a spider web). I unfortunately didn’t get pictures of the two scorpions I did. They turned out rather well.

Then I did the ladies. We had a heart with my coworker’s son’s initials in it, and a racy little flower just below my other coworker’s collarbone. I also did some designs from Amira‘s books on myself, one of my other good friends, and a coworker’s girlfriend.

Ladies_hands

Unfortunately, I don’t think anybody’s stains are going to be that great. Those cones had been sitting in the fridge at work for over a week, and prior to that they went to St. Maarten and back without ice packs. I know it’s not totally dead though, so hopefully with good aftercare, everybody will enjoy their henna!

Thanksgiving henna

Wow, have I been busy lately! However, on Thanksgiving I made it a point to meet up with a good friend and henna the hell out of her. :) Thank you Rebecca for being such a willing canvas, and for sending me your after-pics:

Rebeccahenna1

Rebeccahenna2

She reports that the stain got even darker the next day. It’s all about the aftercare — congratulations on taking good care of your henna!

She chose the designs from some of Amira‘s books that I brought along. I also recently bought Lezard‘s first (and much-acclaimed) book, which is amazing — it has a lot of Asian elements that I’ve been wanting to eventually integrate into henna designs.

I did a festive little flower design from Lezard’s book for myself for Thanksgiving:

Lezard

And Darcy was sweet enough to invite me to a Henna Happy Hour at her place the Friday before Thanksgiving, where she created this beautiful & fabulous design on my right hand for me (I love you, Darcy!):

Darcys

So that pretty much sums up the last half of my November. I’m hoping to do some more henna before my upcoming trip to St. Maarten to visit my brother (I can’t pass up the chance to show off some henna’d skin in a climate warm enough to show skin!), and then perhaps more for Christmas, despite my relatives’ misgivings. My grandma actually thought my Thanksgiving henna was a permanent tattoo. O_o; And no telling what was going through everybody else’s heads… they all just pretended it wasn’t there.

In any case, Happy Holidays everybody! I hope to share more with you soon!