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Experiments

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.

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!

Fire-engine red!

So last night I decided to henna my hair again, because the roots were starting to show. As reported by other henna heads, the second application layers over the red tones and turns out absolutely gorgeous. Not a hint of orange to be seen! It is pretty bright — almost fire-engine red — but that will mellow out, and for the next few days, I think it’s going to be pretty fun!

Click here for the results of my first henna application, as well as a photo of my natural hair color for comparison’s sake.

This is my hair immediately before my second application:
Before2nd

Aaaand here’s my hair immedately after washing it out and blowdrying it!
After2nd

Damn, I love it. And while last time it was orange on washing it out, this time there’s hardly any orange to be seen — just a groovy, groovy red.

The mix this time was slightly different because my yogurt went bad and I was too lazy to get more. I used:

  • 100 g henna
    (my hair has gotten longer — and I was running out of henna in my last batch, which was only 80 g — and I didn’t add any yogurt, which adds volume to the mix, making it so that you can use less henna)
  • 2 T lemon juice
    (for highlights and what-have-you)
  • About 1.75 c double-strength chamomile
    (I made two cups, but didn’t need to use all of it)
  • 1 drop lavendar essential oil
    (I used several last time and the strength of the smell almost made me woozy)

I mixed the chamomile in while it was hot, and left the henna out to cool for about an hour and a half, instead of overnight. I still had dye release — must’ve been the heat. (Though I hear that henna dyes hair so well that you don’t even need to wait for dye release.) I left it on for just shy of four hours and washed it out by combing generous amounts of conditioner through (but no shampoo). Blowdried it, and I’m not going to wash it until tomorrow morning.

I forgot to put veggie/olive oil around my hairline, so I ended up with a little bit of an orange halo, but it was mostly gone by this morning.

And my hair is oh-so-silky once again, which is amazing, because it was pretty darn silky before.

I’ll post another photo of the mellowed-out color in around a week and a half, and I’ll probably do this experiement one more time to see how three layers of hair henna look as compared to one (or none!).

Paste Consistency = O

After working with Darcy’s great mix all weekend, I finally had a pretty decent idea of what a good paste consistency is. I mixed some up last night, adding more and more and more lemon juice (but only a small bit of sugar and honey, and not too many essential oils), stirring the hell out of it with a spoon. I let it sit on top of the fridge loosely covered with saran wrap all of last night and until I got home from work today. I think it thickened up a little as it sat out, so I mixed in another generous splash of lemon juice before loading my cones.

I also had a better idea of what kinds of cones I like after working with Darcy. First of all, I’d been folding the tops over and taping them down, which works horribly. Darcy twists the tops and secures them with little rubber bands.

Funny story — I’d been saving like five little baggies of those tiny, multicolored orthodontic rubber bands since I was an awkward teen with braces, with the idea that someday they would be useful. This summer, I finally tossed them out, thinking that if I hadn’t used them yet, I never would. Stupid me! I totally could have used them to secure the tops of my cones! Oh well — I made do with a spool of hemp I have on hand for macrame.

Even though the Walgreens near work didn’t have mylar gift wrap (like Darcy’s usually does — lucky her :P ), I still had some cello I bought from Mehandi.com. So this is what I ended up with:

Cones

I have three more in the freezer, after seeing how quick the things thawed out at the school fair on Sunday.

Anyway, I clipped a cone for a very, very fine line and went at it. Get this — no clogs, and perfect control! I think the key to nice, smooth lines is being able to drape lines of henna across the skin. This seems to work more or less with any design, from straight lines to circles, as long as you sling it right.

The worst problem I had when I was doing a few of Darcy’s designs on my feet was the fact that I’m not quite flexible enough to get my foot right in front of my nose, where I can see everything well enough to henna accurately. The lighting in my apartment sucks, too, making it even harder. But, I managed to bust out some of the finest designs I’ve done yet! They’re not perfect, obviously, but I’m totally pleased with the paste. Tomorrow I’m going to work on my technique on my hand, which should be easier to reach and see.

Better

I also finally got the right stuff for Maxx’s sealant that I’ve been dying to get straight. Plain old Elmer’s school glue (not the gel glue), mixed equal parts with lemon juice. I added some fine glitter I had lying around, but I don’t think I dumped enough in for it to show. It was thin enough to dab on, getting it nice and covered and moist, but not running — a huge problem I was having with my sealers before. (Another thing I learned from Darcy this weekend: When you seal something with lemon sugar, you don’t glob the stuff on! You gently dab it just enough to moisten the design. You shouldn’t even be able to see wetness on the skin, really.)

I’m going to seal each design at least three times so it’s well protected while I sleep tonight. I want good stains to show off my hard weekend of learning. :)

I hope this mix does stain well. I also need to figure out an easier way to load my cones. It was really annoying, even though I was trying to do it the "easy" way by loading a ziploc baggie with the henna, clipping the corner off of it, and squirting it in the cones, which I placed in a mug to keep them upright for me. I should find one of those plastic syringes they use for giving medicine to dogs and cats and babies. That would probably work a lot better.

Final Hair Results

I realized that I never posted all of my hair photos. Now that it’s nice and mellowed out, in its final color, I think I can! I hear that repeated applications deepen and darken the red color, but if you’re a blonde (like me) and you henna with chamomile and a bit of lavendar (like I did) this is what you can expect!

BEFORE

Hairbefore2_1

IMMEDIATELY AFTER WASHING OUT

Oompaloompa

COLOR AFTER A WEEK AND A HALF

Final

I love the final color, and I’ve been getting a lot of compliments on it! Now, almost a month later, I’m starting to see my roots, so I might reapply in the next week or two. I want to add one to three more photos to this log — the color a week and a half after the second application, and the third, etc., to see what kind of color buildup I get using this mix.

I guess I should also note — even though I’m a blonde, reddish hair runs in my family (from my maternal grandma), so I’ve been told numerous times that red hair really compliments my skin tone. In fact, my closest friends have historically described me as a natural redhead, even though from my photo it’s pretty obvious that I’m totally not. :P

I originally didn’t notice much of a change in my hair texture, but now that I’ve been living with it for a month, I can say that it’s made my hair thicker. I used to cut down on the conditioner in the shower so it wouldn’t weigh my fine hair down, then spritz it with a light leave-in conditioner and a thickening spray. Now all I do is comb through a slightly more generous amount of my "heavy" conditioner and let it air dry! It’s never been softer, and I have no issues with it being too fine. I think it’s a little less wavy now too, but I bet I could still emphasize the wave with some hairspray and a diffuser if I wanted to glam up.

And the shine? Amazing! I actually have friends asking to touch my hair after seeing the sunshine play through it. As for me, I really have to cut the habit of feeling my hair up throughout the day (it’s just so soft! :P ) and checking out my reflection in car and shop windows as I pass. Geez, you’d think I’m self-absorbed or something! ("Aren’t most bloggers?" Touche, touche.)

In conclusion, this experiment has been a roaring success! I may never want to go blonde again. :)

Eyebrows, Poste-Paste

Wow! It turned out pretty good. The skin color is no better/worse than filling in my eyebrows with powdered makeup, and it matches my hair color better than the brown eyeshadow I usually use anyway, even during the orange stage. I can’t tell for the life of me if it actually stained the hairs red. We’ll just have to see how it matches up with the hair on top of my head after a couple days.

So there you have it! Henna works well on eyebrows, too!

Eyebrowpasteoff

Fingertips

The design on my wrist and finger are kind of awkward, but I love what I came up with for my fingertips.

Unfortunately, it totally smeared and bled overnight (even though I didn’t use saran wrap, and even though I blowdried it before and after sealing it with glue — the price of an over-sugared mix).

Fingerdesign

Oh, and I had a fun time with the sealer again. I’ve been using Elmer’s gel glue because it’s all I had lying around, and it doesn’t mix very well with water. This time, I added a bit of eucalyptis and geranium oil to make it smell pretty, and it changed the texture of the glue somewhat. It mixed right up with a few drops of water to make a thick but spreadable sealer with a more even consistency than the gel glue with water alone. The eo’s also made it cloudy for some reason, which was weird. But it worked. Too bad my batch of henna didn’t do so well.

Groucho Marx


I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.
-Groucho Marx

Okay, I’m going into very unknown territory here. My eyebrows were so not-red as compared to my newly-henna’d hair that, well, I henna’s my eyebrows.

Groucho

This is with the paste on, obviously.

My logic went something like this:

  1. I’m bored.
  2. My grandma tatooed her eyebrows… what’s so different about using henna on ‘em?
  3. Facial skin is too thin and oily to stain very well. So, my eyebrow skin shouldn’t be orange for too long. I hope.
  4. I’m bored.

So I took out my last cone of slimy-ass mehndi henna that I used on my hand the night before. (I had already decided to throw the batch out because, while the staining power was fine, it was a nearly unworkable texture and bled like hell overnight.) I coned in each of my eyebrows and cleaned them up around the edges with Q-tips. Then I put my hair back with a band to keep it from sticking to my eyebrows and took a photo for you all to giggle at. I’m gonna pray for four hours that this wasn’t a really, really bad idea, then wash it out and take another picture for y’all.

Wish me luck!

Full head henna

As cool as my henna highlights were, I decided to go all-out anyway. I wanted to see how the henna conditioned it, and I was feeling the need to be a little extreme (angst from overwork). So, I mixed together my recipe of henna, chamomile, yogurt, and lavendar, slathered it through my hair, wrapped it with saran wrap, and covered all that with a makeshift turban made out of a half-sized sarong I got in Hawaii.

Turban

I then laid down on the couch, wrapped a heating pad loosely around it all, and dozed off, because I was operating on three hours of sleep.

My mix was way too watery, though. Despite all my wrapping, when I got up after two hours to use the facilities, it started leaking out from behind my ears. It only sort of got on everything. And good thing I was wearing a black shirt!

Anyway, I averted disaster, slept for two more hours, then got up and rinsed it all out with conditioner — Herbal Essences Intensive Blends, or whatever is in my shower at the moment. I would highly recommend combing it through real well with a shower comb. I’ve been using a shower comb for a few years now anyway, but it would’ve been nearly impossible to get the tangle of henna out and get the conditioner in without one.

I then blowdried it so that any remaining henna wouldn’t stain my pillow, and threw on my bright green Happy Day shirt because I found Joan’s Henna Tribe comment about reverse oompa loompas really funny. :) So, behold! Elaine with freshly glowing orange henna head!

Oompaloompa

It stayed that color for about a day. It really is orange — I’ve been comparing it to a t-shirt I have that’s brown with big orange letters on it. During Day 1, my hair matched the letters. After one wash, though, it’s starting to calm down to a more auburn shade. Here’s a photo from, let’s see, about 20 hours after washing the henna out:

Hairday1

Very, very cool. I’m liking it a lot! It’s an even prettier red today, but I’m skipping photos today because I’ve been working like an ox, and I’ve got bedhead.

The only thing that bugs me is what an amazingly different shade my eyebrows are. I have a solution to that though, so stay posted!