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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!

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