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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.

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.

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!

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!).