I have spent a lot of years of my life changing my hair color based on my flittering emotions and the change of seasons. I am a big proponent of self-expression and coloring my hair has always been one of my favorite ways to express myself, but over the last few years, I have come to find out that all of those conventional hair dyes I was using is absolutely terrible for me and for the planet. Over time, I was destroying my hair and ingesting nasty toxic chemicals, with every dye job that I performed. Finally, after wanting to grow my hair out, I realized that my hair had never gotten passed my shoulders because all of the damage I was doing to it was causing my hair to break off. I decided I needed to make a change and how I was coloring my hair was the first thing on that list. After trying henna, I don’t think I can ever go back to conventional hair dyes. I mean, the toxic chemicals is enough on its own to keep me away for good…but the conditioning that henna provides to your hair is simply divine, all while coloring it. I can not profess enough my love for henna.
Conventional hair dyes contain dangerous ingredients
Not only does conventional hair dye destroy your hair by turning it into Swiss cheese, but the use of conventional hair dye has been linked to cancer, allergic reactions, and respiratory disorders. hair dyes that are marked as “natural” can be deceiving too because they can contain hazardous chemicals such as resorcinol, ammonia or peroxide, and PPD. PPD is widely known to damage the DNA of human cells and often causes allergic reactions in even mildly sensitive individuals. Studies have shown that those who use conventional hair dyes are at an increased risk of developing Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and leukemia. My sister-in-law once had such a bad reaction to dyeing her hair that she had to go to the emergency room because her whole face had swollen up like she had just been in a boxing match!
Henna makes my heart swell
My favorite way to color my hair is with henna. I REALLY love using henna because not only are you coloring your hair, but you are also getting a nice deep conditioning too! Last week I shared my favorite henna based hair conditioning mask Heavenly Hippy Hair. Henna is a shrub that is native to the Middle East, West Asia, and North Africa. After harvest, the leaves are dried and pulverized into a fine powder. Henna has been used since ancient times to dye hair, skin, and nails. There’s even been mention of Cleopatra using henna on her hair. Henna penetrates the hair shaft and binds with the keratin in the hair making your hair stronger. Henna also coats the hair and fills in rough spots on frayed cuticles, adding a second layer of strength without locking out moisture.
Herbs for natural hair color
There are quite a few herbs, vegetable/fruits, and spices that you can use to color your hair. Most of these herbs and spices also have wonderful healing properties for your hair and scalp too. Herbs like rosemary are great for scalp conditions and hair growth. Herbs in bold are my favorite choices to use for that hair color.
Blonde Hair – Chamomile, Calendula, Lemon peel, Sunflower petals, Safron (golden highlights that you can use on brown as well) Marigold, Catnip, Mullein flowers, Honey
Red Hair – Calendula, Marigold, Henna, Hibiscus flowers, Red Clover flowers, Rosehips, Red Rose petals, Beets, Carrots, Rooibos tea
Brown Hair – Black Walnut Hulls, Black Tea, Nettle, Rosemary, Sage, Comfrey root, Coffee, Cherry tree bark, Cloves, Cinnamon,
Black Hair – Black Walnut Hulls, Black Tea, Coffee, Indigo
Helping your hair color stay longer
By prepping your hair before and after hair coloring you can get the most color in your hair and make it last longer. If you use a mordant prior to coloring and a final rinse with a fixative, you can help your hair hold the color longer.
Herbal Mordants – Plants high in tannins used before coloring can help open up the hair shaft to accept more color during the color process. Simply make a strong infusion with one of the two and rinse hair. Leave in for 30 minutes, rinse, and towel dry. Move on to the color phase.
- black tea – great for darker colors
- catnip – great for lighter colors
Natural Color Fixatives – When used after hair coloring, fixatives helps the color to last longer. Most fixatives can be drying to your hair but Apple Cider Vinegar, used as a hair rinse, is the perfect natural option that helps to close the cuticles as well as softens the hair. Simply combine 1 Tbsp. ACV with 8 oz. of water (I like to also add 1 Tbsp. aloe vera gel as well) in a spray bottle and spray onto hair after coloring hair. Don’t rinse out.
Herbal Hair Coloring “Mud”
DRY MIX INGREDIENTS
- 3 parts henna, cassia, or indigo (depending on the color you are trying to achieve henna for red and browns, indigo for browns and blacks, and cassia for blondes. To make it easiest you can simply pick out which hair color you are looking for at Mountain Rose Herbs! They have the best hair coloring henna I have tried; not all hennas are created equal.)
- 1 part finely ground hair coloring herbs (see above for herbs to use. Combining herbs can create varying desired shades)
- 1/2 cup dry coloring mix
- 3/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar (Coconut milk, hydrosol, or water can be replaced here if needed, but the ACV helps to further condition hair and also helps your hair to absorb more of the color from the henna)
- 1 Tbsp. carrier oil (optional – for dry hair, you can use coconut, almond, hemp, olive, etc.)
- Combine all of the powdered ingredients for the Dry Mix, in a glass bowl. Store powdered mix in a mason jar with a plastic lid or a plastic container. Will keep for a year or two, as long as no moisture is introduced.
- In a small pan, combine apple cider vinegar (or coconut milk/water/hydrosol) and 1/2 cup of dry mix. Stir over medium heat for 5 minutes. Don’t let it boil!
- Let mixture cool for 5 minutes and then mix in the carrier oil.
- Henna may be applied to wet or dry hair that is clean. Apply a cream or oil around your hairline, ears, and neck to avoid staining your skin. This applies to your hands, so wear gloves! Apply to hair working from root to tips. Wrap head in plastic wrap or cover with a shower cap and then wrap with a warm damp towel around your head. You are trying to keep as much heat in as possible!
- Leave on hair for a minimum of 45 minutes up to 2 hours depending on the amount of color you want to impart onto your hair. It will never be so bold as chemical hair dye treatments, so leaving it on even for 2 hours still will look natural and beautiful.
- Rinse from hair with warm/cool water in the shower. It may take a few minutes to fully get the herbs out of your hair. There is no need to shampoo (or no-poo) your hair after this. If you have herbs stuck in your hair, it is easiest to let your hair dry then they will easily fall out of your hair. Follow with a diluted apple cider vinegar rinse (I use a 32 oz spray bottle and combine 1/4 cup ACV, 1/4 cup aloe vera gel, water to fill, and essential oils. I spray my hair until it’s soaked with the ACV rinse and then comb my hair through. You can either rinse clean or leave in to dry in your hair. It won’t smell of ACV when your hair dries.)
Herbal Color Tea Rinse
This herbal color tea will impart a very light natural color into your hair. It has a stacking effect, though, so frequent use can help you to attain the darker shades that you may be desiring. For both light and dark hair, you can achieve slightly more dramatic results by sitting for the 1 hour out in the sun. Heat is what you are trying to attain, so a blow dryer can be used in place of the sun, but to conserve energy I suggest spraying your hair until wet with color tea, blow drying until dry, and then repeating several times before rinsing, rather than drying your hair for an entire hour…who wants to hold the dryer up that long anyway?
- 1/2 cup hair coloring herbs (see above)
- 2 cups boiling hot distilled water
- 1/4 cup aloe vera gel – optional, I love to add this for the extra healing boost it gives to my hair as well as for its capabilities of balancing your hair’s ph.
- 1 Tbsp. honey/molasses – optional, both are conditioning to the hair. Use honey for light hair and molasses for dark hair.
- Steep herbs in water for 1+ hours. Some herbs that provide lighter hair colors, such as chamomile, benefit from boiling for 30 minutes rather than steeping in boiling water. I like to steep until the water is cool enough to use. Strain herbs using tea strainer/cheesecloth/etc., making sure to squeeze out all the extra juice from the herbs.
- Combine with aloe vera gel and honey/molasses, if using, and put into a spray bottle. You can use this rinse by just pouring it over your hair from a bowl, but I find using a spray bottle helps to control the mess and waste. If using a bowl, I suggest using a second bowl to hold your head over so that you can reuse the tea over your hair several times.
- Leave on your hair for one hour, then rinse the tea out and follow with apple cider vinegar rinse. For even more “dramatic” results, spend the hour out in the sun.
Miss part of this hair care series?
The Dirty Hippy Truth About No-Poo & Why I Won’t Use Baking Soda on My Hair – Hippy Natural Hair Care Series Part 1
Natural No-Poo Cleansers For Healthy Hair – Hippy Natural Hair Care Series Part 2
Natural Hair Conditioners & Herbal Detangling Spray – Hippy Natural Hair Care Series Part 3
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