Henna for Hair

I just finished teaching an all-day Reiki Master Teacher certification workshop. Congratulations to the new Reiki Masters! We had a wonderful, information- and sharing-packed day, and one of the stranger observations was that occasionally my hair “turned” a different color during class. Purple, actually. Just for a few moments when I was talking about certain esoteric things. Did the sun hit it an odd way? Perhaps. Were the students seeing my aura? Maybe. That often does happen during Reiki classes. Once last year I was teaching a class on Atlantis and the students swore my hair momentarily turned blue.

I don’t have a “logical” explanation for any of this, since the lighting didn’t change in those moments, but I do get a lot of questions about my hair. People want to know how I get it to grow so long, how it stayed so healthy when we lived in the desert, what color IS it? Do I dye it? Do I curl it? Why is it straight on some days and super-wavy on others? Do I blow it dry? After class, I decided to blog-surf and saw that Kristen of http://kristensraw.blogspot.com had a recent post about going back to her natural brunette hue. Since I’ve felt nudged to post about hair for a few months and haven’t, her post, combined with the multiple class discussions about my weirdly illuminated hair convinced me that it was time to share a few things.

Laura Bruno in San Francisco

Laura Bruno in San Francisco

1 ) Yes, I use henna on my hair, but no, that’s not really why it’s red. I always had some red in my hair. My dad was a carrot top for the first two years of his life, and I must have inherited some of that natural coloring. Traditionally, though, my hair has always grown in extremely light blonde, then blended into a brownish-red.

I’ve always had a problem with knots. Not little tangles: big, huge, struck by lightning, scary witch’s knots. A friend in Reno advised me that I could curb some of the craziness by using henna, so I tried it in December 2006, dreaming of red-headed bliss. It did tame the knots, but my haircolor looked exactly the same as pre-henna. Nothing happened on the color frontier. 

In February 2007, my husband and I moved to Monterey, CA from Reno. The next morning, Stephen said, “Woah, did you dye your hair last night?” “No, why?” I asked. “Go look in the mirror.” When I did, I had flaming red hair. My skin color also looked several shades lighter. I thought it might be from the salt in the air, but it stayed red even when we returned to Sedona in October 2007. It took me quite a while to get used to this overnight shift of both skin tone and hair color, but eventually I did, and eventually the knots returned in all their witchy grandeur. I figured why not use henna again, since it really couldn’t get much redder? And so I did.

I still do every 4-8 weeks, depending on my mood or the level of knottiness. Using henna has meant I no longer go through 4-5 giant bottles of conditioner every month. I also like that it temporarily makes my hair feel thicker. (The reason it tames knots is because henna coats the hair shaft, plumping it up while conditioning it at the same time.) Ever since Monterey, my hair has become like a personal mood ring. It does seem to change color (by other’s observations). If you use henna, it can definitely reflect more red in direct sunlight, and mine does that, but I can’t really count henna as the sole explanation for why sometimes my hair looks brown and then I get really happy and it suddenly looks red. Or purple. Or blue. :)

2 ) Besides henna, what else do I do to care for my hair? Um, not much. I’m not a big brusher. I used to cry when my dad brushed my hair out as a girl, and old habits die hard. Back when I was traveling a lot, I once found my brush in my suitcase. It had sat there for 3 weeks and I hadn’t even missed it. I didn’t even notice it was gone! When I do brush, I use a wooden, flat Aveda brush, and I never brush when my hair’s really wet. I finger comb, do nothing, or wait until it’s mostly dry.

I don’t use a blow dryer unless I’m running really late or if I have recently henna’d and not gotten all the goop out of my hair. In that case, it can drip orange for a couple washes, so I will sometimes blow dry the ends to avoid having to clean up from the drips.

3 ) How do I keep my hair from breaking off? I’m sure the henna helps. I am also currently using shampoos by the Morocco Method. They’re pricey and somewhat heavily fragranced with essential oils, but overall I like them. They are 100% raw and 100% vegan and natural, so I feel like it’s totally non-toxic hair care.

The shampoos don’t lather like regular shampoo, though, and I’ve been told by people who switched from more toxic products that they almost get the “no-poo” hair effect of having extremely greasy hair until their hair adjusts. I didn’t have that problem, but I have noticed that my hair does kind of clump together more, almost like it wants to curl into ringlets or big waves lately. I brush it more frequently since switching shampoos because I don’t want it to clump out and look greasy.

I don’t know if the clumping curls come from the Morocco Method shampoos or from my many months of massive doses (6-10 grams / day)  of MSM. David Wolfe claims that MSM makes hair curlier, and I have to say I always had stick straight hair, but over the last few years and especially the last few months, it’s gotten much wavier.

4 ) How often do I wash my hair? Definitely not everyday. I usually go between 2-4 days between washes. In the desert it’s closer to 4; on a humid week, it will be closer to 2. The Morocco Method has all those essential oils in it, so hair doesn’t get stinky even when it still looks clean. Before Morocco Method, I just used to spritz a bit of lavender water or a little essential oil on my hair on the 2nd or 3rd day.

5 ) What about diet? Well, as I mentioned above, I currently take a lot of MSM. I take it for removing scar tissue, but I believe it has strengthened my hair and made it shinier. I follow a 90-100% raw vegan diet. Once in a blue moon, I’ll eat a bit of bee pollen. I take the Vitamin Code raw vitamins, B-12, chia seed in my smoothies, Jarrow’s Vegan Bone-Up, and lots and lots of greens, Vitamineral Green and currently also spirulina. If I remember, I sometimes take a little swig of the gluten-free, yeast-free Floradix because I eat so many antioxidants that sometimes my iron gets a bit low unless I’m’ on a cacao kick. I’m sure all of these things contribute to healthy, fast-growing, shiny hair.

6 ) What about hair loss? People ask me about this a lot, especially people new to a raw diet. Hair loss can come from lots of sources, including a lack of B-vitamins, especially B-5 (Panthenol) and B-12, since a deficiency of B-12 or folic acid could contribute to anemia. The scalp does not like anemia. Your hair is considered a luxury item in terms of cell nutrients. If you have anemia and hence low oxygen levels, guess what’s not getting leftover O2?

Hair loss can also occur due to vitamin A (beta-carotene) toxicity. Yes, on a plant-based diet, most people will not get too much viatmin A; however, as I explained in The Lazy Raw Foodist’s Guide and this post, it does sometimes happen with the use of lots of superfoods. Superfoods are “super” because they have huge antioxidant profiles. Occasionally, people get so high in beta-carotene that the liver starts acting like someone who’s on Accutane. Skin can dry and crack; hair can fall out. In big clumps. I’ve had this happen myself. It does grow back. You just can’t keep up those levels of beta-carotene indefinitely.

Sometimes hair falls out because of detoxification. Again, it will usually grow back as the detox clears. Sometimes hair falls out due to hormonal imbalance. This can occur in both men and women. Male pattern baldness almost always has a hormonal component. Many men find that when they start taking saw palmetto for their prostate health, their hair loss slows. A nice perk!

There are literally hundreds of things on the market promising faster growth and slower hair loss. Some work, some don’t  Some treat the root cause of problems; some work on the surface; a few are probably quite toxic. I’m not a doctor. Not a hair expert. I’m just sharing some things I’ve observed:

Essential fatty acids tend to help; MSM helps; hemp protein usually helps; Sun Warrior protein (highly absorbable) seems to help; Morocco Method shampoos supposedly stimulate hair growth (my hair does seem to be growing faster, but this is totally anecdotal on my part; check out their site for photos); checking betacarotene levels helps; staying on top of B-12, B-5, folic acid and iron helps; getting hormone levels checked can sometimes help; examining what hair represents for you gives some nice clues as to what’s happening and why.

7 ) What about cowlicks? Yep, got ‘em. They’re crazy. They stick straight up. If you find something that works, let me know! LOL, my hair gets really crazy sometimes, and aside from changing my part, which only sometimes works, I haven’t found anything that helps. You’re on your own on this one.

8 ) OK, back to henna: isn’t it incredibly messy? Yep, and you’ll smell like hay or grass unless you mix it with essential oils or some kind of tea. I don’t know why, but I actually like that it’s a big, green goopy mess that I leave on for 4 hours. It creates a whole ritual and I know I’ll have that day to myself. It does take a long time to wash out. It does make your bathroom a big mess (but at least that means mine will get a good scrub down!), and it does change most people’s hair color.

9 ) Will henna turn my hair green? Not if you haven’t used artificial coloring or bleach on your hair, but if you have, then yes, it might.

If you have artificial coloring in your hair you need to cut it out, grow it out or otherwise wait until you have no fake dyes prior to henna-ing your hair. Please don’t mess with this; I have heard nightmare stories. I would not use a non-natural shampoo anymore anyway, but because of my henna, it’s not even an option on the table. I’m ok with red, purple or blue, but I don’t want green hair! You’re also not supposed to touch the henna with metal. I’ve messed up an accidentally used a metal spoon without incident, but the instructions are so insistent that I don’t recommend it. I honestly don’t know what might happen. I just usually remember to use a wooden spoon or plastic spatula.

The henna powder itself is green, but when warmed with water or tea, it begins to stain the hairshaft a reddish color. You can purchase different “colors” of henna, but really, there’s only one true henna and that’s red. All other “colors” of henna are actually dyes mixed with henna powder. Some may be natural, plant-based dyes, but if it says it only contains henna, but it will turn your hair black or brown or strawberry blonde, then you can bet there’s something else in the package.

10 ) What about black henna? Products marketed as black henna are extremely toxic and should not be used. If you want to turn your hair black using natural henna, you need to henna first and then follow it with an application of indigo powder. This will create a shiny black look. It is NOT the same as black henna.

11 ) Won’t henna stain my hands? Yep. Wear gloves. Henna has been used for thousands of years in the ancient art of mehndi. The red brown dye can create beautiful designs on the hands, feet, pregnant belly or anywhere else on the body.

Henna doesn’t adhere well to oily skin, so if you want to avoid staining yourself, use some kind of coconut oil, olive oil or other oil around the hairline, over the ears and on the neck. For the hands, you really need gloves. If you mix oil on your hands, the oil gets in your hair and the henna may not adhere well to the hairshaft. If you don’t wear gloves but do oil your fingernails, they will still probably turn orange because they’re so dry. Whereas the orange on your skin will eventually wash off, you’ll likely have orange nails until they grow out. It’s not terrible, but it does happen.

12 ) Is there a spiritual reason to henna? Traditionally, yes, henna is associated with the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance and prosperity. Ancient Egyptians used henna in rituals and for sacred body adornment. Henna is mentioned in the Bible — both for its intense fragrance and for its use by pre-Christian Jews. People today use henna during birth ceremonies, baby showers to honor the coming child, at yoga studios, to inscribe sacred symbols or chants on the body, and just for general nurturing.

I don’t know what’s in henna in terms of nutrients, but I do feel like using it alters something in my brain — in a good way. I feel more relaxed and receptive to intuitive perceptions (yes, even more than usual!); I do tend to make a ton of money the whole week after I henna my hair (it’s like money arrives in huge chunks all that week); I feel more mischievous in a fairy way; and overall, I just feel more in tune with my “goddess” self. The last observation may be because in terms of other self-care and fussy things, I’m kind of lacking, so my henna represents a conscious acknowledgment and celebration of that part of myself. In any case, yes, henna can be considered a spiritual practice.

13 ) I can’t think of any other frequently asked questions about my hair, but please feel free to ask away. I frequently hear from clients in Medical Intuitive sessions that they would like “better hair.” I’ve listed most of what I know here that works generally. More speicific details really apply in the case of your own personal symbolism of hair.

Many Blessings and Lustrous Locks to you!

Laura Bruno

www.internationalrenaissancecoaching.com

Related: http://laurabruno.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/natural-beauty-an-interview-with-lovely-raw-fooder-and-animal-lover-cassie-margraf/

32 responses to this post.

  1. Ok, first I randomly check for new blogs (I’m not subscribed) – and I’ve hit the past three right on the day you posted it. haha. ;-)

    I never really comb my hair either. My hair is pretty thick and gets super tangly, too. I use a natural organic shampoo but I find I tend to get that sort of greasy look (sometimes in one day!) all around the top more frequently than usual. I wonder if it’s because the shampoo doesn’t get “sudsy” – generally with those shampoos my hair is less oily over a longer period. Any suggestions on a not so expensive natural shampoo that might work better? Or where to look?

  2. Posted by laurabruno on June 9, 2009 at 3:38 am

    Ah, Jess, first of all, that “counts” as a sign that you’re “in tune.” As for not so expensive natural shampoos, in the past I’ve used Avalon Organics Lavender, which you can get at Trader Joe’s here for something like $4! I like to pair that with Shikai Organics Neutral Henna conditioner. It’s not the same plant as the red henna, but it makes your hair super shiny without greasiness. At least, it did for me. :) You can also skip the conditioner and just rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar. That gets your hair to the right pH level so it stays healthy, but it doesn’t load it up with greasiness. My hubby just hates the smell of vinegar so I can’t get away with that one!

  3. Thanks! ;-) I can probably find both of those around here.

    Oooh, vinegar, I could sip while I rinse. haha.

  4. This is such an informative and enjoyable post! Thanks for taking the time to write it. :) I am very happy with my Morocco Method products and have been using them for a couple/few months… but yes, they’re not easy on the wallet – LOL. However, it helps that I usually wash 2 times a week so I’m not going through the bottles too quickly.

    Happy Henna-ing,
    Kristen

  5. Posted by laurabruno on June 9, 2009 at 5:37 am

    Thanks, Kristen! Yeah, that’s how I justify the price tag of the Morocco Method … I really don’t use it that often. :) Cheers! Laura

  6. Thanks for all the really cool information.

  7. nice article!!! good information for methanks!!

  8. What an amazing post. Tons of information.
    If it’s alright, could I add a few things?

    If you try to apply henna onto damp hair, then the application is much easier and smoother.

    Natural, and pure henna powders will NEVER turn anyone’s hair green ever. I am talking about 100% pure henna powder though. If you are using that quality (sometimes in the marketplace online, you’ll hear the words, body art quality), then henna will only dye your hair orangeish to reddish tones (this tone depends on which henna powder you use, and what your current hair color is). You can use chemicals as well such as hair straighteners or perms using this quality of henna powder.

    As for other colors, you can achieve this by using other herbs in your recipe.

    Happy henna’ing!

  9. Posted by laurabruno on June 24, 2009 at 4:27 am

    Thanks so much for the extra information! I’m glad to hear that with the right quality, no one will get green hair. That’s definitely one of those alarming things most people want to avoid! ;-)

  10. Welcome :) Glad it was alright with you for me to post all that up. I wanted to add that the indigo (sometimes marketplaces call it black henna, for hair), can come out green when used without henna powder mixed in the recipe. But this would happen more so on lighter shades of hair, or at least be more clearly visible on light hair or greys.

  11. Posted by laurabruno on June 24, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Good info. I’ve never used the indigo myself. Many thanks for stopping by and sharing your expertise!

  12. Anytime. I have always loved the design of this blog. I have seen it before somewhere else too.

  13. Posted by laurabruno on June 24, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Thanks, yes, I’ve seen a few blogs with this background and they’re all really interesting: one on Pythagoras, another on tarot, another on flower children and meditation … always kind of different stuff.

  14. Posted by giacintavosika,LMP,RMT on July 9, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    I love this post and the photo you used totally rocks! I don’t dye my hair but really enjoyed the fun everyone seemed had in sharing their methods, experiences, thoughts and ideas! Hair is amazing and how we each learn to identify with it is intriguing. I think that we each have our very own deep and intimate relationship with our hair – and probably hair in general. It is such a personal thing that we wear on the outside – and there’s only so much we can do with it! (actually and most likely a lot more that we can do with it and for it than we realize) :) It’s all so fascinating. I love hair and I love to hear people talking about it. So reading this entry and the comments back and forth has been so much fun. Thanks for being so open, generous and welcoming with everyone. Much love, Giacinta

  15. Posted by laurabruno on July 9, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Thanks, as always, Giacinta. I appreciate your support and enthusiasm and agree with you about hair. It’s very personal, and when people share with me in sessions, hair tends to be one of those things they feel silly asking about, but really one of the things they care the most about! Love, Laura

  16. Posted by Samarpita on July 24, 2009 at 5:39 am

    HI, rather nice post. But about not touching henna with metal, in India, we insist that the henna is soaked in a iron container to bring the color out. And it really does. Otherwise, it would never show on my jet balck hair :) . Don’t know the reasons for the instructions though. Infact, I have heard that people heat the henna in the same iron container, after soaking it overnight to get a black shade.

  17. Posted by laurabruno on July 24, 2009 at 5:42 am

    Thanks for adding that. I always wondered about the metal because the water often flows through metal pipes! I’m glad to hear that some people actually use metal purposely for certain desired effects. Blessings!

  18. Posted by Wendy on February 24, 2010 at 4:16 am

    I am thinking of using henna to color my hair as I get a bit sick from dying my it at the salon. I was wondering what color/brand of henna do you use on your yours?

  19. Posted by laurabruno on February 24, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Hi Wendy,
    I don’t have a particular brand. I just use straight henna, sometimes from Morocco Method, sometimes from the bulk bin at the health food store, sometimes from a box with a fox on it, not sure of the name. If you dye your hair, make sure you test some strands ahead of time, as henna can interact w/ commercial dyes.
    Cheers,
    Laura

  20. Wendy just make sure you use 100% pure henna powder, like it’s sometimes called body art quality because if you have been using chemical dyes you want to make sure you use pure henna, and sometimes the health food store doesn’t carry pure henna powder, as they are boxed with several other herbs, and colors in them, that can conflict and react with chemical dyes.

    Henna directly from the country of origin is best to use, such as Moroccan henna, Yemeni henna, Jamila henna, or Rajasthani Indian henna.

  21. Posted by Wendy on March 2, 2010 at 4:09 am

    Thank you both for your feedback! When I definitively decide to henna my hair, I will buy pure henna powder. I will also do a test strip…I really don’t want orangey looking hair color.

  22. Congrats Wendy! A really good forum you might enjoy also is http://www.longhaircommunity.com
    Happy henna’ing!

  23. hey nice and wonderful designs and patterns must wanted to see more designs

  24. Hi,

    Very Nice Forum, You may also like to get 100% Natural Henna Products from India. Please visit this link for more details, they are Manufacturer and Exporter of 100% Natural Henna Products in India. http://www.mathaexports.com visit them they are really good supplier.

  25. Posted by may on October 1, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Hello, there! I loved your post :) thankyou so much for the information :D just wondering if u cud answer something for me? is it true that in the long run henna dries the hair and makes it more brittle…and can cause hair to fall? because my hair is very thick, dry and can be knotty. i want something that will help the cuticle lie flat and provide lots of moisture. thank you so much for your time!<3

  26. Posted by laurabruno on October 1, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Thanks for commenting. I have heard that about henna, but it’s not been my own personal experience. My hair seems much stronger since using it. I do notice a lot of hair loss while rinsing it out, but I have so much hair it’s not really an issue. Plus, it thickens the strands, so your hair will look fuller. If you have very little hair it could be a concern, but not likely to show up if you have a regular head of hair. Blessings! Laura

  27. Posted by Wendy on November 24, 2010 at 5:49 am

    Yeah! I did it…I finally used MM henna on my hair and love it! My hair feels healthy, happy, and in harmony with my values. What a relief to not have to dye it anymore and spend hours in a salon only to feel sick later. I was really nervous my hair would turn orange or something but MM products worked beautifully. I use all of their shampoos, agave hairspray, mineral sprays, etc. and love the pearl creme rinse too! I e-mailed the company and got a personalized response from Anthony. I combined that with my gut and figured out a great formula that I like so far. My hair always comes out in hand fulls when I wash it and it’s the same with the henna–no more though. The rubber scalp massager is a must have for me as for awhile I had white flakes all over my scalp and it itched. Yuck! Using the scalp massager seemed to fix this problem–for the most part. Cheers to MM products…I hope my hair always likes them:) Thanks Laura for turning me on to them!

  28. Posted by laurabruno on November 24, 2010 at 6:54 am

    Awesome!

  29. Hi,

    Forum is very Nice and you may also like to get 100% Natural Henna Products from India. They are Manufacturer and Exporter of 100% Natural Henna Products in India. http://www.indianherbalhenna.com visit them they are really good supplier.

  30. Posted by jinu on October 12, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    heyyy guys i got a question too…i have black hair, not quite think but i was thinkin of tryin henna on my hair. but i read that iron pots make the henna darker…welll i cudnt find any iron pots!! does it matter? because i really dont want orangy reddish colour..i want brownish blackish colour..and all i got now is some henna, tea bags, and coffee powder..is that okay to mix with??
    thanks..

  31. Posted by laurabruno on October 12, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Yes, you can mix with coffee. I would brew it, though. You can also add amla to tone down the red. It might still be redder than you’d like, so adding some indigo powder will make it messy, but also would turn it more blackish-brown. Good luck!

  32. [...] a henna application and then follow-up with indigo powder.Note: My research for this blog yielded an incredible resource.TIPS:Color your hair less frequently. Less exposure to chemicals and toxic ingredients.Choose safer [...]

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