Monthly Archives: September 2011

Getting Rid of Gray the Natural Way

On my unending quest to reverse or slow the signs of aging naturally, I decided it was time I addressed my gray hairs.  I’m not totally gray, more like 15% gray, just enough to bug me though.  In the past, I’d just pluck out the few stray gray hairs, but the numbers have grown and rather than go bald with plucking,  I’ve been professionally dying my hair with all-over color the last 6 years to hide the gray while retaining my natural hair color, which is a very dark black-brown.  However, I’ve been increasing concerned about the chemical treatments I use on my hair every couple of months, so I seriously started looking at henna to cover the gray a couple weeks ago.  I had heard of henna as a natural hair color alternative, but the thought of having red or orange hair as a result of a botched home job scared me from trying it for years.  But as finances are getting tight at home, I couldn’t afford the $150+ salon hair treatments anymore, so I started digging around for information on the Internet about henna and other natural plant-based hair dyes.    

Red henna, the most common plant dye used for hair, is made from the leaves of the Lawsonia Inermis bush.  Though it is translucent and blends with your natural shade, there is a reddish tinge.  There is another type of natural hair dye made from a plant, called indigo which produces a blue-black shade.  You can do the henna alone, or add the indigo afterwards to make the hair a black shade.  I wanted to just do henna first and then decide on whether I needed indigo.  Think hard before using Indigo.  You are pretty much stuck with the black color until your hair grows out.  You can’t lighten it from what I’ve read. 

Looking around at reviews, I found this one henna product that seemed to stand out from other brands.  The name of it is Godrej Nupur Mehendi Powder 9 Herbs Blend, which is a mouthful.  I just call it Nupur.  It’s a blend of red henna with other nourishing herbs such as Brahmi, Shikakai, Aloe Vera, Methi, Bhringraj, Amla, Neem, Hibiscus, and Jatamansi.   The formula is supposed to promote growth, darken, and condition hair naturally.  The best part is that is it is so cheap!   Only $4 for 1 treatment.  This covers my very long thick hair with extra to spare.  I’m sure a person with short hair could split it into 2 treatments. 

 So, I did my very first henna treatment last week and I must say, it looks as good or better than my hairdresser’s color treatment, and she is one of the best in town.   My hair is now a dark warm mahogany with a very subtle hint of red in sunlight.  It looks close to my natural color, not way darker or bright red at all.  Confirmation came that night when my husband didn’t blurt out “What in the hell happened to your hair!?!”  That was a good sign.  He couldn’t tell I did it myself.  But the best part is that all my grays now look like natural coppery brown highlights!  It’s very rich looking and has dimension, not flat looking like a boxed hair color.  Plus my hair is feeling and looking smoother and silkier.  Bottom line, if you have darker hair with a few grays to cover, I highly recommend this Nupur product. 

 The Nupur Henna Treatment   

 I should preface this by saying I did my first treatment on chemically colored hair, but it hadn’t been colored for 2 months.  Not sure if this should be attempted after a recent chemical treatment.  Play it safe and maybe do a patch test or let your hair go untreated for a while before attempting.  I had a good 1-1/2 to 2 inches of gray roots showing, so I was way overdue for this.

 I can’t say it’s the fastest or easiest thing to apply, but it is manageable if you plan ahead.   Make sure you do it on a day where you don’t have to go anywhere, because you will have this glob of muddy appearing stuff on your head for up to 4 – 6 hours.   Preparation starts a few hours prior to application.  To release the dye, you need to mix up the henna at least 3 hours before applying.  I just mixed it up the night before.  In a medium size plastic bowl, I mixed 1 package of the Nupur henna powder, 1 cup boiling water, 1 cup black coffee and a big squirt of Dabur Vatika Coconut Hair Oil (to help condition the hair).  Don’t make it too thin.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit room temperature overnight.  It should look like brownish green mud and have the consistency of very thick pudding.  It smells like hay (or maybe cow chips) to me.  I’ve smelled worse.        

 Next morning, stir up the henna mixture.  Get a plastic trash bag to place underneath yourself and a small damp towel for wiping off drips on you or the counter.  If your mixture is thick enough, you shouldn’t have a lot of drips.  It’s important to wear good gloves too, otherwise your hands turn into a lovely shade of Cheetos orange. 

 First step, wash you hair as normal, no conditioner.  Towel dry.  Section off your hair and I just use my fingers to take a good dollop and start applying.  I start at the roots (where the grays are) and work it down.  Be generous in the amount you apply.  After all your hair is evenly covered, wrap your hair into a bun; put a plastic shower cap (or plastic wrap) around it and then a terry cloth turban or towel around the plastic.  The heat from your head will help the mixture penetrate the hair shaft.  Then just go about your business for up to 6 hours.  I rinsed out at 4 hours.  Get into the shower because this will make a mess, and it takes a while for the henna to rinse out totally.  You want it to rinse as clear as possible.  Don’t shampoo or condition.  Just towel dry and let dry naturally.  I would wait 48 hours to shampoo.  If you have white pillowcases, put a towel on top for the next few days until the henna sets, otherwise you may stain them slightly yellow (as I learned the hard way). 

 You may be shocked by the color when you first get out the shower.  It might seem too red, especially if you have lighter brown hair.  But, at least on me, I didn’t look clownish or over the top red.  Since my hair was already very dark, it was hardly noticeable inside the house.  I don’t think my husband even noticed I had colored my hair.  But if your hair looks too bright right after your rinse, don’t PANIC.  In time, the color oxidizes, mellows out, and the final color can be seen in 3 to 4 days.  Today, at the 1 week mark, I’m very pleased with the final color I have.  It just looks like natural highlights where the grays used to be.  My next henna treatment will probably be in another 6 weeks.   Not bad for a $4 treatment.

 As mentioned previously, if you prefer a more black color, you can do a 2nd process after rinsing out the henna, by applying indigo, which is a blue tinged dye.  Be sure it is true indigo without any added chemicals in it.  I haven’t tried the indigo, but apparently it is smelly, messy, and can permanently stain your floor or clothes, so beware.  It’s the stuff used to stain blue jeans.  But the resulting color when combined with henna will be more of a jet black than red and is gorgeous as well.  Personally, I like my hair color as is, so I think I’ll just stick with the Nupur for now.     

 So, if you have some pesky grays but want to cover them without chemicals or expensive salon treatments, try this Nupur henna out.  It’s practically idiot proof, will definitely save big bucks, as well as keep your hair healthy over the long run.