Friday, March 26, 2010

Dyeing with Plants

I bet you think this is going to be about fiber. You know, knitting, spinning, dyeing and all that jazz? Well it's not going to be about that. It's going to be about....HAIR!

Yep, that's right. Hair.

Maybe this doesn't seem like something you'd read about on a blog about homesteading, but I find that I am interested in anything that allows me to be more independent. In fact we were thinking of making a list of "do-it-yourself" things we have actually done ourselves, but I'll leave that for another day. For now I want to tell you about my natural dyeing experience.

If you haven't noticed, hair coloring is really hot right now. I think maybe more than ever before. A long time ago, I used to think that hair coloring was something fake that people used to make up for not being happy with themselves. Not blond enough. Not young enough. You get the idea. I rather prided myself on the idea that I didn't need to do that kind of stuff; I would just be happy with myself the way I happened to be.

Then I had kids. And they opened my eyes up to the fact that today changing your hair color is like deciding what color of fingernail polish to wear was when I was their age. My older daughter went from bleach blond, to BLACK, to her current black/red combo and she's really hoping for fire engine red this summer. She has helped me see that changing your hair color doesn't have to mean you are unhappy with the natural you; but that it's ok to have fun & experiment and try new things-- and that can be liberating. In her world your hair color can be as changeable as which concert t-shirt she chooses to wear--Kelly Clarkson one day; Iron Maiden the next. No boxes or boundaries!

Both of my daughters have been trying to get me to color my hair for quite some time. But really, even though I thought it sounded fun (and a little bit daring!) I just couldn't see me really buying a box of L'Oreal and doing that. It just wasn't me.

One day I happened across the Henna for Hair website. And I couldn't quit browsing and looking at all of those thumbnails of vibrant glowing hair color. I looked at "before & after" pictures; I looked at the individual mixes of herbs and everyday household items that people used to color their own hair. This was starting to speak my language. Like making herbal infusions for physical health, this was another kind of herbal infusion for hair health! I was hooked.

After lots of reading & thinking about which colors I liked, I ordered some henna and indigo. Being a very brave person, I tried them out on my daughters! Dare I say this was about a YEAR ago? After having fun with my daughters' hair, I left the henna & indigo packets in a closet in a back room almost forgotten. Fun as it had been I was still clinging to my purist, natural ideas--plus I was kind of afraid of doing something I wouldn't like. I like my hair. I know my husband likes my hair. I didn't want to mess it up. And when it comes to change, well I'm a pretty slow mover.

I'm not sure why I finally found my henna mojo. But a couple of weekends ago I got the urge to try it. I pored over the Henna for Hair website again reminding myself how to do it. Doing a henna treatment takes time and pre-planning. Unlike a commercial hair dye, henna needs to be mixed up the night before with several hours to let the dye release. Then you need time the next day to apply the henna, something I couldn't have done by myself. Then you need a few hours to let it sit on your hair. Then you need a rather major shampooing treatment to get it off. So with time ahead of me and a bit of courage, I mixed my henna with lemon juice and let it sit in a warm place over night.

In the morning I mixed in indigo to tone the red down a bit and make it darker. After a few minutes of trying to apply it myself I called on Colleen for help. She applied the henna paste layer by layer to my hair. To be positive, the mixture looked a lot like mud; to be more realistic it looked quite a lot like baby poop. The more my hair was coated the heavier my head became. After my head felt about 5 pounds heavier, we piled my henna coated hair on my head & wrapped it in plastic wrap and a towel. Then I just had to wait. And wonder. I didn't take any pictures of this process...I was still pretty chicken about the whole thing. I wasn't sure I'd want to document it publicly or otherwise.

A few hours later when I couldn't stand it anymore, I decided to take the plunge, literally, and got in the shower. I can't really describe what happened when the spraying water hit my head. I was suddenly immersed in a mud bath like I've never experienced before. It was really like being in a mud waterfall. Muddy looking water was running all over me, the shower, and everything. I was not prepared for that! It was quite a shock at first. But after a few shampoos and lots of conditioning, the water was running clear and I was ready to see how it worked!

I could only see my water darkened hair that really didn't look very different than it usually looks. But when I looked in the mirror I could see a glow around my face that was new and different. When my hair dried I could see that the grayest hairs, especially around my face and bangs, were a fairly bright copper. And the hair that was already brown was now a more glowing auburn. Plant dyes are different than commercial hair dyes in that they soak into the hair and actually dye it, instead of just coating and covering it. So with plant dyes, the hair retains it's natural pattern of highlights and shading nuances; they are just a different color, but the natural variation is still there. I really loved how my gray strands became coppery highlights! And my hair felt conditioned & soft and well ... just healthy!

Many people who have a history of using commercial hair colors say it is hard on their hair and leaves it feeling brittle and dry. But the natural henna and indigo are actually conditioning and contribute to hair health. Since I've never done the commercial dye I can't speak to that, but I can say that my hair has felt full and healthy since doing my henna treatment. I feel great about being able to care for my hair in a natural way. And I love being able to use natural plants and to take care of my hair myself. I do a lot of things that I like feeling ownership of, like making nettle infusions for their nourishing qualities or baking fresh bread for my family. It just feels good to know I can use things that nature provides to take care of my needs. And it feels good to know I can do it myself. Now I have found another one to add to the list! Henna!


Brent said...

What a beautiful, wonderful wife I have!

Toni said...

Looks good!