Inspired by all the newness of the *ahem* new year, I made the decision to add a dash of colour to my curls. I didn't want to go down the chemical route as I had spent much of 2013 nurturing my hair and body with natural and organic ingredients. A quick Google later, I figured henna was the one for me and even better high street favourite LUSH had easy to use henna bars with four colours to choose from. Unlike traditional henna, the lush henna bars are pre mixed with red henna, cocoa butter, organic lemon juice, powdered rosemary and clove bud oil. Just add water and you are good to go. This seemed ideal for a beginner like me. I read a handful of reviews and decided the Caca Rouge was for me.
I was beyond excited when I picked up my Caca Rouge bar for the reasonable price of £8.25 at LUSH Brent Cross. It was crazy busy (to be expected it was NYE) but the lady serving at the till took her time explaining the application process and even threw in a pair of gloves to help me along my way. A couple of days later, I got down to business.
All the reviews I had read warned me that it would be a messy process that could leave me with a stained bathroom. I could take no such risk so I covered everything in newspaper (ironically, the henna didn't stain anything but the newspaper print made a mess of my bathtub). I slipped on some old clothes and a bin liner cape for good measure. Using a sharp knife, I set about shaving three squares of my henna block into a bowl which I put over another bowl that had been filled with boiling water. Once the henna began to melt, I added water bit by bit continuously stirring, until I had a consistency that resembled melted chocolate. In hindsight, I should probably have added more water as it thickened as I worked and by the time I got to the front of my head it had a sludge like consistency. I should probably mention the smell. It's not terrible but it's not great. It's very heady and smells a lot like you've been buried in an old tea bag.
I put my hair in four sections. Working from front to back, I applied the warm mixture in small sections starting from the root and working it through to my ends. I expected the henna to make my hair gloop together in a sticky mound but this was not the case. My strands if anything became more defined and hung loosely down my back in a way that I hadn't seen since my relaxer days. I don't know if this is because the mixture was too heavy and was weighing my strands down or I hadn't used enough henna to make it stick. Either way, the application process was fairly quick. I was done in 15 minutes. My sister helped me wrap my hair in cling film (or saran wrap for my American cousins) and as an extra precaution I slipped over a plastic bag and then a woolly hat. A tip I'd picked up on-line was that by keeping your head warm you increased your chances of a richer red colour.
I let the henna process for four very tedious hours. The smell of the henna had made me somewhat delirious and my neck was sore from wearing what I had begun to affectionately call the 'smelly mud helmet'. I wish I could say I did anything with those four hours aside from watch Monk re-runs but alas I can't. Removing the henna had already been touted as the most difficult part of the process so I was prepared for the worst. Luckily it wasn't such an ordeal for me. I leaned over the bath tub and used the detachable shower head to rinse off the majority of the henna. I kept rinsing with warm water until the water was a pale orange colour before I ran my hands through my hair. It felt surprisingly gritty! This then led to another bout of vigorous rinsing until I was sure I had got out most of the grit. I then co washed my hair to remove any remaining henna and followed this with an oil rinse. My hair looked absolutely glorious wet, the curls were full of life and felt wonderfully soft. I couldn't see a difference in colour yet but I thought it'll most likely be visible once my hair dried. I was wrong. Once my hair was dry, it looked shinier than before but it still looked dark brown. I examined my hair close up under two bright lights and in a magnifying mirror and I noticed that my hair had in fact taken some colour. It was now a very dark auburn. I still consider this a colour change and even though it is not visible to the naked eye I know my hair is now dark auburn as opposed to dark brown.
Would I use Lush Caca Rouge Again?
Definitely! I am an eternal optimist when it comes to these things. Yes, I didn't get the big change I wanted but it was a change none the less. I've also read on-line that henna is like lacquer, the more you apply the more colour you can build up. I still have three henna squares left which I intend to use next month. I will add hibiscus tea and paprika to the mix which fingers crossed will give me a richer red. Even if I never move past dark auburn at a microscopic level, it'd still be worth it for the conditioning benefits. My curls have never looked so jovial and they feel lovely and soft.
For the sake of full disclosure, I have to admit my hair wasn't clean when I applied the henna. It was due a wash and it had been coated in coconut oil from my detangling. I don't know if this hindered the process. Henna like most natural processes, seems to react differently to each head it encounters so if you are curious you should definitely give it a try. At worst you spend half a day playing around with mud and you escape with healthier hair.
Please do share your experiences/ tips as I will be doing this again and I'm open to all suggestions.