I don’t color my hair often, mainly because I’m lazy and don’t want to take the time to do it. But once a year, when it’s time for the annual BlogHer conference estrogen fest, I feel the need to cover my graying temples that make me look older than I feel.
(It’s also the time I get my annual pedicure and clean up my crazy eyebrows with homemade sugar wax.) But hair dyes are pretty toxic — even the “natural” ones — and all come in plastic packaging. For a while, I would go to a salon and use the “Don’t ask; don’t tell” method of living plastic-free. If I didn’t see a plastic bottle, it didn’t exist. Clearly, that was cheating.
So I was very happy when I discovered that I could buy henna (which is about as safe as it gets) with less plastic packaging and that it would actually cover my gray! [Note: Your mileage may vary. I'm only gray at the temples so far. I don't know how it would work on an entire gray head. Please leave a comment if you have tried it.] I tried two different brands:
BULK RAINBOW HENNA
I found Rainbow brand henna in bulk at Rainbow Grocery (no relation, as far as I know) in San Francisco. I filled up a reused paper bag (I reuse paper bags until they fall apart and then I compost them). Yes, the henna is stored in a big plastic container, but as I’ve said before, buying in bulk generates much less plastic waste than buying smaller sized containers, even if the bulk bag or container is plastic.
I bought the dark brown color and followed the directions for gray hair on the Rainbow Research website, adding brewed black coffee for a darker color and apple cider vinegar, which is supposed to help the color hold onto grey hair. (See the website for exact measurements and recipes for other colors.) I also added some ground clove, at the suggestion of Michael’s sister, and it made my hair smell wonderful.
LUSH SOLID HENNA BAR
While the Rainbow henna necessarily comes in some kind of large container for delivery to the store, Lush solid henna bars have just a single paper label around them.
To prepare, you grate or chop the bar into pieces and mix it with boiling water. (See instructions on bar for exact measurements.)
Lush henna bars are made with cocoa butter to condition the hair, and they are also loaded with various essential oils, herbs, and spices. The brown bar does contain coffee and cloves — two of the ingredients I added to the Rainbow henna. But it also contains perfume, which can include some undisclosed synthetic ingredients. Fragrances are problematic because they can contain hormone-disrupting phthalates, and unless a company discloses all the ingredients in their fragrances, the customer has no way to know if they are safe or not. Here is Lush’s statement about the perfumes they use.
If you want Lush to quit with the synthetics and to fully disclose the ingredients in their fragrances, please send them a message.
I applied Rainbow henna to half of my head and Lush henna to the other half. The instructions always say to wrap your head in a plastic bag, but I never do that. I just cover it with an old towel that I use specifically for this purpose.
Caveat: You should ALWAYS wear gloves when applying henna! Here is what happens if you don’t:
I left the henna on my hair for about 2-3 hours and just went about my household chores. If you don’t have gray hair, you can probably leave it on for a lot less time.
Later, I discovered that I could save time by just applying the henna to the gray bits without coating my entire head with it.
I’d say both brands of henna accomplished the same desired results: covering my gray. But I wouldn’t buy the Lush henna again because the smell was just too strong with all the many different essential oils and perfume in it. My simple Rainbow henna recipe smelled great and contained no synthetic chemicals.
So, if you color your hair, what plastic-free or less plastic method do you use? I know some of you wear your gray like a badge of honor. I salute you. I have to confess I am not there yet. At least not all of the time.