One day Cookie and I got this idea. We were both a bit bored with our hair, and as we’ve been brain washed by Sigrid (who works at LUSH, and is also our super-lovely friend), we decided to go for some henna hair dye from LUSH. In short, henna is a natural way of colouring your hair. It takes a lot of time and makes a huge mess, but as there are none of those nasty chemicals in there, your hair will come out of it a lot healthier than when using regular dye.

LUSH has four different colours in their henna – the combination pictured above is what Cookie chose (equal amounts of Noir, black, and Marron, a chestnut brown), whereas I used two squares of Brun (plain ol’ brown without any red in it) and one square of Noir. If you don’t understand what I mean by “squares”, don’t worry, I’ll show you further down. First, I need to stress that henna does make a huge mess everywhere, so it’s important to prepare properly. Here’s our setup:

Nothing of ours got stained, fortunately, except for the chair and Cookie’s ring finger (there was a hole in her glove). Still, better safe than sorry, I say, so remove absolutely everything you can, and cover the rest, especially if you’re a newbie at henna or are doing this alone. Actually, here’s my best advice in this whole post: don’t do this alone. Trust me, a partner in crime will not only make the whole process more doable, but also more bearable in general.

I won’t go into detail about everything you’ll need or do, as that can be found on LUSH’s website or on the instructions they give you when you buy the henna. Still, I’ll try to give you all the tips we discovered on our own, as there are plenty.

The henna comes in these huge blocks that look a bit like chocolate, except it’s green. Don’t be alarmed, though, it’s supposed to look like that. To mix it into hair dye, you’ll need to… well, cook it, sort of. I’ll show you. Just please remember to buy a zillion disposable gloves for your very first time (I think we used about eight pairs, because we suddenly had to remove them to fix something or re-heat the henna).

This is the only photo you’ll see of me wearing this minty blue colour, I promise. But you’ll need to wear something you can throw out, as the stains of henna are the most stubborn bastards you’ll ever meet. They’re worse than exes and bad memories and salopes combined. Really.

And we’re off! First, chop up the henna. See what I meant about “squares”? We used four for Cookie’s long hair, and three for my shoulder length hair. It was a rather perfect amount, I think, especially if we hadn’t made it way too thick and then had some problems spreading it out evenly (more on that later). A lot of websites and YouTube-videos tell you to grate the henna with a cheese grater to avoid lumps; we just chopped each square in four and it was perfectly fine. Save your energy, because you’ll probably need it later.

When the henna is all in little bits, you need to cover it with boiling water. Then simply let it sit for a while, and try to get used to the smell. Many inhabitants of the internet will tell you all sorts of horror stories about how it smells like poo. Neither Cookie nor I thought so; it’s more like super-strong tea combined with incense. To me, the problem wasn’t the smell itself, but how the smell got so strong. You’ve got the stuff on top of your head, all over your bathroom, in your kitchen, and it gets very intense after a while.

Looks a bit like soup, doesn’t it? When the pieces start to melt, you use a fork to blend them with the water. Cookie and I were afraid it would drip all over the place once it was on our head, so we didn’t make it as thin as the LUSH girl told us (like thin yogurt, she said). BIG MISTAKE. When the henna is too thick, it is very hard to distribute on the hair, it dries too quickly and just makes more of a mess than necessary.

See? That is too thick. Poor Cookie was our test bunny, meaning we did her hair first, and even though the result looks good, the process itself was quite frustrating. She definitely did a better job on my hair, and we also made the henna much, much thinner, which helped, too. After you’ve blended the henna, you’re supposed to heat it up again until it’s as warm as you can bear. I know it doesn’t look very… nice when it’s mixed together like that, but be brave.

Once the henna is mixed, you’re all set to go. Cookie and I was so excited about mixing the henna that we forgot to prepare Cookie, so she slipped into a garbage bag as quickly as possible, and covered her hairline and neck and ears with something greasy to prevent staining on the skin. We’d bought one of these brush-thingies to distribute the henna, and it would have been rather impossible without one. You section the hair, cover the roots in henna, then work it out through the lengths. With Cookie I did the lengths and roots of each section at the same time, but that wasn’t such a good idea. Do the roots first, then the lengths. When everything is covered in henna, gather the hair on top of your head, and cover it with clingfilm. Then wait.

From here on there aren’t that many pictures, as I’ve already spilt nail polish remover on my MacBook and didn’t want my camera to suffer injuries as well. Still, we have tips aplenty:

– Better mix too much henna the first time, than to have to make more while half your hair is covered with it, as this would be stressful and make a mess everywhere. Just remember that you can’t re-use henna; once it’s mixed, it has to go in your hair or in the trash.

– Don’t make the henna too thick. If you think it’s just right, it is probably too thick. Add more boiling water.

– Keep the henna warm while you work it into the hair. We had a covered cup of boiling water on the sink, so when the henna got too cool and hard to work with, we could mix in some warm water.

– The neater you section your hair, the easier it is to get the henna evenly into the roots. When henna has been on the hair for a while, it goes stiff and a bit hard, so keeping things tidy makes everything better.

– When you gather the henna-covered hair on top of your head (before the clingfilm), try to balance it so the weight is distributed evenly. The henna is surprisingly heavy, and you’ll be carrying it around for at least three hours.

– We cut a strips of an old towel and fastened it around the head where the clingfoil met the skin. This helped prevent dripping.

We kept the henna in the hair for three hours. Some internet-people say to keep it for as long as possible (even overnight), but the LUSH girl said three hours allows the colour to fully develop, and more than that isn’t really necessary. Washing it out was… interesting. Cookie and I had discussed it, thinking it might be tricky as we don’t have a bathtub and we didn’t want to stain our entire bathroom. Also, the henna gets quite hard and crusty after some hours, so I was afraid it would knot the hair as I tried to wash it out.

Our solution was to fill a bucket with water in the shower, stick the head upside down into it to loosen most of the henna. Cookie said it worked great, and the mess was mostly contained in the bucket. For me, the process was a bit more… humiliating. You see, Cookie is a dancer, so standing with spread, bent legs and the head practically on the floor, without the support of your hands, for many minutes while rinsing out the henna, was pretty much her everyday life anyway. I, however, am not a dancer. Standing naked in the shower, head bent into a bucket with trembling thighs and a shower curtain that clings to you and the smell of henna everywhere… not my proudest moment. Still, the idea is good, so if you’re not a dancer, simply bring in a chair or something else on which to place the bucket.

Phew. Long post, this one, eh? Time for what I know you’re all waiting for: the before and after shots. My starting point was hair that had been chemically dyed about six months before. My hair grows rather quickly, so I’d say about seven centimeters from the roots are my natural colour here.

As you can see, the difference is definitely noticeable. The after picture was taken one and a half week after the dyeing, as the indigo (which gives the black colour) takes some days to fully develop. I’m very pleased with how there aren’t any orange tones there at all, and how natural the colour looks. Also, my hair has become so shiny it looks, as Maja put it, like Disney hair. I’ve always thought my hair generally looks healthy and happy, but now it’s a whole new level of shine up there.

Let’s do some pros and cons, shall we?

Pros:

– very, very shiny result!

– natural, so no nasty chemicals or stained pillow cases the night after you’ve rinsed.

– henna conditions and protects the hair, and mine is definitely healthier and happier than it was before.

– less expensive. One block (six squares) cost 149,- NOK, and I get two rounds of colouring from each block.

– I haven’t tested this personally yet, but they say henna colour lasts longer than chemical hair dye, and also fades more naturally/evenly.

Cons:

– the smell. I’m pretty sensitive when it comes to strong smells, and this was just too much for me. The resulting headache was fierce and lasted the rest of the day, and I still get a bit queasy when I get a whiff of it.

– the mess. It didn’t stain the whole house as I’d feared, but it was still a lot of work cleaning up. Dirty newspapers, bits of towel, all the kitchenware we used, clothing, the shower and shower curtain. The bucket was too dirty to describe, so that had to go in the trash.

– time-consuming. Preparing and applying the colour took at least an hour, then three hours to let the colour set, and then the whole rinsing process.

– nothing I’ll ever attempt to do by myself. I know many people manage alone, but I frankly can’t understand how.

In conclusion:

I love the result. My hair has never felt this healthy, and has never been this shiny. I really want to do it again, but I must admit I dread the smell and the resulting headache. Not everyone reacts as strongly as me, though (Cookie wasn’t much bothered by it). If you’re considering using LUSH’s henna, I suggest you find a shop and give one of those bars of henna a good sniff. Multiply it by five, and see if you think you can handle it. If you can: go for it! My hair has never looked better.