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Thread: Experimenting with henna, indigo, and more

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    Lightbulb Experimenting with henna, indigo, and more

    These experiments were done between October and November of 2006 and were posted on H4H, but I decided I'd like to repost them here.


    Click on thumbnails for bigger pictures.

    Even if the results from an experiment look exactly like what you want to achieve, they were done on white hair. If covering gray/white is your concern, then you're probably in luck. But otherwise, your results could differ quite a bit using the same method. Plus we must cater for differences in climate, timing, and ingredients. So please remember to test before jumping in. It's easy to color. It's not as easy to go back.

    For those who don't know, or those who want a refresher, this is what unadulterated mohair looks like.




    First Experiment

    So, this won't be over for a week really. But my goodness, the information I got from it so far is delicious. I wanted to see what would happen if hair was colored with henna and water only without much heat.

    So, in a plastic bag, I mixed 1t. of henna with 1 1/2t. of cold, filtered water.

    Then I grabbed some mohair, worked it into a fairly thick strand, washed it in cold, filtered water and baking soda, rinsed in more cold, filtered water, squeezed the excess water from it, and put it in the bag.

    I sealed the bag, making sure there was no air in it, smooshed the paste into the strand as well as I could, then I placed the bag on a sheet of Bounty. Folded that so the bag was in the middle of about 6 layers of it. Then I searched for a place to keep it while it set. Unfortunately, one place was barely warm, and the other was too warm. So I opted for the barely warm place, which was on top of the PC's system unit. My hands were cold, and touching it, I didn't feel a whole lot of relief, but I didn't want too much heat in the experiment. So I just hoped for the best.

    2 hours later, I opened up the Bounty sheet and found...dye release. I was completely shocked because the paste was lukewarm at best. I tried to get a glimpse of the strand through the bag and saw orange. Nice... I should have checked for dye release sooner. I just thought with no acid, no terp, and almost no heat at all...well, I just didn't expect much.

    So I set it back on the system unit as I had done before and left it there for another 11 hours, for a total of 13 hours.

    As I was rinsing the strand, I thought, holy crepe, that's intensely orange-red. The color is beautiful. I don't think the curl has been relaxed by much, but the hair is definitely less fluffy. Mohair is very soft to begin with, so not much of a change there.

    Now I'm going to give it a week to fully oxidize. I did not use conditioner or shampoo on it. I don't plan to until the week is up, at which point I'll take before and after pictures in case of any change in the color.

    So this is after rinsing, 3 days, and 7 days later.



    Doesn't look to me like it's fading. It mellowed so it's no longer scary-intense, but it's basically the same color. I'm beginning to re-think my hennaing method.


    Second Experiment

    So I really wanted to try the henna+indigo gloss to see what one would get on gray/white hair with it.

    I grabbed some more mohair. Quite a bit really. I ended up with a pretty, puffy strand of hair.

    I mixed 1/8t. henna and 1/8t. indigo in 1 1/2t. conditioner in a plastic bag.

    I washed the mohair in lukewarm, filtered water and baking soda. Then I rinsed it in more lukewarm, filtered water, squeezed out the excess water, and placed it in the plastic bag. Then I worked as much of the gloss mix into the hair as possible.

    I rolled the bag all the way down so it wasn't keeping air in or out. I placed the bag on a sheet of Bounty which was only folded once. Then I put this on a hot plate that was created to keep drinks warm, but not hot. (I was trying to simulate the warmth from someone's head. The strand eventually got warm--warmer than lukewarm, but nowhere near hot.)

    I counted 30 minutes from the moment I was sure the gloss was completely coating the hair. Then I rinsed immediately.

    The strand is most definitely blond, though not the most golden one. It's also not the lightest blond. It far exceeded my expectations.




    And I thought it might be interesting for everyone to see the contrast between the blond strand and my jet black hair.




    Third Experiment

    So my goal is to see what happens with a 1:2 henna:indigo gloss. That's right. I'm going for brown, as the 1:2 ratio normally gives, but a lighter one. Preferably light brown. And preferably without red. If this ratio doesn't do it for me, I'll find one that does and report all results here.

    I mixed 1/8t. henna and 1/4t. indigo with 1 1/2t. conditioner in a plastic bag.

    I gathered mohair as usual, washed it with cold, filtered water and baking soda, then rinsed it again with lukewarm filtered water. (I didn't try to get any specific temperature. It just happened, and I didn't complain. Just thought I should mention every little factor in case anyone wonders or it's taken into consideration for some reason.)

    Then I put the strand in the bag, sealed as much air out as possible, and smooshed the gloss mix into it as well as I could. Then I put the bag in a sheet of Bounty, and folded it so the bag was between 8 layers of it.

    I placed it on the hot plate till it became fairly warm--more than lukewarm, but far from hot--and then I put it on the PC's system unit which is warmer than the night before though not very warm. It's also warmer than lukewarm, but just barely cooler than the bag.

    I left it for 4 hours. I contemplated leaving it overnight, but I'm trying to think of what might be preferable to people who actually end up putting this on their head. Since I had such lovely timing on dye release with the water-only test, I think 4 hours should allow a pretty good henna stain and the best indigo stain possible through a gloss.

    I rinsed the strand, and sadly, the color was blond. Well, not so sad really, but I didn't achieve my goal.

    I did notice something though. In comparing the two blond strands, I noticed that they're not that much different in shade, but the strand from #3 is more golden than #2. It's also better conditioned and less frizzy. In fact, the waves are much better defined on #3. #2 looks as puffy as it did before the gloss.

    So again, I draw the conclusion that the longer you henna, the better the conditioning effects. Any blonds out there who want to go for the full treatment without going red or beyond, this is your best bet.

    So anyway, here's the pretty, blond strand.




    And this is the comparison shot for experiment 2 and 3.


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    Fourth Experiment

    So though my current goal is light brown, I don't expect this experiment to give that color. What I'm basically doing is finding out what I'm working with. I'm using the same ratio of powder as I did in the last experiment--1:2 henna:indigo--but I'm not using anything to stretch it. Therefore, I'm using enough powders to cover the strand of mohair.

    So I gathered, secured, then washed my mohair using cold, filtered water and baking soda. Then I rinsed it with cold, filtered water, and set it on a sheet of Bounty, out of my way.

    Then I mixed 1/4t. henna and 1/2t. indigo in a plastic bag, added 1 1/2t. cold, filtered water and 1/8t. ACV.

    Yes, I'm using acid. Why? I believe most of the people who used the 1:1 henna:indigo mix to get golden brown in 30 minutes mentioned that it faded. Maybe it was the fact that the water was boiling hot when added to the powders--thereby changing the structure of the dye or how it moves. Or maybe it was the lack of acid. Currently, I'm thinking it was the lack of acid, my husband thinks it could be both. So I want to put that to the test. This may not be the last of such testing.

    Anyway, I put the still wet--not dripping wet--strand into the bag, sealed it, and smooshed the mix into it. Then I put it on a sheet of Bounty, which I folded so it was between 8 layers of it. I put this on the hot plate until it was fairly warm--more than lukewarm, nowhere near hot. Lastly, I put it on the PC's system unit, which is about the same temperature as the bag right now.

    I left this for 4 hours, rinsed, and the strand is very...green. I was hoping I could have avoided having to wait for oxidization, but apparently not. There are some parts that aren't so green, and the brown seems lighter than I expected, so hopefully, this will turn out really well.

    So here it is after rinsing and on the third day after.



    Though it's looking better, I don't think it turned out well. And I'm thinking indigo really does mute henna. At least it was still a learning experience. Please don't try this one, ever.


    Fifth Experiment

    So, since my last experiment was a failure, I'm going to try a new approach. The same ratio, but in a 2-step method. I was inspired by the ladies whose gray/white hair just refused to hold the color from the 1-step. And I figure the reason you get black with henna then indigo is because of the high dye saturation. And then someone mentioned using henna, then indigo+amla. I already feel amla strips henna, so I consider that to be using half as much henna (if so much), and then the indigo is diluted by amla. So I'm keeping the 1:2 henna:indigo ratio, but using cassia to help make it a 2-step method.

    So I worked some mohair into a strand, secured it, and washed it in lukewarm, filtered water and baking soda. Then I rinsed it in cold, filtered water and set it on a sheet of Bounty.

    Then I put 1/4t. henna and 1/2t. cassia in a plastic bag and added 1 1/2t. cold, filtered water to it. I mixed that well, then put the still wet strand into the bag, and sealed it.

    I put the bag on a sheet of Bounty, then folded it so the bag was between 8 layers of it. I put that on the PC's system unit which was slightly warmer than lukewarm.

    I checked it after 45 minutes. The bag was lukewarm, and I noticed dye release. so I left it for 3 more hours, for a total of 3 hours and 45 minutes. Then I rinsed it well in lukewarm, filtered water, and set it aside on a sheet of Bounty.




    Then I put 1/2t. indigo and 1/4t. cassia in a plastic bag, added 1 1/2t. lukewarm, filtered water, and mixed it well. Then I put the still wet strand in the bag, sealed it, and put it back in the folded sheet of Bounty, back on the PC's system unit for 3 hours.

    I rinsed the strand in lukewarm, filtered water. It had a little yellow-green cast at first, but it's oxidizing quickly. There's still some green, but I'm certain that will be gone within the first couple days.

    So here it is.



    And here it's compared to the blond strand from experiment #3.



    And finally, here it is next to my jet black hair.




    Sixth Experiment

    So, I realized that I'd forgotten two very important things I wanted to try. First, I wanted to test the addition of oil to the henna paste.

    So I grabbed some mohair, worked it into a strand, secured it, and set it aside.

    Then I got a plastic bag and mixed 1t. henna with 2t. cold, filtered water. Then I added 1/8t. coconut oil. I chose this amount because this is the ratio I use in my own hair--1/8 as much oil as henna powder. So anyway, I mixed it well again, and I must say the consistency of the henna was just lovely and silken at this point.

    So I washed the strand with cold, filtered water and baking soda, rinsed it in cold, filtered water, squeezed out most of the excess water, and put it in the bag. I then sealed the bag and worked the paste into the strand.

    I put the bag between 8 layers of a folded sheet of Bounty, and set it on the PC's system unit (which is still just barely warmer than lukewarm).

    I left it for 6 hours, then rinsed it. The color looks like that of the strand from the first experiment. I see absolutely no difference.

    So I conclude that coconut oil, at least in this ratio, has no effect on dye uptake.


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    Seventh Experiment

    So the second thing that I realized I had to try was terping. Now, I know that it's been said that it has no effect on the resulting color, but I just have to see it for myself. I realized recently that I was finally able to get a stain on my skin (and scalp) by terping heavily. I've used tea tree EO for many months, and I've increased the amount that I use over this time. But it was only when I started adding about 1 drop per teaspoon of henna powder that I noticed my forehead, my legs, and other parts of my body were actually staining. So now for the test.

    I worked some mohair into a strand, secured it, and set it aside.

    Then I mixed 1t. henna and 2t. water in a plastic bag. I added 1 drop of tea tree EO, and mixed it in as well as I could.

    Then I washed the strand with cold, filtered water and baking soda, rinsed it in cold, filtered water, squeezed most of the excess water out of it, and placed it in the bag. I then sealed the bag and smooshed the paste into it as well as I could.

    I put the bag between 8 layers of a folded sheet of Bounty. Then I put it on the PC's system unit.

    So I rinsed it after 6 hours, and this strand turned out exactly the color of the strand in the first experiment.

    In conclusion, terping more than likely has no effect on the henna stain on hair.



    And here's a comparison of experiments 1, 6, and 7.




    Eighth Experiment

    My goal is to achieve dark brown, definitely not black, using a 2-step method.

    So I got 2 strands of mohair secured.

    I mixed 1t. henna with 2t. cold, filtered water in a plastic bag.

    I washed the mohair with cold, filtered water and baking soda. Rinsed with more cold, filtered water, squeezed out the excess, and put it in the bag. I then sealed the bag and placed it between 8 layers of a folded sheet of Bounty on the PC's system unit.

    I let this sit for 4 1/2 hours. Both strands looked exactly like the one from experiment #1. One strand was a bit smaller than the other.

    So I mixed 3/4t. indigo with 2t. lukewarm, filtered water in a plastic bag. I put the smaller of the 2 strands into this bag, and put it back into the folded sheet of Bounty for 20 minutes.

    The resulting color as I was washing it looked light to medium reddish brown. I set it aside to dry, and it began to look greenish. I tried washing it again, and it was back to the reddish brown color, but as it began to dry, it was back to greenish, so it probably just needs to oxidize. I wasn't able to take pictures right away, but I got them the next morning--16-20 hours later.



    Anyway, I mixed 1/2t. indigo and 1/2t. cassia with 2t. lukewarm, filtered water in a plastic bag. Then I added the second strand to it and placed it back into the folded sheet of Bounty on the system unit for 3 hours.

    As I rinsed this strand, it seemed a little darker than the first, but also more green. Both strands are less green. And now they look very similar in color, though the second is just a bit darker.



    So they're not as dark as I had hoped. Maybe 1:2 cassia:indigo would be better. Of course, I'm sure the results would be different if you have a buildup of henna. Also depending on your natural color. But if you have gray/white hair, you won't get dark brown from this. If your hair is blond, you might.

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    So anyway, I'm not currently experimenting and I can't make any definite plans to, but I would like to again someday when I have the time and money for it. I hope others will post their past and present experiments as well so they can offer even more insight into the plant dyes we use.

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    Yes! The Lexie experiments.

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    Wow amazing documentation Lexie,however I know my hair will look black where the white mohair turned green because it'd dark brown.

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    Thanks for getting these up, Lexie! I'll try to get some of my stuff up, and I hope Iris gets hers up as well.

    Once we come to come solid conclusions about things, I'd like to add a Henna Myths section to the henna article. Just before LHC crashed I had tested honey in henna and found that an increasing amount of honey really diminished the amount of dye release and dye uptake. There was some conjecture on if it was the viscosity of the honey, or the honey itself, so I'd like to repeat the experiment with molassas (which I have) to see how that shakes out.

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    Lizzie your experiments are impressive.

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    Thank you, guys. Zift, I'm sure it would. My hair is too dark to bother with indigo and I like my few grays being orange.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nightshade View Post
    Thanks for getting these up, Lexie! I'll try to get some of my stuff up, and I hope Iris gets hers up as well.

    Once we come to come solid conclusions about things, I'd like to add a Henna Myths section to the henna article. Just before LHC crashed I had tested honey in henna and found that an increasing amount of honey really diminished the amount of dye release and dye uptake. There was some conjecture on if it was the viscosity of the honey, or the honey itself, so I'd like to repeat the experiment with molassas (which I have) to see how that shakes out.
    Didn't we already have one up and running before LHC went down? And we discussed Amla + Henna as well (among other things)... Can't remember now what conclusions were, but I think we decided that Amla compromised Henna uptake, rather than cooling or darkening it - producing an overall lightening effect. But that depended on the point at which the two were mixed (I think).

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