Henna: A Natural Hair Dye

Just because you work the land and want to live a simpler, more natural lifestyle doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a little pampering.

by Dawn Combs

If not mixed with other herbs, henna will dye your hair red.

Running a farm can be so rewarding but hard on the body. Before I entered this “field” (sorry, I couldn’t resist), I was working a corporate job. The hours were hard and it took a different toll on my body, but I spent a lot more time on personal pampering. Granted, I was living a different life, and the products I was using then would not be part of my world today. There were occasional spa trips, manicures, pedicures and massages. The thought of it seems like I saw it in a movie rather than actually lived it. When I moved away from the corporate world, I simplified a lot. I began removing chemicals from my day-to-day life, and many of the treats simply didn’t fit in anymore.

Fast-forward to this week, when I passed by a mirror and saw a woman who hadn’t taken any time for pampering in too long. It happens bit by bit. You are up very early in the morning to care for animals or bring in a harvest. Your fingernails tear with the effort of groping in the dirt for the roots of weeds. You’re too exhausted to even spread on the homemade body cream after a shower because all you want is to drop your clean body onto the bed and pass out as soon as possible.

One of the luxuries I got rid of the fastest when I changed my life was hair dye. Gone are the days of expensive salon highlights. Now, my highlights are the grey hair that burning the candle at both ends have provided. This week, I decided to pamper myself by giving myself a sustainable coloring job with henna.

What Is Henna?

Henna is a desert plant, and the leaves are what are powdered and used as a dye.

Henna is a desert native. In most of the country, this means that you will want to grow it as a houseplant. Start with a soil medium that is specific to cacti and water only occasionally. It likes to live in drought conditions, so watering a little bit at a time will actually create problems. This is a sunny, greenhouse plant and if it is happy it will grow several feet in only a few years.

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If you’re growing your own, you will need to pick the leaves, dry them and then powder them before using it as a hair dye. 

Coloring Your Hair

If you don't grow your own henna, you can purchase it fairly inexpensively.

I don’t have a good place to grow henna yet, so I buy it in a mix for about $5, which includes a few other herbs. It takes about 2 ounces of powder to color my hair. Sometimes I mix it up with some coffee my husband left over in the pot.

You can customize your henna to match many different colors, which is surprising to most people. If you use just the henna plant alone you’re likely to get anywhere between orange and red as a result. This is the reason so many women avoid using. I can honestly say I’ve never had a scary experience that resulted in my wanting to hide my hair under a fashionable hat or favorite scarf.

Yesterday, I mixed up 2 ounces of henna powder and half a cup of water until it looked like a batch of cake icing. I smoothed it into my hair with gloved hands, starting at the roots, until my whole head looked like I’d been playing in the mud. I made breakfast for the kids while it set, and 45 minutes later, with no interruption in my day and no toxic chemicals, my gray hair is now a lovely red highlight and my hair is beautifully conditioned.

When you live a life that calls for frugality, good sense and a no-nonsense approach to beauty, it is easy to let some of the pampering slide. I propose that both you and I find a few ways to treat ourselves from time to time to a bit of frivolity. It’s good for the soul, good for our health and it can actually still be good for the pocket book.

This morning I passed the mirror and smiled—until I noticed the dark under-eye circles …

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