Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Indigo Experiment!

So I think I did pretty good with my little henna experiment for a first timer and I'm quite looking forward to layering another application on top of this one. Gotta be careful though. Henna can cause a loosening in my curl pattern and I love my curls! Next time I'm thinking about adding Amla, another Ayurvedic herb (traditional medicines native to India), that is said to prevent the loosening effect.

Unfortunately, I couldn't take a pic of the final dry result because I had other plans for my mane...

Indigofera tinctoria or Indigo
Photo courtesy of
I wanted to dye my hair jet black with Indigo. Indigo, often called "black henna", is not henna at all (like the colorless cassia obovata or "neutral henna" from my previous post).  It is super important when purchasing products that are labeled "black henna", to make sure that the ingredient is actually indigo, or indigofera tinctoria. Otherwise it may include the harmful chemical Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) which are often included in chemical hair dyes. And if you're looking for a natural way to color your hair, the inclusion of the chemicals would defeat your purpose. It can also result in a terrible allergic reaction!  Because the packaging of many ayurvedic herbs are not Americanized, an easy way to tell if you are getting actual indigo is to look for a greenish powder (said by some to smell like frozen peas, to me it smells like spinach). The powder should not be black!! It only turns dark after mixing in water and after the dye releases. Even then, it is not black. You can read more about PPD's here.

On to my experiment!! I know I said I wasn't happy with the Light Mountain brand of cassia obovata (neutral henna). However, that may be due in part to some errors on my end (not using enough, etc.) I still returned the empty box to Whole Foods and was promptly given a refund. Yay Whole Foods!! But since indigo doesn't seem to be readily available at the Indian grocer where I found the henna (probably because of the extremely short shelf life) and I didn't feel like waiting and paying for shipping from an online retailer, I went ahead and picked up a box of the Light Mountain in Black (around $6 bucks). I carefully checked the ingredients to make sure that it was actual indigo and yep, indigofera tinctoria was listed. It also listed henna as ingredient and I knew that it was also common in commercially sold indigo to include a mix with henna. I knew this may lessen my chances of getting that black black BLACK that I was looking for but I decided to give it a try anyway. I could always return it right ;-)

I must say I was totally prepared for my henna treatment. Plastic gloves, ready! Newspaper, ready! Old towels, ready! But the process moves A LOT faster with the indigo. Once it is done being mixed ( I mixed with rose water found at the Indian grocery store for $2.99!...this stuff costs $10 at the health food store, but I digress...) you only have a few minutes to apply. It is said that the dye actually loses its dying ability after about 30 minutes. So it was GO time.

I was doing the two step process to indigo my hair. With the two-step process the indigo should be applied immediately after the rinsing of the henna. I probably should not have applied conditioner first. The indigo needs to settle on top of the henna. Otherwise, it may be ineffective. All this chemistry makes me dizzy!

So I ended up giving my hair a light wash first with a light sulfate-free shampoo (I used JASON natural jojoba shampoo) in an attempt to rid my hair of the outer layer of conditioner. I mixed the indigo in a plastic bowl (for some reason it is important to not use metal with these herbs. I didn't put any effort into finding out why. I just did as I was told lol) with my rose water until it was a yogurt-like texture. I quickly piled it on to my head doing my best to get every section saturated with the amount I had. Again, I felt like I could have used another box. Yet, I felt it was more sufficient than the cassia failure. I finally got my whole head covered and plastic baggied. This stuff was WAYYY messier than the henna. Between the goopy consistency and the dark blue color, I knew I had to move quick to get my body and my surrounding area clean before the color stained. Blue face for NYE = tragedy.

Or perhaps...

Not a good look...

So you believe me when I say...this was messy? Didn't take any pics of the indigo on my hair because I didn't want it anywhere near my precious cam. I kept the dye on my hair for one hour. All of a sudden at the end of the hour, this stuff starts dripping like crazy!! Down the back of my neck, down my face, everywhere!! I RAN to the shower and flung off my cap, throwing my head back into the water. Then I thought of how extremely careless I was being. Sure enough, I turn around and my whole shower wall is dark blue! OH my goodness. Luckily, it came off of the tile with no problem after I was done rinsing. I didn't shampoo because Indigo is very temporary and lasts only a few washes. I didn't even condition at this point because I have read that the indigo needs to settle in and become darker without product for 48 hours. This was going to be a challenge. No conditioner? No putting in any butters or creams or oils or potions?!? Oh boy. BUT, my hair was still so soft from the henna and actually felt even softer after the indigo (don't know if this was an effect of the indigo or of the added henna) and I found that I could lay it into a bun with just water, a brush, and a scarf and there it stayed for the two days.

Right after rinsing...I look satisfied right?

Does it look BLACCKKK? Probably not as black as I hoped
Some of those curls look mighty happy

No shampoo or conditioner added yet

As for the blackosity (thats a word!!), I really don't feel like I had some true blackness of the blackest night jet black going on, but my hair is pretty dark. I didn't see my two little special gray hairs in there so I suppose it worked. I felt the glossiness and shine was amped up a bit and that's a major plus. So no, I won't be taking my little empty box back to Whole Foods. I might even try it again or possibly order pure indigo online.

Some things that helped my experiments along the way...

Detangling with my new Denman brush!! 
I'm seriously loving this brush even more than I was here. It made detangling a breeze and my hair stayed very well detangled instead of curling back on itself after a couple of seconds like normal. Being able to part  through my hair with my fingers while applying the henna made the process quick and easy.

Blogs and Forums 
Curly Nikki...the natural haired henna queen. Her before and afters speak for themselves. Her hair is super shiny and just plain gorgeous. She's been hennaing for years and is a great resource for anything you need to know. The site that she administrates, Henna For Hair, is another fabulous resource for those who are curious about henna and other treatments. 

Old towels, sponge (for the occasional splash that needs to be cleaned up QUICK), newspapers, gloves, plastic shower caps, cotton balls should be well thought out and at the ready. You don't wanna be caught off-guard while doing any of these treatments.

I  hope this has been helpful or at least entertaining! :-)

Just got my hair flat ironed with the 1" Sedu Ionic Ceramic Tourmaline Flat Iron and it didn't disappoint at all! Rocking a different look for NYE!! Holler!


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