In the last few months white-gray hairs have been sprouting on my head like it’s going out of style. Hair color, and especially going gray, is a tricky topic for any clean girl. One we haven’t discussed in some time…
So what are the options? Dirty dyes, magic markers, or long meditations on acceptance? Here’s how I see it breaking down.
The Dirty Way: We’ve always said that this clean thing is an 80/20 game. Siobhan and I both get infrequent highlights, and I truly believe that if coloring your hair is making you happy then that’s worth a whole lot of something. BUT, we wouldn’t be us if we didn’t remind you (and ourselves) that several ingredients in hair dye are known to be carcinogenic in animals. According to current research, the risk that hair dye causes cancer in humans seems slim, but this type of research is notoriously difficult to conduct. That’s why our motto is to avoid these types of chemicals whenever we can. And given that dyes are created to last, even the semi-permanent ones, when you dye your hair you’re living with these chems for a long time.
Do you dye your hair despite the known risks?
The Natch and Semi-Natch Solutions: Rebecca is a big proponent of henna, though even henna has not entirely avoided controversy (most of it around black henna tattoos). Then there are the so-called natural hair dyes (are they ever really natural?), which Siobhan ventured to try when we were writing the book. The results sucked, but that was a while ago.
Has anyone here found a natural dye they absolutely love?
Beyond that, there are the true hippie tricks like using coffee and tea and lemon juices to change one’s hair color.
Does coffee color grays in brown hair?
Diet and Prayers: We believe that what we eat affects how we look at feel, but can certain foods actually reverse grays? I wrote about this a while ago, when I met a woman who had been dosing on kelp—and, lo and behold, her white hair had started growing in brown at the root. Donna Gates, the author of The Body Ecology Diet—who also eats a regimen rich in sea vegetables—is well into her 60s and doesn’t have a single gray. When I met her she told me it was the diet and the twice-weekly colonics she’d been getting for years. You can’t make this stuff up.
Have any of you experimented with diet to reverse or prevent grays?
Acceptance: And last but not least, it seems more and more women are happily rocking their grays. My mother does it, and I think it looks great with her eyes and skin tone. The 38-year-old woman pictured above also looks incredible.
For the moment, I’m practicing semi-acceptance and going to be upping my kelp intake. But I’m not ruling anything out. If these grays continue on their war path, I may just have to take up arms.
So, which camp are you in?
The last dirty product I ditched was hair dye. I loved the fun of coloring, but more than that I am very emotional about covering my grey. One day I hope to rock an edgy silver bob, but that’s a decade or two off still.
If you are one of those who embrace your natural aging process—and your grays—more power to you. But if, like me, you want to cover them and stay clean, henna is a great way to do it. It’s also a fun way to play with color, and easy too.
Almost everything I know about henna I learned from Henna For Hair and from experimenting on my own. I highly recommend checking out that site for recipes, techniques, and the chemistry of henna. They cover everything. And they sell the body art quality henna I have used for over a year.
Here are seven things you should know.
1. Henna, in combination with other plants known as cassia and indigo, can do any color from strawberry blonde, through the reds/auburns and browns to black. It cannot do a true blonde, and it cannot make your hair lighter.
2. High quality henna covers grey beautifully, and is permanent. You will need to do your roots as often as you would if you were using conventional dyes. Every so often you will probably want to pull the color throughout your hair, since, just like your natural color, exposure to the elements can fade color.
3. Real, pure henna will not damage your hair and is non-toxic. Sometimes there are boxes at the store that say henna on them, and it might be some version of henna mixed with other chemicals. I’ve never seen pure henna at any store.
4. Transitioning from conventional dye to henna is not as hard or scary as it seems. You can henna over conventional dye. There is a learning curve with henna, but once you get your routine down it is easy. Gorgeous, healthy hair is well worth it to me.
5. You have to plan ahead. The henna I use must be mixed up several hours before I use it to allow the dye to release.
6. Yes, it can be messy. But if you plan ahead and are careful it’s totally manageable. If you get henna on your skin or anything else, just wipe it off with some warm water on a paper towel. A proper mixture is pretty thick and won’t be dripping all over.
7. The color you end up with depends on your color to begin with, your ratio of henna to indigo or cassia, and how long you leave it on. Also, the color will deepen a bit in the few days post-application. The website has a chart with the basics, and many additional recipes. You can call them for advice (I did before my first time). Also, I did some experimentation with hair saved from my brush, and it alleviated my concern that I would end up with a weird color.
In Part 2 I’ll cover my personal recipe and techniques.
Have you tried henna? Do you want to?
Good morning everybody–meet Alex! She tries to steer clear of perfumes, and is a pro with body oils. Right now she’s diggin’ the Yes To line, but she’s also interested in finding other brands, too. Her routine is no-fuss, but fun. Read on!
Name: Alex (la feminine)
Current weather: Unseasonably warm and sunny
Hair: Shoulder length and choppy, contains some lingering blue-green tones from last fall’s impulsive Manic Panic dye job, but otherwise dark brown.
Skin: Not too bad- forehead & nose tend to be slightly on the oily, break-out-y side, cheeks tend to be dry. I get those annoying zitty-things on my upper arms, but my feet/legs/hands tend to be dry.
Favorite star or icon from the past: Louise Brooks- I haven’t actually ever seen her movies, but I love her style.
In the shower…
I usually shower about midday, but I work at home so it’s really “whenever I feel like it.” I start with Giovanni shampoo (which one varies, I like to mix it up) and either Giovanni or YesTo Carrots conditioner. Sometimes I do it backwards, for a change of pace (but I can’t say I’ve noticed a real difference.) I like both brands because they work very much like conventional brands while still being pretty clean- Giovanni even smells delicious without making my head spin (I can’t really tolerate most smells.) YesTo still has a bit of fragrance but it’s so mild I don’t notice it (their shampoo has sulfates though, so watch out for that.) I later up everywhere with a soft natural sponge and Dr. Bronners (I like Eucalyptus, it really clears the sinuses…but I’ve been trying the other varieties too, lately.) For shaving, I use Alba Botanica’s Unscented Very Emollient Cream Shave. Most days I just rinse my face off in the warm water, but every few days (or if I’m broken out or feeling grimy) I use Evan Healy’s Rose Cleansing Milk. Finish off with a pumice stone to the heels.
Outside the shower…
If I used the Cleansing Milk, I skip right to the moisturizing, otherwise I use a little Kiss My Face Antioxidant Toner (I also use it on those little arm bumpies, or sometimes Witch Hazel.) If I’m going to be outside much that day, I use YesTo Blueberries Age Refresh Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 30 (it’s made for older folks, but it was the only variety with no artificial fragrance- unfortunately it doesn’t absorb very well, probably because of the physical sunscreens. I will probably try another brand when this runs out.) If I’m not going to be outside much, I use Acure Chamomile + Carrot Day Cream, which is great. The rest of my routine is a little greasy, so I save it for nighttime: my all-over body oil is a homemade concoction that is about two thirds grapeseed oil, one third jojoba oil, and a dash of argan oil (grapeseed and argan are Aura Cacia, jojoba is Desert Essence.) About every other night I use pure argan oil on my face and sometimes my arms in hopes of cheering up the pores and stopping breakouts, though to be honest I haven’t noticed it being much better than my body-oil concoction (and it’s expensive and stinky) so once it runs out I might try something else. Immediately before bed, my feet and hands get shea buttered (either pure, or Nubian Heritage with Goat’s Milk and Chai.) I wash my hands a lot so throughout the day I use Weleda Skin Food on them periodically- it’s a little pricy but pretty amazing.
I wear make up very, very (like, VERY) rarely, so I haven’t switched all of it over to clean brands yet. The only things I use regularly are Gabriel Color concealor and YesTo Carrots Berry lip butter. I’ve been sort of moving away from the YesTo products but I do love this stuff- it’s mostly coconut oil and it works (and smells and tastes) great. The only “perfume” I can tolerate is a little bit of vanilla mixed with jojoba oil. I haven’t found a clean deodorant that satisfies my intense desire not to sweat yet, so I’m still using an unscented conventional super-toxic brand :-( If I’m just staying at home all day, though, I’ll often skip it. I jumped on the nailpolish bandwagon last summer and have amassed quite a collection- I usually go for Zoya or OPI or another 3 (or 4)-free brand, though even then I have to paint ‘em outside because of the reek. I use Bee Naturals cuticle and nail oil to keep them from drying out. No hair products, I’m a wash & go kind of gal (on the rare occasion that I color it, I try to veer towards the less damaging semi-permanent conditioner-based stuff. Unfortunately it’s really hard to find natural colors. Henna & indigo may be in my future.)
Anybody else thinking henna this summer?