You can put henna in your hair?
I was debating changing up my hair colour for a while, except I didn’t want to deal with the damage caused by contemporary hair dyes. “Too bad,” I always thought. “I guess you’ll have to live with your boring mousy brown hair colour. At least it’s healthy.”
That is, until I learned about hair henna.
I was browsing the LUSH website under the “hair” section when I found it. Hair henna? I had never heard of such a thing. I knew about henna of course, but to my mind, henna was the stuff Indians used to make those beautiful designs on the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet. I never knew you could put it in your hair.
It seemed a bit odd-looking - a brick of what looked like chocolate that apparently you were supposed to cut into bits, melt down, and apply to your hair. And this was supposed to work?
My hair to start
To start, I should say that I had mousy-brown, rather thick, medium-length hair down to about my shoulders, for which the saleslady said three squares would be enough (it was). I had dirty blonde hair as a child, and as a result I still have some natural blonde-ish highlights. Henna (or any hair dye, for that matter), tends to have the most vibrant results on blonde, light hair, and because my hair was not that dark I figured I’d be a good candidate. Henna actually darkens the hair, so if you have dark brown or black hair you will not get a mane of red hair from using Caca Rouge Mama, you will only have healthier, shinier hair with a red tint to it in the light. As a side note, you cannot get a perm after using henna. Not that anyone even gets perms anymore, but I thought I’d mention that, just to be safe.
I was skeptical but after reading the good reviews given to it and the apparent benefits of using it, I decided to give it a try. The next day I went to LUSH, inquired about “Caca Rouge Mama” (I felt pretty stupid saying “caca,” which means poo in French), and picked up a brick along with some Trichomania shampoo and some Veganese conditioner (which the saleslady said was gentle enough to help keep the colour). I could hardly wait to try it out.
When I got home I prepared a double-boiler as was instructed, cut up three squares (half) the bar (I kept joking that I was baking, seeing as it looked like I was cutting up a massive bar of semisweet chocolate) and melted the shavings down, adding small amounts of water to what looked like a giant bowl of mud to help turn it to a workable consistency. The bar had already had a spicy, Eastern smell to it, which was only intensified when heated. I will warn you in advance that the smell is quite strong and smells like spices and curry. If you are very bothered by the smell I would not suggest using it, as the smell lingered both in my hair and in my condo for days afterward. Personally, I added some cinnamon to the mixture to improve the smell.
The instructions said to continue adding water until it looked like “un-whipped double cream,” so when I thought the mixture was creamy enough I got ready to apply it to my hair. However, it was far too hot and as a result, it had to cool (I was so excited that it was excruciating waiting for it). I ended up forgetting about it, and had to reheat it a bit because it had gone quite cold (whoops). Finally, I went to the bathroom, covered the back of my neck, forehead, and the sides of my face with Vaseline (to prevent the skin being dyed), spread newspaper all over the floor, put on my rubber gloves and leaned my head over the tub to contain as much mess as possible. And my God, was there a mess.
It turns out (I didn’t know this at the time) that I hadn’t added nearly enough water to the mixture, and as a result it was the consistency of thick mud. As you can imagine, it was hard to apply because it was so thick, and it went everywhere, clumping and falling off my hair onto the floor, in the tub, and even on my pants. When I was finished, the bathroom looked as though I had just attempted to hog-tie an angry, muddied pig (and lost). So that wasn’t exactly convenient. Oh, and be warned that it will stain your towels, so use ones you don’t care about.
Leaving it In & Rinsing it Out
Also, again because I hadn’t added enough water, the mixture dried very quickly and began to crumble off my head. To remedy this, I sprayed my head liberally with water from a spray bottle and massaged it in, which helped a bit. The feeling of it all on your head is mildly uncomfortable, and felt rather like my head had been encased in concrete. It took a few minutes to get used to the heaviness and my neck complained a bit, but it wasn’t so bad.
I swiftly wrapped my head in cling wrap, and played the waiting game. The online reviewers had recommended wrapping the hair in a towel to retain the heat and reheating it every few hours with a blow-dryer to reactivate the colour (the hotter the henna is when you apply it, the more vibrant the colour), which I did. Ultimately I left it in for about 6 hours, from around 7 at night to 1 in the morning. During this time the henna turned from mud to a slimy green goo, which I had to repeatedly wipe off the back of my neck and the sides of my face lest my skin be dyed red. I decided against sleeping with the concoction, scared of my hair turning a flaming, irreversible ginger colour (you can’t try to bleach or strip henna from the hair with chemicals, this will only open the hair shaft and let the henna permeate even more).
Washing it all out was also quite a process. Not only did it take several times to shampoo out, but it looked like I had just taken a mud bath. The tub was coated in the muddy, granular substance and I had to rinse it out afterwards and scrub it with bleach to prevent discolouration.
Finally, it was all rinsed out, and, excitedly, I sprang from the shower to the mirror and checked my handiwork. I expected bright ginger but my hair was wet (and therefore rather dark). However, in the light I could see a distinctly red colour. I towelled off my hair a bit and went to bed (I put a towel over my pillow in case there was still henna residue in my hair), and in the morning I woke up, went to the bathroom and was greeted with gingery hair. I was ecstatic and quite pleased with the results. One half of my head was slightly redder than the other (my fault), and it wasn’t quite as bright as I had hoped, but still, a very nice result.
I got complimented on it quite a bit, although it was subtle enough that not everyone noticed. The good thing about hair henna is that it works with your pre-existing colour – unlike hair dyes from a bottle, everyone will get a different result. Ultimately the effect is lovely and very natural.
Caca Rouge Mama worked for me with good results, and I’m planning on using it again sometime soon (the colour has faded a bit, and I still have half a bar to use). I read on the site recently that you can add a teaspoon of paprika to every two squares for a redder colour, so I’m going to try that out too. Next time however, I am going to add far more water to the mixture and apply it with a squirt bottle, which should greatly help to eliminate mess. I highly recommend this product, despite the mess and the smell, because it is actually good for your hair and the environment and produces comparable results to traditional hair dyes.
So if you’re considering changing up your hair colour, go out and get some of LUSH’s Cacas. They come in Caca Noir, Caca Marron, Caca Rouge and Caca Brun (for black, auburn, red, and brown hair colours, respectively). Happy henna-ing!
Tim from Los Angeles, CA on October 02, 2013:
Not sure I'd want something called Caca going on my face! Good hub, though!
Celine (author) from Canada on October 12, 2011:
Maddie: exactly! Chemical or otherwise, and sort of hair colour is going to involve some kind of odour/messiness!
jojo: Thanks! & Mixing the two sounds like a pretty interesting colour combo, thanks for the tip :)
jojo on October 11, 2011:
hello..i love your hair after caca rouge..i have dark brown hair and mixed a block of rouge with brun..and that too gives amazing results..why not try xxx
you wont be sorry....it will give a more lighter brown chestnut colour...xxxxx
Maddie on August 08, 2011:
I love caca rouge henna. I've read so many reviews bashing it for being smelly and messy, but what hair dye isn't?? I mean when you think about how much you're saving your hair, the chemical stuff can't win! I do wish I could get a redder color (my hair is pretty dark brown) but this is the best stuff I've used and I've tried everything.
Celine (author) from Canada on January 16, 2011:
You should have a good result, I know I was pleased with my gingery hair afterwards. I'm glad I could be of help! :)
Inga on January 16, 2011:
Thank you so much for posting this! I've been wanting to henna my hair for over a year now, but instead I've always turned to the horrible chemical hair dyes. Now, after reading this, I'm finally going to try henna! discovered the Caca Rouge Mama a few days ago and I've been wanting to try it, but it wasn't until I read this that I was completely sure. You had the excact same length and hair color to start with as I have, so I think I'll get a good result :)