Snow-pocalypse Jonas: Hair Henna Edition

This weekend, with the predictions that we’d get hit with a mega snowstorm, I decided to use the housebound time as an opportunity to henna my hair. I’ve been using Lush’s Henna Hair Dye for a couple of years now because I was curious about the “all natural” method of coloring my hair after years of conventional home dyes. Unlike chemical dyes, which, from my understanding, rip open your hair follicle and replace your natural color with a dye, henna actually slowly permeates your follicles while sealing them. While chemical dyes can leave your hair brittle and weak from this damaging process, henna is restorative and healthy.

A few years ago, I started with Lush’s “caca marron” (yeah, weird name, I know), which boasted that it dyed hair a “deep chestnut.” I always ended up a redhead, along the lines of Emma Stone. Recently though, I’ve wanted something darker, so I tried “caca brun,” which gives me the right deep and dark brown that I want in the fall/winter months.

So, here’s what you need:

  1. A brick of henna hair dye
  2. Extra spices (optional)
  3. Cutting board
  4. Sturdy knife
  5. Dish cloth
  6. Heat-resistant bowl
  7. Wooden spoon
  8. Lots of newpaper
  9. Vaseline, Waxelene, or Ultrabalm
  10. Gloves
  11. Grubby t-shirt
  12. Plastic wrap
  13. Good book to pass the time (or Netflix… or moderate amounts of wine)
  14. Shampoo
  15. Conditioner

Not pictured, but also needed: boiling water and hair clips.

Step 1: Lay out newpaper (or grocery ads, whatever) all across your bathroom floor and in your sink. Henna gets MESSY!

Step 2: Unwrap your brick and cut it up. I put the dish towel over the knife back because the bricks are hard to cut.

The bricks are actually lined so you can easily cut your brick into six squares. I cut the block down to squares, portion out what I need, bag the remainder in a Ziploc, and chop what I’ll use into smaller bits.

Because I have shoulder length hair, I use about two squares. The Lush employees initially suggested I use more (like three or four squares), but I find that I have too much product left over. Plus I’m cheap and like to squeeze as many dyes as I can out of one $27 brick!

(Lush also recommends using one square and doing a test on a strand of hair before doing your whole head. I skipped the test because I’ve used this dye before and I’ve dyed my hair every color, so I really don’t care about what color it turns out. If you do the test, take one square and follow the same directions for cooking and treating a strand at the nape of your neck before doing your whole head.)

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You’ll notice some weird powder in this photo: it’s cinnamon and cloves! I read that cinnamon, cloves and coffee will increase the brown color, while paprika or red wine will increase the red. Feel free to experiment (just do so in moderation the first few times you henna so you get a sense of color). I used about a teaspoon of cinnamon and a half-teaspoon of cloves.

Step 3: Add just-under-boiling water. You want the water hot enough to mix and melt the henna chunks, but not enough to burn your head. You also want enough water that you’ll get a fair smooth paste: not thick and dry, nor watery and runny.

Step 4: Mix and break up the henna chunks. My mix ended looking like this, kind of like batter, with some chunks of henna in it, but fairly smooth overall.

Step 5: Head the bathroom with that bad boy mix! Make sure any cats are out of there before application because you don’t need a henna-ed feline. I nestle my bowl in my bathroom sink.

Step 6: Pin your hair up in segments. I leave the lower half of my hair — below my ears and by my nape — down because I’ll start with that section first. I pin the upper part of my hair — at the crown of my head — because I’ll work up that area last. It’s easier to do the hardest parts of your hair and head first because you’re essentially applying impenetrable mud to yourself.

Step 7: Apply your Vaseline, Waxelene, or Ultrabalm all along your hair line. That includes your forehead, in and behind your ears and at the nape of your neck. It’s ok if a little gets in the random strands of your hair. This is to protect your skin from getting tinged any weird shades of red or brown.

Step 8: Put on your gloves.

Step 9: Take a big ole glop of henna from your bow; I used my hands, but you could probably try a brush of some sort. Apply said glop to the lowest part of your hair, that bit that’s hanging down at your nape. Pretty much, you want to take the henna and apply/rub/mush into your hair from your roots to ends. Apply until that section is saturated.

I take each glopy section, twist it, and press it to my scalp. The henna paste works like a strong enough adhesive to make that twist stick to my head.

Step 10: When the lower half is done, take down another section that you’ve pinned up and apply the henna as you did to the lower section by applying, rubbing, and mushing. Twist and stick to your head if you can. Finish with the final section in the same manner.

Step 11: When you’ve finished all the sections, apply any extra henna to your head as a general covering. I pretty mush make a henna helmet.

Step 12: Remove your gloves carefully.

Step 13: Very carefully, take your roll of plastic wrap and wrap your entire henna-ed scalp in plastic. It make take several passes, but cover everything. I always end up going a couple of inches below my hair line at my nape and over my ears. You won’t be pretty, but it’ll help from getting henna EVERYWHERE while you let it cure.

I made a time lapse video of steps 6 through 13. It’s about 40 seconds, but I think it took me approximately 25 minutes from applying the Waxelene to plastic wrapping. Remember: I’ve done this a few times, so your first attempt may not be as quick or as easy.

Step 14: I always get henna down my shirt so I stand in the shower to remove my henna-ing shirt, wipe any excess off, and maybe put on another crummy shirt for the wait.

Step 15: Wait for two to four hours. (I know — forever!). I like to use this time to read a book, watch some Netflix, and drink a glass of wine.

Step 16: Shower time. I try to rinse as much crud (because it will feel like this) out of my hair first, usually by turning my head upside down in the shower. Then I shampoo, which releases a lot of the henna. Then I condition — sometime twice — until I feel all of the product is out.

Step 17: Dry your hair with a dark towel or old t-shirt. While I’ve bleached henna out of white towels, I’ve learned to just avoid dying them accidentally entirely. Also, remember to q-tip your ears! (I find henna everywhere on me: ears, armpits, between toes…)

Step 18: Enjoy your new hue!

Is this a super intense way to dye hair? You betcha! Why would on earth would I spend 3-4 hours on this process when I could easily go to salon and/or home dye in a third of that time?!

First, the color lasts a lot longer I find; any time I’ve chemically dyed my hair this shade of brown, it turns red in two weeks. This color will last me about four to six. Second, my hair feels so much healthier with henna than chemical dye — softer, smoother. Three, I love the more natural color because my highlights come through my predominantly this way and it fades naturally too, instead of that weird root landing strip effect. Four, I like to have this time to pamper myself (henna nights are also my pluck-and-wax-random-hair/shave-and-lotion-leg/use-my-most-expensive-face-mask all while drinking wine nights). This ain’t for everyone, but I like it!

 

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Lesson #5: Splurge on Quality Products If You’ll Use Them

You’re getting two lessons in one day, folks! (I missed yesterday because I pulled a double at the theatre and passed out on the couch before writing up a post.)

Lesson #4 was finding a qualified dermatologist and putting your skin in their hands. This lesson ties in very closely to that, I think: if you find a beauty product you love and know you’ll use it repeatedly indefinitely, then it’s ok to splurge a bit. Am I saying I spend $500 on an eye cream? No. (Oh hell no!) But I will spend $27 on a foundation that’s in my shade exactly and helps treat acne that I’ll use every singe day for at least six months. Or $34 on the only conditioner I’ve ever used that was moisturizing without making my head look like a greasy mop (and I knew would last me, literally, a year and a half). Or $22 on the most enduring eye liner I’ve sampled.

While these prices aren’t outrageous to some of you, my lovely readers, they would have been to me ten years ago. But my more adult logic is this: when I was in my early twenties, I would go to the local drug store and buy a handful of products for $5-$10 each. None of them would work as well as I would hope for (the lipstick would bleed, the foundation would be blotchy, the shampoo would build up after one wash, etc.), so I would go back the next month and buy similar products in the same price range and repeat the whole scenario ad nauseam, wasting so. much. cash.

When I discovered both Birchbox and Sephora, my beauty buying habits changed immensely. Getting monthly samples for only $10 from Birchbox allowed me to try so many different things without investing in a product until I knew it worked. And Sephora… Well, their sampling and return policy is to die for wonderful, so I’m never afraid to buy merchandise knowing I can bring it back, no questions asked (like the Clarisonic brush that I despised!). The fear of spending $20-$30 on one thing dissipated as soon as I knew that the price met the legitimate quality. While I spend too much money on beauty stuff (true fact), it’s all stuff that I use regularly and can rely on to work, as opposed to those products that would linger on the shelf and get tossed after six months.

 

Lesson #4: Love Your Dermatologist

I’ve had horrible skin since I was 13 years old: oily and acne-prone, I’ve often joked with people how I feel like I have had mini-Mount Vesuviuses on my face for almost 20 years. I’ve run the gamut of product treatments, from the over the counter creams (that are often too abrasive) to a course of Accutane (aka isotretinoin), the most diehard prescription for acne available). Some have worked really well, while others have caused more trouble than original problem.

Through this all, I’ve learned the valuable lesson of loving my dermatologist. She has a degree in knowing skin, so I trust her when I’m having problems. She’s told me what I’ve been doing wrong (like using apricot pit facial scrubsouch!), explored various options to relieve my dermal dilemmas (like taking oral antibiotics), and been supportive when I wanted to hide under a mask for months on end. Plus, my doctor always gives me coupons, vouchers, and alternatives when it comes to paying for products. Oh — and samples! She loves samples! (And so do I !)

If you’re having any type of skin ailment — rosacea, hyper-pigmentation, acne, psoriasis, eczema, or some thing that’s simply bothering you — find a qualified, caring dermatologist,  schedule an appointment and make a new best friend.

Lesson #1: Wear (Red) Lipstick.

Bam. I’m throwing it out there as my very first lesson learned. Wear red lipstick.

Are you asking me why? Well. Here’s my reason.

This is my huge confession: I feel like a huge fraud half of my life. Despite having this blog and being an amateur blogger, I have a lot of days that I don’t think I dress well or interestingly enough to warrant doing this. I fumble through putting on makeup. And forget about hair: you really do not want to see me try to using a curling iron. I feel like the least naturally girly person in existence.

But for some reason, I swipe on some red lipstick and I feel like I hit the self-esteem lottery: suddenly I have my act together and I’m a bonafide lady-boss. It takes two seconds and makes me suddenly feel like I can handle my shit.

The first time I wore lipstick was my 28th birthday. I worked a job with a not-nice person who made me cry regularly, it was cold and I decided to wear the biggest, reddest hue possible because, well, it was my birthday! On your birthday, you can do whatever you want! That day, every single lady in the office commented on how much they loved it, and  (what I found more interesting) how they wished they could pull it off. I adored the attention and conversation it brought up, but also, how people thought I was confident and daring. There was some weird symbiotic magic that they thought I was brave, so I became suddenly it.

Six weeks after that fateful birthday, I dared to wear that same bold lip to my interview for my museum gig. Not that it scored me my job, but I did have several people comment after I started how memorable I was because of it. Now it’s like my trademark there — I can’t get enough! I wouldn’t say wearing red lipstick changed my life, but, well, it kind of did in a way.

So, my non-lipstick-wearing-loves, try it: find a shade — red, orange (DO IT!), purple, coral — and do it one day. See how you feel. Does it make you feel invincible? Or do you hate the attention it warrants?

May 2015 Birchbox Review

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My May 2015 Birchbox was a so-so mix. The box was pretty (though not as lovely as April’s!), but the products left much to be desired.

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Not a Perfume by Juliette Has a Gun. The base of this scent, according to the BB website, is “Cetalox,” which is a synthetic substitute used for grey amber, often found in other perfume mixes. While the site says it’s “elegant, pure, spicy, and completely allergen-free,” all I thought was “musty old lady.” I spritzed it on my wrists and chest and within two minutes, tried washing it off. While I diminished it significantly, I tried layering Tokyomilk’s Arsenic over it to mask it somehow. Five hours after first applying, it finally hit the “eh, all right” stage.

Evercolor Automatic Liner in Black Cherry by Mally Beauty. I’ll call myself out: I have super oily eyelids — strange, right? I often avoid pencil liners because they’re moot — they rub off after two hours. While I layered this liner on top of some eyeshadow (the black cherry looks great with pinks and plums, btw!), it started to fade as I hit the afternoon.

Sea Salt Texturizing Spray by Harvey Prince. As always, smells lovely, like the perfume Hello from the same brand. My hair is always wavy, so, while this enhanced it slightly without being sticky or stiff, I don’t want to create false hopes that this is the end-all-be-all of sea salt sprays. Sorry, straight-haired ladies!

Stem Cellular CC Cream in Desert Glow by Juice Beauty. Birchbox likes to send my endless BB and CC creams, which never provide enough coverage and make my skin slick and break-out. I like Juice Beauty for it’s natural ingredients and dedication to being green — things I, hopefully, endeavor to be someday — but the color was a touch off and, as you’ll see for the hydrating gel review below, I can’t use moisturizing products during the humid springs and summers.

Hydra-C 24H Energizing Hydrating Gel by Marcelle. To go with my oily eyelids, I also have (drumroll…) very oily skin. While I would have appreciated this sample a couple of months ago, when my skin was dry and flaky due to the cold, I can’t really use this now that the weather has turned in New England. Last week’s average temperature was about 80 degrees: I’m looking for ways to cut out excess moisture, not inspire more.

I’m on the fence about staying with Birchbox. I’ve been subscribing since July 2013, so almost two full years. Every so often, I get something that entirely justifies my loyalty, products I now adore: amika dry shampoo; Ruffian nail polishes; Liz Earle face wash; Benefit mascaras; Davines anything. But then I also get a month or two (or three) in a row, when I get all duds, tiny tubes that I end up tossing because I can’t stand the clutter on my bathroom shelves. Maybe I’ll give Birchbox until July 2015 to redeem themselves…

Do you subscribe to Birchbox? Or another monthly beauty box subscription? What do you love? Hate? What other subscriptions do you recommend?