If you’re like me, you’ve seen the supposed magical effects of Lush Henna hair dye pop up on your Facebook feed a time or two. It looks too good to be true, and Google image results for their “Caca Rouge” product—which is their popular red color—yield pictures of beautiful, deep red hair that looks perfect.
My sister Katie and I could not be more different when it comes to our hair care approach. I have thick, fine hair that I’m more than willing to chop off and dump bleach into every few months. My real hair color is a mousy brown—at least, I think it is, given that I haven’t seen my real hair since about 8th grade.
Katie has beautiful, frizzy equally thin and thick red hair that curls into a pretty spot-on impersonation of Merida from Brave, and in 30 years, she has never once dyed it. Even cutting it is a rare occurrence. But because her hair is au-natural, she’s the perfect candidate to test out the Lush henna hair dye to see if it’s actually all its cracked up to be.
Henna hair dye has been around since way before Lush got the idea to package it, and it’s effectively a natural paste solution that you apply to your hair to achieve a more natural, healthy looking color change that will wash out over time. A word of warning though: if you plan to dye your hair in the future, think long and hard before using the henna dye. It can counteract badly with boxed dye, so if you’re thinking of switching it up in the future, be sure to shell out the money to go to an actual stylist.
The thing about henna dye, however, is that it looks like shit. I don’t mean the end product, I mean the actual dye itself. It is incredibly messy, and I effectively spent the afternoon piling cow shit onto my sister’s head.
Lush Henna Hair Dye ($27); plastic cling-wrap; rubber gloves; vasoline or some kind of wax; bowl; hot water; towels or paper
This stuff is super messy, so your first step is to coat the floor around you with some newspapers or other kind of covering. If you’re half as messy as I am, add about triple as many pieces of paper as you think you need.
To prepare the mixture, cut up the henna into blocks—use more blocks for a deeper, richer color. We used about four blocks. We used a double broiler to keep the mixture warm. Since Katie has such long hair, we knew it would be a bit of a process. Add hot water and stir the mixture until it’s thick and creamy, like melted chocolate or brownie mix. If it’s not mixed properly, it will chunk off into little pieces of clay when you start to apply it. Also, you’ll definitely want to cover your hands with rubber gloves.
We started off very methodically, using a dye application brush to hit the roots of the hair, and tried to work around the scalp. We abandoned this process pretty quickly, and I ended up just using my hands to scrub the mixture into her hair. I recommend really massaging the product into your hair strands, to ensure that you get full coverage. I cannot emphasize enough how hysterical you will look with this mixture all over you.
Once you feel like you’ve applied well enough, grab saran wrap and wrap your head up like you’re a freaking pie. Using the cling wrap helps seal in the mixture and allows it to really set into your hair for a fuller, redder color. Then sit and wait for about 1 to 5 hours, depending on how full you want the color and how impatient you are.
When they say red, they really mean red. It came out surprisingly bright, and almost orange. The henna dye seems to have picked up the naturally light tones in Katie’s hair and amplified them by ten. In natural light, it’s shockingly red—but this is just from the first day. One of the crucial things to remember is that it takes a little while for the henna to set into your hair, so it’ll take almost two days for a fully set color. This picture was taken in natural light (with no filter) to give you an idea of the finished product.
It’s a much bolder step than you think it will be. The woman at the Lush store said it would mostly just amplify red and make your hair soft and shiny—which it absolutely did. Since we only left it on for two of the recommended four hours, it was unexpected that it would be quite so orange. The color has deepened a bit over the past few days, but not so much that it seems natural in any way. For someone who has never dyed their hair, it’s quite the change of pace and it feels like looking into the mirror and seeing a stranger every day. That said, if you’re a pro at dying your hair, give it a go. Henna’s one of the few dyes you can repeatedly use and layer in color, so we could go get their darker hues and mix that in to tone this down without any risk of damaging the hair. For us though, we’ll likely be doing a coconut and olive oil treatment this week to start removing it.
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