The One Where I Nearly Ruin my Landlords Bathroom

i.e. the one where I attempt to dye my hair for the first time ever. With henna.

Left: the day after dying (Monday), Right: two days after dying (Tuesday)

Sunday 3rd May 2020, Around 6.30pm

For my whole life, my hair has been the same color. And the same style. As I have eczema on my scalp I have to be super careful about what products I use on my hair, and I avoid going to the hairdresser’s. But I have always been fascinated about dying my hair. Through the no poo process I learned about henna and the idea of a using a natural, nourishing product to turn my hair lovely and red really appealed to me. The mess did not. From what I read henna was difficult and extremely messy. I was also worried I would not like how it looked in the end.

But now we are in quarantine! I found myself impulsively buying some henna one night, after watching a YouTube video where someone dyed their hair and thinking about how much I would like a change too. It seemed the perfect time to experiment when no one is going to see the result immediately. I had time, both to apply it and deal with the mess, and to deal with any bad results without anyone seeing it. (So I convinced myself.) I bought one of those henna bricks from Lush, which wouldn’t be my first choice as I don’t like Lush, but it felt the easiest path to go down. They were out of stock of their fiery red henna so I chose the chestnut one instead, and had to admit to myself that was probably the best choice as something more subtle and thus, hopefully, less likely to go wrong. It took about a week for it to come, by which time the impulse had died away and I was no longer quite so interested. I admit what drove me to use it today was that my flat was slowly, after just a day and a half of the parcel entering my abode, starting to stink of Lush and I couldn’t take it any longer. 

So today I:

Washed my hair and trimmed it, yes myself, and yes badly. (As an aside, last time I discussed my no poo routine I talked about starting to use shampoo again. Since then I have found that I do not like using shampoo regularly,  as it dried out my scalp too much,  but that using a sulfate free shampoo every couple of months works wonders to clarify my hair and does not have any affect on my hair or scalp or my usual nopoo routine. So today I used that shampoo to get my hair nice and clean in preparation for dying. I had hoped that I could just rinse my hair with water for this but from what I read, the cleaner the better for dying the hair. One site even suggested using a little bit of dish soap to really strip the hair, but having done that before (don’t ask, though it may be on the blog somewhere who knows) I really didn’t want to do that again. This was to be a nourishing thing as much as a hair dying thing. The whole point of choosing henna was that I could change up my hair without affecting my eczema and getting out the dish soap or even a sulfate shampoo seemed to defeat that, so I just used the sulfate free shampoo and hoped that would work…)

The henna was suggested to be applied to dry or damp hair. So I thought I could wash my hair and then prepare the henna whilst it dried off. As my hair is quite fine I thought it would be too difficult to work with when fully dry.

To prepare the henna, I lined a glass bowl with tinfoil and set that in a bigger bowl of hot water. I tried to hack up the henna block but it wasn’t working and I was concerned about the mess that was making so I just stuck the whole thing in the small bowl, added a little bit of boiling water and slowly, slowly, melted it down into a paste. It took absolutely forever to do and I had to change the big bowl once to get the water hot again but eventually I got a nice, thick paste to work with. (Why can’t Lush provide their henna as a powder? It would be so much more convenient and easy to work with.) I had been super careful to not add too much water to the bowl as I had read that if I made it too runny then it would be messy and not stick to the hair, so I was pleased I had seemingly got this right. At this point I was excited and optimistic. I laid some cardboard down on the bathroom floor to protect it, then took my henna in  and got to work, sectioning my hair and applying the henna with a face mask applicator and my bare hands. Yes, you read that right.

Tools you need to apply henna:

Hair Color Brush
A small mirror 
Paper Towels
Cling Film or a Shower Cap
A fabric headband , hat or something similar to keep the hair wrapped up and warm

Tools I actually had:
A silicon face mask applicator
A handheld mirror 
Paper Towels
A shower cap 
One of those cloth hair turbans used for drying the hair 

It was close, but not close enough. My poor hands were clearly turning orange even as I applied it. (And the color is deepening as I sit with my hair wrapped up and waiting for the color to develop.) And it was so messy to apply. I had watched exactly one tutorial, as well as reading the instructions lush had included and a couple of online tutorials. None of those dealt with applying to long hair and I really should have investigated that. I found it so hard to get all my hair coated and to get it all to curl around itself into a giant bun on my head, as per instructions. The paste was quick to dry and crumble, falling onto my shoulders, into the sink, and onto the floor , seeming to go everywhere but on my head. At this point I hated it and was no longer excited, just frustrated. I also could not see what was going on at the back of my head with my tiny handheld mirror and struggled even more with doing that part.

Eventually I got all my hair just about coated and twisted around onto the top of my head , and somehow I even got my fringe coated and pasted on top of the whole lot of it. I went over with more henna, as much as I could, but the whole thing was threatening to fall apart so I had to give up and accept it as it was. I hadn’t used all the hair dye so I wasn’t convinced I had used enough to get a good result. I rinsed and dried my hands, definitely orange then, and applied my shower cap- one of those plastic ones you get in hotels that I steal for the express purpose of containing my hair when I do hair masks. (Can I admit that online?) Then I put on one of those hair turbans which I usually use for drying my wet hair, to keep the shower cap in place and to try to keep everything warm, as apparently this helps the red color to develop. Now I am sitting here waiting impatiently to rinse it out and see the results. It smells a bit but feels stable enough and I am pleased that my scalp doesn’t feel too itchy or uncomfortable , which gives me hope that it will be nourishing , or at least not give me a bad reaction. 

Oh, and I cleaned everything up immediately afterwards and it wasn’t too bad. Most was in the sink and on the cardboard. So I cleaned  the sink immediately and put the cardboard in a bag. There was some bits outside the cardboard but as it was so dry and crumbly I could vacuum those up and there were only a couple of areas that needed a wipe down. The bathroom looks fine. I am not sure how washing this stuff out will go though, and am nervous for that. 

Also my hands are bright orange, even my nails are stained , and they smell of the product. I really should have invested in some gloves. I thought I could maybe use some plastic bags on my hands instead but that quickly proved impractical so I boldly removed them and now I am stuck with the results. I hope it fades soon.


Sunday 3rd May 2020, Around 10pm

I left the henna in for between 3 and 4 hours (I didn’t time it exactly but it was definitely on for at least 3 hours.) During that time I kept the henna warm by applying a hot pack to my hair, in order to intensify the red as much as possible. When it finally came to rinse it out, it was pretty intense with a rush of henna mud racing towards the drain and the stuff speckled over the shower walls but once I had got most of it out, just rinsing with water, I just took the shower head and rinsed my surroundings and that was fine. Then I rinsed my hair some more, still with just water, rinsed off the shower again and that was that. Once out I quickly wrapped my hair in a towel incase it was dripping any colored liquid and inspected the shower but it seemed ok. There is perhaps a film left on the tub but it is not clear if it’s just the oils Lush used leaving a film (it did feel a little slippery underfoot) or some of the mud leaving a residue and hence a possible stain. I am a little concerned for it but I will only be able to tell tomorrow. It really wasnt the giant mess I was expecting though, which is a relief. As of now the bathroom seems to have survived , though I will need to check tomorrow in sunlight.

As for my hair, I kept it wrapped up until it was partially dry/no longer dripping, then I undid the towel, nervous but anticipatory, only to find…nothing. My hair looked its usual dark brown self. Shining a torch I on it I could definitely see lighter highlights, slightly reddish in tone but not really. My hair felt so soft though and my scalp also felt…fine. It started to itch as my hair dried, which it usually does, but it doesn’t feel any more irritated than normal. 

It was as my hair dried that I could finally see the color appear. I admit I started to laugh when I saw myself in the bathroom mirror, in the harsh bathroom light. It didn’t look bad, it was just so different. I am not used to seeing myself look different. It was not red exactly, just in the light, it seemed lighter and glossier , with a touch of red, actually it seemed a bit darker, more maroon . And my hair feels so thick and soft. I am excited to see how the color develops overnight. I read that when you henna your hair it can go a bit gingery at first and it takes a day or two for the true color to develop. I am anticipating that the color might be a bit here and there, what I see tonight won’t be it tomorrow and what I see tomorrow probably won’t be it either. But it seems like the result may be more intense than I was expecting. I was fully expecting something very subtle , only a bit of a red sheen when the light hits. It’s quite exciting to think I may actually end up with red hair. 

My bath on the other hand? I hope that doesn’t develop any color overnight. 

(And, come to think of it, I hope my already orange hands don’t get any more orange. )

Monday 4th May, Around 12pm

I woke up today and my hair definitely didn’t feel clean. Indeed, the towel I had covered my pillowcase with was green all over. Some had gotten on my bedsheets too. It was clear the henna had not fully washed out. As for my bath? There was a definite residue there too. So I showered and washed my hair with shampoo, twice. By this point my hair was feeling stripped and my scalp a little irritated, and who knows what all this washing will do to my nopoo regime. My bedsheets and towels are in the wash. The tub will need scrubbing, though I’ll bleach it and leave that for a bit first.

My hair looks like some parts took the dye better than others- some bits are lighter and others remain very dark. There is a slightly orange sheen to the lighter parts but that should hopefully go away after a couple of days. I am still not convinced all the henna is out and I am hoping I won’t put fresh bedding out, only to turn that green too, but I think there is that possibility.

My hands are still orange.

I feel rather over it all, to be honest. This has been very messy and time consuming. It’s a whole lot of effort. The henna I had left over I wrapped up and stuck in the freezer. If it makes my freezer stink like Lush, it’s out, but if it doesn’t..I am not sure if I should keep it and use it. I am not sure I want to do this again. It seems even with my dark hair that achieving firey red would surely be possible, if I took the time to source some good quality pure henna, but I am not sure it’s worth all this.

Monday 4th May, Around 7pm

The stuff came out the washing machine with light stains remaining :( My bath however came very clean with hardly any elbow grease required. My hair dried much softer and less stripped than I expected , but the reside definitely feels gone. My hair feels thick and healthy and the color is developing beautifully – it’s subtle but when my hair hits the light you can definitely tell I’ve done something. I am pleased with the result. Oh, and I realised that lush provided gloves with the henna so that was extremely stupid of me. I am keen to see how the color develops over the next few days. And pleased to put all the mess behind me (staining notwithstanding) I can’t stop looking at my hair, I am quite fascinated by it. It’s different and it’s never been different before…

Tuesday 5th May, Around 10pm

The color has deepened, the gingery-ness gone and its a subtle change that is only noticeable when the light hits my hair. It is not that intense, fiery red of my dreams but it is nice and, I think, appropriate for now. Suddenly dying my hair bright red would definitely be a little drastic and also much riskier. There was still some light staining on my pillow, which I had thankfully covered with an old t shirt I don’t particulary care for, so I guess it must still not be out? I don’t see how. My hair feels lovely (so soft!) and my scalp definitely not irritated. My orange hands are fading, slowly. (Maybe I am just getting used to them.) I remain pleased with the results, but not a big fan of the process. I posted some pictures of the result at the top of the post! Ignore the silly poses and focus on my shiny, squint a little and you can see the red hair. :) For reference of my usual color, its basically just the same chocolate brown, but there are some photos under the posts of this category too.