I have been trying to avoid dying my hair for some time as I don’t think it is particularly good for me--I knew about the increase in bladder cancer for people who have been dyeing for a number of years (which I have. Since the age of 15. Now I’m 40. Do the math. But if you can’t then just know that’s quite a long time) but a recent magazine article also said an increase in lymphoma--which is the sort of cancer the Amazing Spiderman had the fourth year we were married. But also exposure to so many chemicals (even when you buy the health food shop brand with no ammonia) is not healthy. Plus all those animal derived/animal tested ingredients to avoid. Nightmare.
So I have been trying (fairly unsuccessfully) to like the hair I have. The problem is that my hair is brown. This is not such a problem in itself, but it is the shade of light brown I detest. Akin to a cardboard box with the occasional grey popping in (although to be fair my grey seems to be mostly whiskers. I am forever plucking some witchy hair from my chin.) The shade that I think looks best on me is a reddish brown or golden chestnut or 4G if you go by the box of stuff I paid £8 for at the health food shop. This slightly darker brown with reddish highlights makes my skin look smoother and clearer. It brings colour to my cheeks. It is just is the shade I was meant to have been born with. So what’s a crunchy granola girl to do on the cheap?
Well……..I did some research in all the herbal books I owned (which are many) and did some googling (which spell check doesn’t recognise as a verb, but I feel certain it will in the future) and came up with a plan. Good herbs for naturally darkening and covering grey in brown hair are SAGE and ROSEMARY. Woohoo I have these on my spice rack. Also BLACK TEA can stain hair. I have Fair Trade teabags. Again Woohoo. So what to do?
Make an infusion of 2TB each sage and rosemary and one teabag and cover with boiling water--about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups. I just eyeballed it. Make the infusion in something glass as all the books said metal can do something weird to the herbs. I just poured it in my pyrex measuring cup. Then cover (I used a plastic bag that would later go on my head) to keep all the volatile oils from escaping like convicts from a chain gang. Then go about your merry way and do something for 45 minutes while it steeps and cools. I did 45 minutes of Disco Aerobics with one of the Nolan Sisters on DVD, but hey--do what you like.
Then come back and strain it through some muslin and a strainer if you’re an eco gal like me or through paper towels and a strainer if you are a tree killer. Then put in a pot (had to do metal here as I didn’t have any glass pots). Scoop out a bit into another container and whisk with a few TB arrowroot powder then add back to the mixture. Then boil and thicken. Remove from the heat see if it is thick and gooey enough for you. I had to put it back on to boil with another TB of arrowroot. I used 3 TB in all. Make sure if you have to add some more you use a few TB COLD water to add the last TB arrowroot to. Otherwise you’ll get lumpy gravy. Eventually it will be a dark brown slightly slimy/sticky goop. Go away again and do something while it cools. Do NOT try to stick your fingers in to see what it feels like or you will get burned. Ask me how I know. While I waited for cool down I mixed a loaf of beer bread and put it in the oven to bake and used the rest of the beer to make a marinade with lime juice, tamari and chilli powder for my Baja Tempeh Tacos for tomorrow. Yum Yum.
When it is sufficiently cool, go to bathroom and lay some newspaper in your sink. This goop gets everywhere and stains a bit like how tea does in the bottom of your tea cup. I didn’t use newspaper and had to rub the limes I juiced for the marinade around the sink with some baking soda afterwards.
Do it just like hairdye--section off and clip and get it all rubbed in there. Comb it through. It smells really nice if you like rosemary (which I do) and when you’re all saturated pop a plastic bag on your head--not your whole head obviously or you'd suffocate. And look stupid. I reused the one I had covered the pyrex cup with because I'm such a girly swot. Then walk around with a bag on your head looking like you've got a jherri curl for 30 minutes. Then rinse and shampoo and condition as usual. I washed out the plastic bag and left it to dry. I’ll write on it with a sharpie that it is for hairdye and I’ll put in my secret drawer with my lip balm pots and candelilla wax and bath bomb moulds.
I have to say--my hair is almost exactly the shade of 4G from the box. It is darker brown with red highlights and smells of rosemary and is as soft as if I washed it in rainwater. Now the question is how long will it last. I am reliably informed that you need to do it every week to keep it up which is no big deal. I have quite short hair and so had quite a bit of goop left. But also being make-it-yourself- gal I own a non-paraben preservative from a cosmetic supplier and so I just preserved mine and put it in a reused salsa jar to save for next time.
I am also told that doing a final rinse after washing with the same infusion--sage, rosemary and tea can help keep the colour going. Kinda like a kitchen version of Roux Fanciful--anyone remember that stuff? I am about a day away from using the last dregs of shampoo so I’ll do the infusion, preserve (as it contains water that can grow nasty bacteria if you just let it sit for days--but I am too lazy to make a new infusion every day) and then decant into ye olde shampoo bottle and presto! Squeeze a bit on my hair in the tub and then rinse the tub out immediately. Way hey! Hair dye from my kitchen!