In an effort to avoid the harsh and toxic chemicals used in conventional hair dyes, concerned consumers sometimes turn to homemade preparations and commercially available natural hair dyes for gray hair. Henna is the most common substance used in natural hair dyes intended to cover gray hair and is often combined with other botanical substances that help modify henna's natural red-orange tones. Finding the right combination of ingredients to produce a pleasing shade requires experimenting with natural dyes and the way that you apply them. Whether you choose to create your own dye or purchase a ready-to-use product, clip off a strand of your hair to test the dye's effect and thus avoid unpleasant surprises.
Henna has been used for thousands of years to color hair as well as beards and skin. While it has traditionally been known for the red-orange shade imparted by the inermis species commonly known as red henna, use of other henna species such as alba and spinoza in various proportions produce darker shades ranging from deep reds to various shades of reddish-brown. Some makers of henna dyes blend these species in varying proportions to achieve a selection of tones to meet consumers' preferences. They also often include indigo dye that is applied in a separate step to help subdue henna's brassy tendencies, and to produce everything from shades of brown to jet black.
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When shopping for henna, be sure it is of body-art quality and preferably has been certified as pure by an independent laboratory. The pigment in henna that produces its red tones is called lawsone, and good quality henna has at least 2% lawsone content. Whether you choose ready-to-use natural hair dyes for gray hair or assemble your own ingredients, it is critical that you test the dye by applying it to a strand of your hair that you have clipped off. Alternately, you could also accumulate hair from your brush for testing purposes. Before attempting a multi-step dyeing process using henna followed by indigo, get a preview of the results by subjecting your test hair to the exact steps you plan to use.
Applying henna can be challenging due to gray hair's dye-resistant protein structure. Look for commercially available natural hair dyes for gray hair that include a conditioning agent that prepares the hair to more readily accept and absorb the dye. Read labels carefully, as many dyes marketed as being "natural" actually contain synthetic substances. Some manufacturers of natural hair dyes offer extensive information about how to achieve pleasing results on their web sites. Using botanicals such as henna and indigo can be messy and time-consuming, so protecting clothing and furnishings and alloting enough time to complete the process correctly are essential.