Using Plant Pigment to Color Your Hair

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While chemically coloring your hair may give you a much-needed change or be part of your routine, there is an alternative that is much easier on your hair and scalp.

Nature’s own ability to shape-shift and morph can be seen as a model that opens up more options for fulfilling our personal vision of what “natural” is. Part of this shape-shifting includes expanding our definition of beauty, and how we embrace and offer it to ourselves and our world.

Commercial hair dyes contain thousands of different chemicals, some of which are reported to be carcinogenic — but you don’t have to choose between gorgeous color and good health. In Natural Hair Coloring, (Storey Publishing, 2016) expert Christine Shahin shows you how to use nontoxic plant pigments — henna, indigo, amla, and cassia — to color your hair naturally, whatever your hair type or ethnicity, with beautiful results!

Why Herbal Colorants?

There are many reasons why people of every age color their hair. Perhaps we do so because it is enjoyable to care for ourselves or to allow others to, or because it is refreshing to adopt a new persona. We receive tangible and intangible gifts from any colorant, so why would we want to choose herbal colorants?

Herbal hair colorants connect us to ancient traditions and generations past, and they nourish our hair, our spirit, and the earth.

Herbal colorants smell “green,” repair damaged hair, and do a better job of covering gray than chemical colors can.

Pure herbal pigments are also nontoxic and can be applied frequently and remain on your hair long enough to achieve the color tones you wish without causing dryness or damage.

Most people find the moods to be relaxing, soothing, and conditioning.

Herbal colorants — especially henna — link us with the ancient past; to female nurturing traditions; to the land; to the sun, moon, wind, and water, all of which impact these pigments. These herbal colorants also connect us with our artistic self as we blend them to create different colors.

Of the four herbs I describe in this book, the only one with a long history as a body colorant is henna. Before henna gained popularity as a hair colorant, people in hot, arid climates used it on their body as a cooling agent. Men and women would henna the bottoms of their feet to protect them from blistering when they stepped on hot surfaces. They would also henna the palms of their hands, again for cooling purposes. Out of this simple practice of staining grew the tradition of henna body art, whereby people created elaborate designs on their skin using a henna paste.

While both genders have enjoyed the benefits of henna, it is apparent that women have had a different relationship with this red pigment-producing plant. We know that women hennaed in groups, and that the time spent together strengthened their relationships with each other and provided a short reprieve from mundane chores while they waited for the henna design to dry and set.

Henna body art is becoming more and more popular today, with the majority of henna body artists being women. Henna is often used to mark female rites of passage celebrations and special occasions, and is currently often sought just for fun.

Women’s connections to sensual experiences, I believe, stem from our intimate relationships with the always-changing needs of our ever-changing bodies.

Making the decision to “go natural”

There are many different opinions on what “natural” means. Depending on your perspective, “natural” can mean using foods, plants, and herbs; adding supplements; or being product-free, relying instead on reflexology, yoga, and meditation to maintain your vitality.

Within this fascinating mix of viewpoints on what is “natural,” I offer this perspective: nature’s own ability to shape-shift and morph can be seen as a model that opens up more options for fulfilling our personal vision of what “natural” is. Part of this shape-shifting includes expanding our definition of beauty, and how we embrace and offer it to ourselves and our world.

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