Natural Hair Coloring: How to Use Henna and Other Pure Herbal Pigments for Chemical-Free Beauty

Natural Hair Coloring: How to Use Henna and Other Pure Herbal Pigments for Chemical-Free Beauty

Natural Hair Coloring: How to Use Henna and Other Pure Herbal Pigments for Chemical-Free Beauty

Natural Hair Coloring: How to Use Henna and Other Pure Herbal Pigments for Chemical-Free Beauty


Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Wednesday, December 14


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. Natural hair care 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! These pigments are readily available at natural food stores and online, and they’re simple, safe, easy to use, and cost-effective. With clearly written instructions and step-by-step photography, Shahin shows you exactly how to apply these pigments, alone or in combinations, to achieve a full range of shades of brown, black, and red. She also includes instructions for transitioning from chemical dyes to natural ones and for using chemical and natural dyes together.

Related collections and offers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781612125985
Publisher: Storey Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 05/17/2016
Pages: 184
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Christine Shahin, author of Natural Hair Coloring, is a licensed cosmetologist and holistic beauty practitioner who owns and operates a popular eco-salon/spa that attracts clients from across the United States. She has a conventional cosmetology license, though her interest and focus have always been on introducing natural, safe, ecologically responsible approaches to self care. She continues to offer classes on natural hair and skin care topics, including coloring hair with pure plant pigments.

Rosemary Gladstar is the best-selling author of Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide and Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, which draw on her 40-plus years of experiences studying and teaching about the healing properties of herbs. She is a world-renowned educator, activist, and entrepreneur, and the founding director of Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center, the International Herb Symposium, and the New England Women’s Herbal Conference. Gladstar is founding president of United Plant Savers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and preservation of native American herbs. She was the original formulator for Traditional Medicinal herbal teas and has led herbal educational adventures around the world. She is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and serves on the board of the Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine and The National Health Freedom Coalition. She lives in Vermont.

Read an Excerpt



Attitude is the mind's paintbrush. It can color any situation.

Hair's function is to prevent heat loss from the head as well as to protect the head from heat, yet hair is such a profound part of our self-image that it causes people to spend billions of dollars each year on its care. Today, over 75 percent of American women color their hair, and this practice is rapidly growing.

What we do with our hair has had powerful symbolic and emotional effects in every culture for thousands of years. We witness the power of hair in stories, such as the one of Samson, who lost his strength when his hair was cut, and in symbols, like the live snakes that constituted Medusa's hair and were an expression of female rage. These stories and symbols speak of hair's potent ability to interface with our emotions, both individually and collectively.

Hair is an important way we express our self-image and communicate that image to others. Hair color, texture, and style preferences vary among different ethnicities and cultures, and we use hair to identify ourselves as being a part of, or separate from, these groups. I, for example, was born with coarse, curly hair typical of my ethnicity, though I straightened it through various means to fit into a culture that seemed to prefer smooth, light hair. I relate very much to the Chris Rock documentary Good Hair.

Entertainers change their hair to express each new project, character they play, or trending style. Our hair seems like such a simple thing, though the complexities of our human emotions make it something else!

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 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 muds to be relaxing, soothing, and conditioning.

Herbal colorants — especially henna — link us with the ancient past, to female nurturing traditions, to the land, and 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 and special occasions, and it 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.

The Power of Red Hair

For natural redheads who want to keep their color as they grow older, henna is an attractive alternative to chemical colorants.

Every hair color has been known to have symbolic meaning. By looking at how people with red hair, in particular, have been treated through the ages, we see how influential the color of one's hair can be.

The term redhead has been used for centuries. In different eras and cultures, red hair has been either sought or feared. Across the centuries, the rarity of redheads has fueled suspicions and speculation, including accusations of witchcraft during the Dark Ages. The general opinion of redheads began to change when the vibrant natural red hair of Queen Elizabeth made this hair color seem more desirable; soon after she ascended the throne people started reddening their hair with henna.

Even today, there are mixed feelings about redheads. To celebrate their uniqueness (only 1 to 2 percent of the global population has naturally occurring red hair), redheads gather at festivals, though even presently in Britain, there are hate crimes against redheads. "Gingerism" has been compared to racism, because it targets redheaded individuals and families for harassment and violence based on their hair color.

For natural redheads who want to keep their color as they grow older, henna is an attractive alternative to chemical colorants. While it's particularly challenging to achieve long-lasting results with red chemical colorants, henna endures (especially when applied frequently) and, when combined with other herbal pigments, can reproduce the original shade of red that redheads had when they were younger.

Embracing Your Crone, Embracing Your Gray

In our yearning for the authentic in all aspects of our lives, some of us are letting go of coloring hair entirely. Depending on your personal values and what is important to you, gray hair may be just what you want.

Men with gray hair are valued for their experience and seen as distinguished, even desirable, but women with gray hair are often devalued and seen as over the hill. The radical baby boom generation, however, is changing this image. Women who embrace their gray hair are not soft women, but rather gray-haired warriors or stunning silver foxes who are esteemed by younger sisters to the point that many in their twenties and thirties are coloring their hair gray. We know, too, people whose gray or white hair is so incredibly exquisite that we can't help but stop them on the street to affirm it! The colors of their hair, eyes, and skin combine in a way that proclaims beauty is timeless.

Part of what I do in my salon is assist those who would like to "go gray" do so with the least amount of pain. For clients with chemically colored hair, I add gray or silver highlights, alternating with lowlights, until they reach a place where they can let their hair grow out or create that ombré look. Going gray after using herbal colorants is a more natural unfolding, since the regrowth area is more subtle. It is best to simply allow the hair to grow out naturally and choose a style that will enhance the grow-out process and show off your new silver streaks.

How to Decide If Gray Is Right for You

Some people just look good no matter what color their hair is; for some, coloring their hair makes a big difference, and for others, perhaps the reality is somewhere in between. While hair color can make you appear younger, if your face sends a different message, it doesn't matter what color your hair is.

No matter your age, practice visually connecting with yourself without judgment. Doing this is such a great exercise in many ways, not the least being that it helps you make good decisions about your self-image. Try asking yourself: Is it my hair that needs coloring? Or perhaps my face needs some care? Which is my best nurturing practice for myself? Facials cost about the same as a good color treatment and, when provided by a skilled facialist, can make a world of difference in helping you be your most vibrant self. They can allow you to embrace gray hair, which may be your best look for your ethnicity, character, style, and values.

Common Reasons We Stop Coloring

Getting off the treadmill. If we started coloring our hair fairly young, at some point we may choose to stop coloring because we've been keeping bimonthly appointments for decades and want out of that cycle. We ask ourselves: is it nurturing us?

Health issues and concerns. We need or want to stop exposing ourselves to potentially hazardous products. Doctors recommend that people stop chemical coloring when they are pregnant or ill.

Cost. The expense associated with coloring hair can be a factor. People like to switch up where they spend their money, depending on how much they have in their budget and what their values are.

Time. Herbal colorants take anywhere from 1 to 8 hours to set. If we don't want to make the time, we may choose to stop.

My Personal Gray Experience and My Return to Coloring

Like many other boom-generation women, I too did not want to miss my "crone phase." Some of my most influential role models are beautiful women who embrace themselves as gray. In 2012, I was going to embrace my crone and become a sensual sage, though I had no idea that year would hold some of my most profound transformations.

I cut my hair off instead of growing it out, and shortly after, my brother-in-law and father passed within weeks of each other. Others dear to me (10 people total) soon followed. In the midst of this, I also moved my salon, worked trade shows, juggled the demands of family and running a business, and hosted guests. Needless to say, when I finally had the space to grieve, it was, and continues to be, impactful.

Even though there was much support and excitement around growing into a new salon location, my heart needed healing. I had said from the start that I could always return to herbal colorants if I wanted, so I did. I returned to a two-step henna-indigo application monthly, though I experiment with using pure indigo alone on occasion.



Taking joy in living is a woman's best cosmetic.


Hair dyeing with plants is a multicultural art practiced since ancient times. The Gauls and Saxons used various vibrant colors to distinguish rank and to enhance the battleground fear factor. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans regularly used plant and animal matter to color their hair. There were mixes that worked with hours of sun exposure to darken or bleach hair.

Eighteen Books of the Secrets of Art & Nature, published in 1661, described the many ways of coloring hair gold, red, green, yellow, black, and even white. The colors of powdered wigs of the Baroque era ranged across an array of pastels, including pinks, pale yellows, and light blues. Bleaching hair with potassium lye or caustic soda grew increasingly popular. Women of the Victorian era wore large-brimmed hats without a top to expose their infused hair to the sun. Even gray hair was popular, and people used hair powder to enhance their gray!

The most well-known plant dyeing pigments are henna, indigo, cassia obovata, and amla. Other natural substances used in decoctions or infusions include beets, black walnut hulls, chamomile, katam, leeks, rhubarb, saffron, sage, and turmeric from the plant world, and red ocher from earth.

Synthetic dyes for hair were developed in the 1860s with the discovery of the reactivity of para-phenylenediamine (PPD) with hair. Eugène Schueller, the founder of L'Oréal, is recognized for creating the first synthetic hair dye in 1907, and in 1947, Schwarzkopf, the German cosmetics firm, introduced the first home hair coloring product. Today, hair dyeing is a multibillion-dollar industry that entails the use of both plant-based and synthetically derived dyes.

Hair Composition and Growth

Hair is unique to mammals, and human hair is intriguing because we are one of the only mammals that has areas of densely concentrated hair — on top of our heads, under our arms, and in the groin area. Human hair is also unique because of the length to which the hair on our heads will grow!

The Makeup of Hair


The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries or the way she combs her hair.


Hair Follicle

Within the hair follicle is the onion-shaped hair bulb in which the hair root is connected to the body's blood supply via a structure called the papilla. Nutrients produced in the lower part of the bulb are converted into new hair cells, and as they grow and develop, these cells steadily push the previously formed cells upward, creating "growth" of the hair shaft. The newest part of our visible hair is the part located closest to our head and is the part that most recently emerged from living cells. Stimulating blood circulation with a scalp massage helps nourish the hair and scalp.

Adjacent to the hair follicle is the sebaceous gland (or oil gland), which lubricates the hair to protect it and keep it healthy, and a tiny muscle called the arrector pili. This muscle contracts in response to a stimulus, like fear or cold, and causes the hair to stand up straight (often called "gooseflesh" or "goose bumps").

Hair Shaft

Hair is a fibrous protein made up of water, lipids, trace mineral elements, melanins, and keratin. Keratin, the main constituent in hair, is a protein created within the cortex of the hair and is very much like a rope or a cable. Built for toughness and protection, it's what makes our hair and skin waterproof. Hairs differ in cross-sectional shape. Round hairs tend to be straight; oval or flattened hairs are curly.

Each hair shaft strand has three layers (see the illustration above): an outer layer of overlapping scales called the cuticle; a middle layer, the thickest of the three, known as the cortex, which also contains melanin; and usually a central core of round cells called the medulla, though naturally blond hair and very fine hair often lacks a medulla.

The cuticle protects the cortex from harm. When the cuticle is damaged by chemicals or physical trauma, the cortex is then exposed and open to damage. Any chemicals that are on the hair then have access directly to the bloodstream through the cortex.

Hair Facts

* Follicles have a cycle of active growth, transition, and rest, which includes a normal hair loss cycle called "shedding."

* Each follicle grows about 20 new hairs in a lifetime.

* Each new hair can grow to be over 40 inches long.

* Hair grows faster in warm weather.

* Hair grows more slowly at night than during the day.

* Male hair is thicker than female hair.

* Male hair grows faster than female hair.

Hair Texture and Herbal Colorants

Whether your hair is fine, coarse, wavy, curly, straight, oily, dry, normal, or a mixture of these attributes, it can receive herbal colorants beautifully. I have observed, and have heard personal testimonies, that herbal pigments tend to give volume to fine hair, tame frizzy hair, repair damaged hair, and loosen curly hair.

How Hair Grows

Human hair has a particular growth cycle with three different phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen. Each phase has specific characteristics that determine the length of the hair. While the phases always progress in the same order, different hairs on your head are going through different phases at any given time.

The anagen phase is the growth phase and generally lasts from 2 to 6 years.

The catagen phase, also called the transitional phase, lasts for approximately 2 weeks. During this time, the hair follicle shrinks to one-sixth of its original length and the root detaches and "rests." The hair strand is cut off from its nourishing blood supply, allowing the follicle to, in a sense, renew itself. While hair is not growing during this phase, the length of the hair shaft increases as the shrinkage of the follicle pushes it upward.


Excerpted from "Natural Hair Coloring"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Christine Shahin Wood.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Rosemary Gladstar
Wellness Beauty and Sage-ing
Chapter 1: Why Color Your Hair?
   Why Herbal Colorants?
   Embracing Your Crone, Embracing Your Gray
Chapter 2: Basic Understanding of Hair Coloring
   Hair Composition and Growth
   Chemical Colorants versus Herbal Hair Colorants
   Going from Chemical Colorants to Herbal Colorants and Vice Versa
Chapter 3: The Four Pure Herbal Colorants
   Buy Only Pure Herbal Colorants
   Cassia Obovata
Chapter 4: How to Use Herbal Hair Colorants
   Creating Your Color Recipe
   My Herbal Colorant Recipes
   Mixing and Storing
   How to Do a Patch Test
   The Basic Application Process
   Playing with Staining Time
   Special Procedures and Considerations
   Making Corrections and Troubleshooting
   Unusual Ways to Use Herbal Colorants
Chapter 5: Wrap Styles
   Simple Turban
   Tuck Wrap
   Crown Wrap
   Rosette Turban
Chapter 6: How to Take Care of Hair Colored with Herbal Pigments
   Hair Care for Different Types of Hair
   Daily Care for Healthy Hair
   Natural Shampoos, Conditioners, and Other Hair Products
   Hair Styling
Chapter 7: Frequently Asked Questions
In Closing


Customer Reviews