Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bleach and Henna

I truly love henna, but now that I'm a mom, the super involved routine that henna requires is unappealing. I have to prepare the henna the night before, then slather it on my head the next day and let it sit for at least four hours, the smell bothers me, it's heavy and makes my head/neck hurt, and on and on. My hair is always beautiful afterwards, but man, I just get sick of what I go through to achieve it. I also don't like that with repeated treatments, it darkens my hair, and I've found it very difficult to apply the thick henna-mud strictly on my roots.

If you are reading this, perhaps you got here because you are wondering if it's possible to bleach your hair that has henna in it. I am not a professional stylist, and everything I discuss is based on my own experience. Your mileage may vary, definitely consider seeing a hair stylist first, please do more research, so on and so forth.

Getting down to business: Can you successfully bleach henna hair? The answer to that question, in short, is yes. Well...maybe. There are things to consider.

Contrary to what rumors are out there, you CAN bleach or dye hair that has been treated with henna, as long as what you used is PURE HENNA. It will not have the same results as on "virgin" hair, though. Henna is extremelyyyy permanent and almost impossible to remove, even with bleach. So, your hair will lighten, but it will mainly stay orange, and not a traditional blonde shade.

Bleach, though. Just the word "bleach" alone is enough to send shivers down your spine, isn't it? It makes you think of the stuff you scour your bathroom tub with (even though it's not the same type of bleach). It just sounds terrifying.

It really isn't all that scary, as long as you do as much research beforehand as possible, take the necessary steps to protect your hair and skin, be realistic about your hair goals, and keep a few things in mind. First of all, and probably the most important thing you need to understand, do not attempt to use bleach or any other chemical hair process on henna that you are not absolutely positive is 100% pure henna. Any henna that has been mixed with other unknown additives can react horribly with traditional chemical hair processes.

First things first, we need to figure out: what is your goal here?

- Is your henna too dark, and are you just wanting to lighten it up a shade or two?
- Are you wanting to break up the color a little, with some highlights or maybe ombre?

The above is fairly easy to achieve. But...

- Are you wanting to go blonde?
- Are you wanting to fully remove the henna?

If those last two are on your mind, go no further. If you are wanting to channel your inner Gwen Stefani and go platinum bleach blonde after henna, forget it. Do not attempt it yourself. See a professional!

Also, very important: What is the condition of your hair? Can it handle bleach and still retain most of its health? You need to have very healthy hair before using bleach at all. Go slowly if you can - do small bleaching over the course of a few weeks or months and baby your hair in between. Don't compromise the integrity of your hair to get results fast.

Second, you also need to realize that hair that has been henna'd will not lift in the same manner that virgin hair will (or hair that only has regular dye in it). Henna itself is very reddish-orange, and when you bleach it, your hair will be BRIGHTER reddish-orange. Continuing to bleach the hair to get to blonde most likely will result in extreme damage. My advice, if you are wanting to go blonde, is definitely go see a professional hair stylist, and be honest with them about your use of henna.

If you are wanting to bleach henna hair to lift it just a couple levels, this is something that is attainable. Just remember to keep in mind that it will indeed be VERY orange the lighter it gets.

I would suggest trying a Vitamin C hair treatment (or a few of those) to see if the henna color will budge a bit before trying bleach. You can also try a "soap cap" - where a small amount of bleach is added to shampoo, and it lifts the hair more gently and slowly. Or, like what I did - you can use a blue toned bleach and a low level developer (20 volume) to give yourself an ombre style - it lightened up the overall look of my hair, without causing much damage, and it was very easy to do myself.

Before bleaching, it's important to prepare the hair. Coconut oil treatments before bleaching can help protect the hair and minimize damage, as well as NOT shampooing the hair for as long as you can stand before you plan to bleach. I personally did not shampoo for three days ahead of time, but I used those three days to condition, condition, condition my hair.

Like I said, when I used bleach on my hair, the result was very, very orange. My goal was to add pink/red vegetable semi permanent dye over the top, so a little bit of orange was not a big deal because I was planning on staying within the "warm" color range of pink/red.

If you are wanting to tone down the orange as it lightens, definitely look into getting a "blue" bleach and a toner to use afterwards as well. You may not be able to fully remove the orange from the henna, so keep that in mind.

It's really important to be patient with your hair, and not try to get the result you want as fast as possible. With bleach, and henna, it takes time. Be nice to your hair and give it a break. Bleach can be done in smaller increments, with deep conditioning in between. And, of course, baby your hair after any chemical process to help repair any dryness or damage that occurs.

If all of this sounds frightening to you - again, definitely find a good stylist/colorist who has experience with henna. I'm just the type of person that likes to read about hair, watch hair videos, and experiment with my own hair (as safely as I can!) and I have had pretty good results. My hair is still really soft and smooth and in good condition. But please, do as much research on this as you can before you attempt it.

Good luck!

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