Amla (emblica officinalis) is also known as Indian Gooseberry. It is both eaten and used in hair and skin care products in South Asia. To create amla powder, the fruit is dried, ground, and sifted. Ancient Sunrise® Amla powder can be used as an acid to dye-release henna and cassia mixes and to prevent loss of curl pattern, on its own as a hair treatment, and on the skin as a facial.
In a henna and/or cassia mix that involve indigo, amla lends ash tones to the resulting color. It helps to maintain a person’s natural curl pattern, which can loosen with repeated henna applications. Amla allows more indigo dye to enter the hair, for richer, darker brunettes.
Amla’s natural acids temporarily snap the hydrogen bonds in the hair, allowing the strands to be reshaped. Using amla as a treatment on its own can add body and wave to the hair. This same effect can be utilized for the skin. This powder helps to loosen dead skin cells on the surface and exfoliate them away, leaving clearer, brighter, and tighter skin.
Ancient Sunrise® amla powder is tested by our suppliers to ensure it is free of adulterants. We also run our powder under a microscope to check for any irregularities. It has a pH level of 3.5, making it an effective acid for dye release. It it gentle enough to use directly on skin for short periods of time.
Amla for Neutral/Ash Mixes and Better Brunettes
Amla contains gallic acid, ellagic acid, and ascorbic acid. Gallic acid pushes henna and cassia’s dye molecules toward ash tones, leading to cooler hair color results. This is useful for those who do not want red tones in their brunette mixes, or want a more neutral blonde result.
A mix with just henna and amla will result in a browner or cooler red, with less orange or copper tones. A mix with just cassia and amla will result in a more neutral, “wheat” blonde on light and graying hair, as opposed to a yellow blonde.
To use amla powder to neutralize red and yellow tones, mix 25g (just under three tablespoons) with every 100g henna and/or cassia. Mix the powders with distilled water and dye-release as normal. There is no need for additional acid powders or fruit juice.
If you are adding indigo to your mix, do so as you would normally, mixing Ancient Sunrise® indigo powder with distilled water and combining the pastes immediately before application.
With mixes containing indigo, the result will be a cooler, deeper brunette. This is especially useful for people who want minimal warm tones in their hair, and those who notice that the indigo fades from their hair over time, leaving a red tone. Amla allows more indigo to bind effectively with the hair.
Amla is not a dye, and will not affect the color of a person’s hair if used on its own. It merely aids in indigo uptake, as well as shifting the resulting color of henna and cassia dyes.
The Ancient Sunrise® Henna for Hair kits in Cool Brunette and Cool Dark Brunette contain pre-measured portions of henna, indigo, and amla for easy mixing and great results.
Amla for Curls and Waves
When henna’s dye molecule binds with the outer keratin layers of the hair, it smooths frizzy, damaged hair and reinforces thin, weak hair. The added molecules also make the hair heavier and thicker. For those with a natural curl pattern, this can mean looser curls. Some who find their curls unruly or unmanageable take advantage of this effect. However, many wish to keep their curls. Adding amla to a henna mix helps to maintain the natural curl pattern.
This can be done one of two ways. If you are also looking to mute red tones or achieve a deeper brunette, use Ancient Sunrise® amla powder to dye release your mix as explained above. If you wish to keep a brighter tone, dye-release your mix with your choice of acid, then mix 25g of amla into a paste, and stir this into your henna or cassia just before application. This will protect your curls without neutralizing henna and/or cassia’s brighter tones.
To add bounce and body to your hair, use amla on its own as a hair treatment mixed with Clarity Cassia. The following section will cover this.
Amla as a Conditioning Treatment
Amla can be used with Clarity Cassia to add bounce and body to the hair, to clear the scalp of dead skin, and to balance oily scalps. Amla’s acids cause the bonds in the hair to temporarily loosen, making it possible to temporarily reshape them. The acids also help to exfoliate skin and break down excess oil, keeping the scalp healthy and the pores clear.
Mix a paste of amla powder, cassia powder and distilled water. 25g of amla is needed for every 100g of cassia. The amount total will be dependent on the thickness and length of your hair. Apply the paste throughout clean hair and wrap with plastic, leaving it in for for an hour. Rinse, massaging the scalp, towel dry, and set your damp hair in curls or a braid and allow it to air dry.
Those who have normally very dry scalp and hair, or those who are sensitive to higher levels of ascorbic acid may want to use this technique sparingly or for a shorter amount of time to avoid itching and dryness. One can also use a little bit of oil or serum on the scalp if it feels too dry after the amla treatment.
Amla as a Facial
High in vitamin C (ascorbic acid), amla paste makes a great facial treatment. It exfoliates dead skin cells, encouraging cell turn-over, and clears away excess oil. It leaves the skin tighter and brighter. Those with acne may find that a regular amla facial helps to lessen and prevent breakouts, and fade hyperpigmentation that comes with scarring. Over time, the complexion becomes brighter and more even, and the skin’s texture is smoother.
Mix 1-2 teaspoons of amla powder with enough warm water to create a paste. Massage the paste over clean skin, avoiding the eyes. Leave it on for 3-5 minutes. Rinse, pat dry, and moisturize. This can be used once or twice a week. Vitamin C can increase UV sensitivity for some; if this is the case for you, make sure to use an SPF.
If you have further questions about how to use Ancient Sunrise® amla powder, feel free to comment below or contact Customer Service via email, chat, or phone.
Henna is known for its ability to dye hair rich, vibrant shades that bring forth thoughts of copper pennies, autumn leaves, and crackling fires. However, not everyone wants to be a red-head. Those familiar with using natural plants dyes might know that combinations of henna and indigo will result in brown-reds and medium to deep brunettes. A two-step process will leave hair raven black. What a lot of people do not seem to know is that neutral and cool tones are possible with the right techniques.
A common concern voiced by new henna users is that even a henna/indigo mixture will result in a brunette shade that is too warm for their liking. Many prefer neutral to cool tones in their hair, as they believe it better suits their complexions. While somewhat tricky, neutral and cool toned hair colors are possible using the right combination of henna and indigo (and sometimes cassia), and the right fruit acid. Because each person’s hair varies on undertone, porosity, and dye-resistance, getting the perfect color may take some patience and strand-testing. Remember that our henna experts are available to talk you through the process, and help you troubleshoot if needed, until you achieve your perfect color.
Ratios for henna and indigo are easy to remember: Equal parts henna and indigo will result in a medium brunette. More henna will add more warm tones, and more indigo will darken the shade. Cassia makes henna and henna/indigo mixtures lighter, but does not lighten hair.
It may be logical to believe that the more indigo you add into the mix, the cooler the resulting shade will be. Yes… and no. Indigo on its own dyes hair a blue tone, and it neutralizes warm tones created by henna. However, adding more indigo to a medium brunette mix will create a dark brunette mix. That dark brunette result may still be a warm dark brunette due to henna’s red dye.
While using indigo is one part of achieving a neutral or cool hair color, the correct choice in fruit acid is equally important. Fruit acids can bring out bright, warm tones, or mute them. With an effective indigo component and the right fruit acid, you’ll be on your way to lovely neutral brunettes. If you’d like a lighter neutral color, such as those in the blonde family, a little extra tinkering will get you there.
It is not uncommon for henna/indigo users to report that their roots are coming out too red, or hair appears redder over time. This is due to indigo’s higher tendency toward fading. Achieving an effective bind of indoxyl molecules to the hair will be particularly necessary for those who wish to avoid warm tones. This means understanding the chemistry behind the indoxyl/indigo molecules, and the most effective ways to ensure a permanent stain.
Indigo plant powder contains an indigo precursor molecule, indoxyl, which is immediately released when the powder is mixed with water. Indoxyl is a tricky, picky molecule. As soon as the indigo mixed into a paste, indoxyls look to bind with oxygen to transform into a stable indigo molecule. The indigo molecule will not bind to the hair. This process is similar to henna demise, but occurs much more rapidly.
It is important to mix indigo paste only right when you are ready to dye your hair, and work quickly once the paste is mixed. Preventing unnecessary exposure to air will keep the molecules in their indoxyl state longer, allowing them to bind to keratin rather than oxygen.
In the presence of oxygen, two indoxyl molecules bind with each other to form indigo, which is a stable molecule.
Once the dye is in the hair, the extent to which it binds to and stays in the hair is dependent on several factors including hair texture and the presence of dirt, oils, and mineral build-up. It is not uncommon to see a henna/indigo mixture begin as a nice, neutral brunette, and become more auburn as the indigo fades and the henna stays put. If you desire a cool or neutral shade, this is something you’d obviously like to avoid. Doing the following will ensure a successful and permanent indigo stain.
Black, gray, and white wool is dyed with indigo only, revealing shades of blue.
Clarify, clarify, clarify
Indigo binds best to squeaky clean hair. This means no oils, conditioners, hair products, dirt, grime, mineral build-up, leftover snacks, or fuzzy animal friends. At the very least, wash your hair thoroughly with a shampoo specially made for clarifying buildup. Clarifying shampoos are easily found at salons and beauty supply stores, and they are showing up more and more frequently now at regular drugstores as well.
Do yourself one better and start with Ancient Sunrise® Rainwash Mineral Treatment, and then follow that up with a good rinse with a clarifying shampoo. Wash your hair immediately before applying your henna/indigo mixture, and remember to skip the conditioner. Anything left on the hair creates an obstacle for the indoxyl molecules and increases the chances of a weak bond that will fade over time.
Ancient Sunrise® Rainwash is a natural treatment that removes mineral buildup. Mix 1 teaspoon of product with 2oz. distilled water to create a gel, and apply it to the hair, leaving it in for at least 15 minutes.
For those who have extra-resistant hair, we will recommend scrubbing the scalp and roots with a few drops of liquid dish soap. Dish soap is a very strong detergent and will wipe out any residual oils which might get in the way of a good indigo stain. Keep in mind that in doing so, the soap will dry out the scalp, but this dryness is temporary and can be fixed with a conditioning treatment after washing out your dye mixture. For the purpose of a good indigo stain, hair that is dry (absent of oils) and slightly roughed-up is the best. The hair closest to the roots is smoother and less porous, making it more resistant to dye.
For extra staying power, add 1 teaspoon of regular table salt (not sea salt or Himalayan; they contain minerals!) per every 100g indigo powder. The salt helps to strengthen the indigo’s bond to the hair by temporarily altering the surface texture of the hair strand, allowing a better stain.
Heat helps, too
After applying the henna/indigo paste and wrapping your hair with plastic, gently heat your hair. You can use a dryer bonnet, sit outside on a warm day, place a heated blanket or heating pad over your head, or aim a hair dryer at your head for a few minutes at a time. Heat opens the hair’s cuticles, allowing more dye to migrate into the shaft. Heat will also cut down on processing time. Under consistent warm temperatures (100F-140F), you can cut processing time roughly in half.
If you don’t have access to a dryer hood or heating pad, wrap your hair and sit somewhere warm. The towel or scarf will keep your body heat in the paste, and prevent dripping.
Henna should always be dye-released with an acidic liquid, or an acidic fruit powder plus distilled water. Some acids bring out and maintain henna’s bright, warm tones. Others mute the tones. You will want to use the latter.
The two best fruit acids for neutral and cool results are Ancient Sunrise® Nightfall Rose and Ancient Sunrise® Amla.
Ancient Sunrise® Nightfall Rose is derived from the purple aronia fruit, and is very high in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are what cause blueberries to be blue. When used to dye-release henna, Ancient Sunrise® Nightfall Rose adds subtle ash tones to the henna, cooling the overall shade. Once the henna is dye-released and mixed with indigo, the resulting color is neutral without being overly dark.
The purple aronia fruit, similar to blueberries, is high is anthocyanins which add a subtle blue tone to henna mixes.
Ancient Sunrise®Amla powder is another solid choice. Amla mutes warm tones by pushing the henna dye molecules toward brown during the dye release process. Amla on its own is not a dye, and will not color hair. It simply tweaks the color the lawsone precursor molecules during dye-release. As an added bonus, Amla helps indigo bind more effectively by temporarily snapping hydrogen bonds in the keratin of the hair, allowing the indigo dye to migrate in more effectively. The result is a cooler and often deeper brunette without warm undertones.
Ancient Sunrise® offers pre-made Henna for Hair kits in Cool Brunette and Cool Dark Brunette, which both contain amla as the fruit acid. If you are looking for brown hair without red, a good place to start would be to order either or both sample kits to test, and then go from there. You may find that one works perfectly for you, or you can adjust the formula to create your own custom mix.
Getting Fancy: Cassia, Henna, and Indigo Mixes
Mixing cassia, henna, and indigo allows for a wide range of lighter neutral shades, from ‘hint of dirty blonde” to “coffee with cream brunette.” Cassia acts to “dilute” the henna and indigo in such a way that the hue remains stable, but the shade is made lighter.
This will be explored in more depth in a future article. If your hair is lighter or gray, equal parts henna and indigo result in a medium brunette. Equal parts henna, cassia, and indigo will result in a light-medium brunette. Keep adding cassia until you have 80% cassia, 10% henna, and 10% indigo, and you have a mix which dyes light hair a deep blonde.
Some customers find that their hair still shows too much warmth with the Chai kit, so they decrease the henna. Because the mix contains mostly cassia, they can adjust the henna/indigo ratio without going darker. Remember that cassia is a light, translucent golden dye, and will not lighten hair.
Toning Warm Tones
If your mix comes out too warm, there are ways to calm it down. We generally recommend waiting a week after your first application because it can cool down on its own. If you’ve “been there, done that” and your hair generally is warm, it is okay to tone after your initial application.
To give your hair more of a cool tone, you will need cassia and indigo. The amount of each and the time will vary. Testing is crucial so that you don’t over do it and so that you aren’t wasting a lot of product. For more information on toning, visit Toning Henna – Part 1 and Toning Henna – Part 2.
Your Hair’s Natural Color
Henna, indigo, and cassia all stain the hair’s outer layers of keratin. This does not affect the hair’s natural melanin, which is one reason that the same mix will appear somewhat different on two different heads of hair. Genetics determine the amount of eumelanin and pheomelanin within the hair, which causes hair to be blonde, brunette, or red, and to have warm or cool undertones. Eumelanin causes hair to have ash tones, or to be dark. Black hair has the highest amount of eumalanin. Pheomelanin give hair red tones. Natural redheads have the highest levels of pheomelanin. Most hair colors have some ratio of both.
It will be more difficult to achieve a neutral or cool hair color with a very warm starting hair color. A natural redhead may have to play around with plant powder ratios and acids much more than someone who is starting with a medium ash blond, in order to achieve a cool brunette.
How to Begin
The best plan is to start with test samples, and determine which one provided the closest color to your goal. From there, you can adjust plant dye ratios, and try both Ancient Sunrise® Nightfall Rose and Amla fruit powders. If your test sample came out too dark, increase cassia or decrease indigo. If it was too light, do the opposite. Remember that increasing the amount of fruit acid will not neutralize more red; doing so will only make the mix too acidic. Don’t hesitate to consult with a Customer Service Representative to fine-tune your mix. Remember to start lighter when in doubt. It is easier to re-apply with a darker mix than it is to lighten.
The Ancient Sunrise® Henna for Hair Facebook group is another great source for custom mixes and before/after photos from fellow customers. Use this as a resource to ask for tips, compare results and gauge your expected outcome. It’s also a great way to stay updated on new blog articles and special promotions!
Final Notes on Neutral and Cool Tones
Remember that your results will take about a week to oxidize into their final color. Hair can appear brighter upon first rinsing out the mix. Do not be alarmed if you see red or copper tones in your hair. Be patient, and wait that week before reapplying. During the oxidation period, the warm tones will diminish. If you are impatient, you may use heat to speed up the oxidation process. Heat will darken hennaed hair rapidly, and permanently. Keep this in consideration before beginning.