We have all had that moment when we set aside time to mix Ancient Sunrise® henna and/or cassia only to realize when we are about to start, that we are out of our powered fruit acid or liquid. Our brow starts to sweat, “Customer service is closed for the weekend. What do I do now?”
The good news is, you do not have to panic! There are other acids you most likely have around your home that can be used to dye release your henna and/or cassia paste. If you drink juice or have kids, you may have one of these on hand: apple juice, blueberry juice, cranberry juice, or orange juice. Bakers will typically have powdered cream of tartar or lemon juice on hand. Cooks will typically have apple cider vinegar or white vinegar on hand as well. Any one of these can be used for dye release.
Apple Juice – pH 3.4 (1)
100% juice can typically be found in the grocery store
Make sure the apple juice isn’t too mild. Some juices advertised to toddlers may be too weak to properly dye release your plant powders
Dye releases Henna and Cassia mixes faster than other fruit acids or juices (usually in 6 hours instead of 8 hours in 68°F – 72°F)
Very gentle on the scalp
Cranberry Juice – pH 2.3 (1)
100% Juice preferred
A juice cocktail will have more sugar and be sticky, but not unusable
If you use Copperberry fruit acid, this will be the best substitution in a pinch
Blueberry Juice – pH 3.2 (2)
100% Juice is preferred
A Blueberry/ Pomegranate blend will work nicely
If you use Amla or Night Fall Rose fruit acid, this is the best substitution
Orange Juice – pH 3.7 (3)
100% Juice with no pulp or calcium added works the best
If you use Kristalovino fruit acid, this will be the best substitution for you
Lemon Juice – pH 2.3 (1)
You can use bottled lemon juice
It does not have to be fresh-squeezed
If you use Malluma Kristalovino or citric acid, this may be a good substitution
If you have a sensitive scalp, this acid is not for you; use cream of tartar instead
You can dilute the lemon juice with distilled water
50% lemon juice and 50% distilled water works nicely
Vinegar – pH 2.4 (1)
Like lemon juice, white vinegar and apple cider vinegar can be watered down with distilled water
If you use Malluma Kristalovino or citric acid, this may be a good substitution
If you have a sensitive scalp, this acid is not for you; use cream of tartar instead
Vinegar mixes tend to brown henna more when finished oxidizing
This doesn’t mean you will get a brown color from henna. Your henna will not be as bright as using cranberry juice
Vinegar can make henna/cassia paste smell unpleasant
To dilute white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice, simply add equal parts distilled water to your acidic liquid.
Howard, Luke R.a; *; Brownmiller, Cindia; Mauromoustakos, Andy; Prior, Ronald L.a. ” Improved stability of blueberry juice anthocyanins by acidification and refrigeration.” https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-berry-research/jbr133, Journal of Berry Research, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 189-201, 2016, 10.3233/JBR-160133
Reddy, Avanija DMD, MPH; Norris, Don F. DMD; Momeni, Stephanie S. MS, MBA; Waldo, Belinda DMD; Ruby, John D. DMD, Ph.D. “The pH of beverages in theUnited States.” https://www.ada.org/en/~/media/ADA/Public%20Programs/Files/JADA_The%20pH%20of%20beverages%20in%20the%20United%20States, 2016 American Dental Association, jada.ada.org
1/8 teaspoon Citric Acid
1/4 teaspoon Amla
1/4 teaspoon Nightfall rose
1/2 teaspoon of warm distilled water
First, mix up all three powders with warm distilled water and let it sit for a few minutes.
Secondly, apply the paste to freshly cleaned skin with a brush on the face, avoiding the eyes, nostrils, mouth, and any open wounds.
Then leave the mix on for 15 minutes (or until firm).
Finally, use a washcloth and warm water while gently massage the paste off of the skin.
Results Immediately after rinsing the paste off, my face was RED. Part of this can be attributed to the anthocyanins of Nightfall Rose, the other part is due to my sensitive skin. The redness went away within a few hours. Though subtle, my skin was tighter, brighter, softer, and I had fewer blackheads. Within 24 hours, I noticed my rosacea was less red than before the mask. To see more drastic results, I would need to do this weekly.
I would do this mask again, as well as recommend it to my friends and family, because I liked that my skin felt tighter and that my cheeks were less red after 24 hours. Expect a little tingling and tightening sensation while it’s on the skin. It was simple to mix, apply, and rinse off. Like most facials, avoid doing this on a day of an important event, as it does cause temporary redness. If you’re unsure of how your skin will react, mix up a small amount and test first!
*Note* It is not advisable to throw random ingredients together without thoroughly researching the pros and cons specific products may have on human skin and consulting an esthetician or dermatologist.
Benefits of Citric Acid on the Skin:
Minimizes fine lines1
Citric acid is used in countless beauty products and food products. It’s a great preservative, but there are more benefits that you may not have known, such as its positive effect on acne and wrinkly skin. Citric acid is an alpha hydroxyl acid which results in helping to increase the rate at which skin renews as well as help skin that has sun damage.2
Benefits of Amla (Emblica Officionalis) on the skin:
High in polyphenols4
Like citric acid, amla has multiple purposes. Ancient Sunrise® Amla powder is used for henna mixes and can be used on the skin by itself.3 High levels of antioxidants in amla mean it’s procollagen. Procollagen is what can help the skin look youthful.
Benefits of Nightfall Rose (Aronia Prunifolia) on the skin:
High in polyphenols such as Hydroxycinnamic acid7
Aronia prunifolia seems to be a beauty secret the world should know about. The purple chokeberry has high levels of anthocyanins consequently helping with UV protection8. The hydroxycinnamic acid present in this powder can help with anti-aging. Hydroxycinnamic has anti collagenase properties which prevent enzymes from breaking down the collagen in our skin6.
Variya, Bhavesh C, et al. “Emblica Officinalis (Amla): A Review for Its Phytochemistry, Ethnomedicinal Uses and Medicinal Potentials with Respect to Molecular Mechanisms.” Pharmacological Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27320046.
Binic, Ivana, et al. “Skin Ageing: Natural Weapons and Strategies.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3569896.
Taofiq, Oludemi, et al. “Hydroxycinnamic Acids and Their Derivatives: Cosmeceutical Significance, Challenges and Future Perspectives, a Review.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), MDPI, 13 Feb. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6155946/.
Taheri, Rod, et al. “Underutilized Chokeberry (Aronia Melanocarpa, Aronia Arbutifolia, Aronia Prunifolia) Accessions Are Rich Sources of Anthocyanins, Flavonoids, Hydroxycinnamic Acids, and Proanthocyanidins.” ACS Publications, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 13 Aug. 2013, pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf402449q.
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.