Category Archives: Tips & Tricks

Finger Detangling

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Tips and Tricks: Number Twenty

As many of you know, I’m a fan of finger detangling. I started employing this method of detangling almost exclusively in February 2011 when I joined the Curly Nikki presents Kim Coles’ Grow Out Challenge. Prior to that, I used a wide tooth comb in the shower with conditioner saturated hair. However, last year I started experimenting with finger detangling and just found it to be far more gentle on my fine strands. I definitely attribute part of my length retention over the last year to it.

Finger detangling allows me to “feel” tangles so that I can carefully separate the hair and ease them out. With a comb, unless I hit a major snare that would stop the comb or brush in its tracks, I realized that I had more than likely been tearing through tangles. As I finger detangle now, I wince to think of the damage I was doing in the past with a comb because I didn’t feel the knots and ties. For those with hair of hardier stock, this may not be a problem. But, at the very least, I believe that combing through significant tangles prior to finger detangling disrupts the cuticle and, on the more severe end of the spectrum, causes breakage.

I finger detangle at a variety of stages. During my weekly pre-poo session, I “dry” detangle with Vatika oil and de-shed (remove “captured” shed hair) as I demonstrated in How I Pre-Poo. Dry detangling was something I would have NEVER though that I would do!! But, because my hair is almost always stretched from TnCs, twist-outs or bunned WnG and was well detangled the prior wash session, I am able to gently detangle and de-shed my dry hair with oil. That first finger-detangling session tends to take care of most of the heavy-hitters. Then, I will finish detangling under the water stream while rinsing my deep conditioner and finally after I apply my leave-in. As my hair is pretty detangled once I get to the leave-in step, I will sometimes gently “chase” my finger detangling with a wide-tooth comb. However, I don’t do use the comb regularly. I have discovered that making certain that I do a final detangle after I apply my leave-in results in an easier detangling session the next wash day.

Anywho, here are a few tutorials that show how others finger detangle. As you’ll see, there is no one “right” way to do it. There are a variety of techniques, so you just have to figure out what works best for you!

via HeyFranHey

via MahoganyCurls

via Chery818

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Do you finger detangle? If so, how and why? If not, do you think that you would try it?

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Growing Nape Hair

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Tips and Tricks: Number 19

Until a few months ago, I probably would have never thought about this or believed that it was achievable. I mean, nape hair is the same as the hair at our sideburns or like eyelashes and eyebrows, right? In my mind, this hair just had a very short terminal length and was meant to be shorter. Then, I was perusing the Fotki of Zhara after Jasmine aka CurlsDivine told us about her in a GOC update and I came across this picture. Go ahead, look at it and read the caption … I’ll wait.

Are you kidding me? Waist length nape hair? That’s impossible!! Right?!?! Guess not! I started thinking about my own very wispy, fine, thin (density) and tangle-prone nape hair. Could I possibly grow that hair to waist length as well? So, I started to do a little research to understand what others have done to grow their more delicate nape hair longer. These are some tips that I found or think make sense.

Tips:
Some of these tips are no-brainers and techniques that I already practice. Others probably wouldn’t work for me because of the fine and easily weighed down nature of my nape hair. So, I think it’s probably best to pick and choose the techniques that are likely to work for you and modify as needed:

  • Don’t over-manipulate the hair at the nape with brushing and/or combing.
  • Be very gentle when detangling the nape area (finger detangling is recommended).
  • Wear styles that prevent your nape hair from rubbing your clothing as excessive friction can cause damage and breakage.
  • Avoid placing a lot of tension on the nape hair with overly tight weaves, braids, bun and ponytail styles.
  • Protect the nape at night with a silk/satin scarf and/or bonnet ensuring that this area is fully covered. A satin pillowcase adds yet another level of protection in the event that your headgear is prone to “slippage” like mine.
  • If you use commercial permanent colors, apply dyes to the nape last so that it is processed for less time or don’t treat this area at all.
  • If/when you use heat, reduce the temperature and ensure the hair is adequately treated with a heat protector.
  • Moisturize and seal this hair more if hair it is prone to dryness. This applies to using additional conditioner through the wash session (regular conditioner, deep conditioner) and moisture during styling (leave-in, styler, sealing).
  • Massage the scalp to promote circulation and growth. (I use an essential oil mix that has been proven to stimulate growth. I have tried Dr. Miracle’s Temple and Nape Grow Balm to increase density, not length, in the past. I didn’t notice any appreciable difference. However, I admit, I wasn’t diligent about using it every day either.)
  • Braid the nape hair into a horizontal cornrow and thread the length through the cornrow to protect it.

This last technique is the only one that I hadn’t really thought of or applied previously and I found this great “How to” on it on K is for Kinky: Protecting and Growing Out Your Nape with the Braid Method. Now, this may not work for every style, but it looks like a great way to protect the delicate nape when wearing hair down and out as the braid can easily be hidden. I’m thinking that even a simple braid bunned at the nape would work for those with very fine nape hair like me or those who can’t cornrow. So, don’t be surprised if the next time you see me wearing a WnG or TnC, I’m packing a mini-bun under it as I’m on a mission now to grow my nape hair to waist length too!

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Are you growing out your nape? What techniques have you found to be effective?

My Holy Grail Shower Cap: Terry-Lined

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Tips and Tricks Number Seventeen

Now, I know that the steam from the shower is the friend of many a WnG type of gal. However, when you are rocking a TnC, a sleek bun, a smooth updo, a press and curl or what have you, humidity can feel more like the enemy and the shower cap your first line of defense! That’s not just me, right??

Well, unfortunately my first line of defense has failed me for most of my life. For years I searched for a shower cap that REALLY sealed out steam and water. My hair has always *POOFED* at the slightest hint of humidity (think Izzy’s Got the Frizzies, but not as cute!). And maybe I just don’t shower right, but my edges ALWAYS seem to get wet, even when I tie a scarf around them, wear a satin bonnet, don one or two plastic baggies and THEN add a shower cap with a thick headband around the edges to “seal” it. Are you frickin’ kidding me?!?

So, a few months ago, I shared a post by another blogger about shower caps (read it here). She had discovered a company, Celestial Soul, that sells shower “crowns” in sizes ranging from mini (for the TWA) to Extra Large (for the BAA). On that post, I talked about my personal struggles with shower caps always falling short. Up until that point, I’d had the most success with this $6.95 Betty Dain Fashionista shower cap that I found at Harmon for $6.95 (it’s also available at Sally’s and Amazon).

It was roomy enough for my banana clip bun or pineappled TnC and the two elastic bands seemed to provide a double barrier against shower steam. However, wet edges were still inevitable. Then, someone commented:

I have always had the exact same issue with shower caps. Fed up, I did some intense googling a couple months ago and finally came to the conclusion that I needed a terry lined cap … I found one at CVS for $4 and, believe it or not, that is the answer! It’s plenty big (I have a LOT of hair); I can even keep my hair clipped on top of my head. Somehow the terry cloth absorbs any moisture before it gets to your hairline. Try it! I promise, that’s the trick.

So, about a month or so ago, I finally got around to taking the advice and picked up the Betty Dain Socialite terry-lined shower cap shown far above (don’t you just love an animal print? Grrrrrr! ;)). The cap is lined in a soft, cream terry cloth material.

 O … M … G!!! Where have you been all of my life Socialite?!?! I finally found my holy grail shower cap!! I’ve been using this cap for over a month now and it has proven itself over and over again. I just pop this baby over my satin scarf and/or bonnet and it keeps my edges smooth and dry, even when I linger in the shower a little too long or accidentally allow the water to cascade down the nape of my neck!! The proof is in the pudding. I got my hair pressed this past Friday, haven’t used any heat since and my “do” is even sleeker than it was when it was first flat-ironed!

Final Tip:
Oh, and when my natural hair is a little too big to allow this cap to cover my edges, I figured out another way to utilize terry cloth to preserve my style. I just grab the Turbie Twist Hair Towel, secure it over my bonnet and then pop on the larger Fashionista shower cap! This combo works as well as the terry-lined cap to absorb the steam and water so that my edges stay dry and my style stays frizz free (well, you know, relatively speaking ;))!

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Do you use a shower cap? If so, what kind works for you?

Breakage vs. New Hair: UPDATE!

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Tips and Tricks: Number Sixteen

This is just a quick post to provide an update and tip. Back in July 2011, I did this post on Breakage vs. New Hair. In it, I explained that I had experienced breakage in my crown in Jan-Feb 2010 and excessive shedding that began mid-2010 and continued through early 2011 (with a resurgence this past fall). So, I had a lot of short hairs and did some research to try to determine if it was due to breakage or regrowth. I suspected that it was new hairs though. Anywho, I shared the pic above to illustrate that post.

Well, yesterday, I was examining the same area of my crown and noticed that the hair was significantly shorter than the adjacent areas. At first, I became upset because I thought that it was breakage. Then, the memory of my old post hit me! So, I took a photo to compare what seemed to be the same area.

Well color ME happy!! It looks like I was a little further back then the first pic, but the hair slightly forward was even longer!  I’m pretty sure now that this was that same new hair that has grown rather than new breakage. Therefore, although I posted earlier today that my “W” shaped perimeter was indicative of a shorter crown, I’m comforted that this area is actually growing. I will continue to keep an eye on it and plan on testing Chicoro’s Lead Hair Theory by keeping my lead hair at waist length and seeing if the bulk of my hair, including the shorter areas in the crown, will “catch up” with it.

The Tip:
Photo documenting is invaluable! If you are concerned about a specific area or working towards a goal, pictures are a great tool that will serve you far better than memory. My immediate gut reaction to the shorter area in my crown was, “Dang!!  It’s breaking badly!!” But, having an older photo that I could reference saved me from the anxiety of contemplating a potentially drastic and unnecessary cut!

So, if you have hair goals, are working on building a regimen and/or are trying to determine what products and techniques work best for you, I’d definitely recommend taking pictures. And, don’t forget to date them! Fortunately for me, the blog is a FABULOUS log and photo journal:)! However, prior to that, I just used a Facebook album. So, do whatever works for you!

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Do you use photographs to document your hair journey, monitor the results of your regimen and/or product choices and/or evaluate progress towards goals? Any advice for those who’d like to start a photo journal?

Bald Spots: Help!

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Tips and Tricks: Number Fifteen

Jasmine writes:

Hello, my name is Jasmine and I really hope that you receive this email, because I am just about desperate for a reply from anyone.

I am sixteen years old and I am from Texas. I have been natural all of my life (and sadly, I still don’t know how to take care of my hair at this point). I have done at least 3 big chops in my life and I would like to try and avoid having a fourth one. My hair, in the center especially, is bald because I glued in some tracks. What would you recommend I do to grow my hair back? I have been taking Biotin (2 pills = 2,000 mcg) daily (one at night and the morning) and would like to grow some hair in those bald areas so that I have some hair for my senior pictures coming up in the summer. I always wear my hair in French braids daily, since I can no longer afford to get my hair braided. Please help me!

Thanks in advance.

First, I’m so sorry that you are going through this. I think it’s really important for younger ladies like yourself to be careful with DIY hair treatments like weaves, dyes and chemical relaxers as you can cause damage that could traumatize your scalp and/or seriously damage your hair. I don’t frequent salons often, but as a teenager, my mother applied my relaxers or I went to a salon. So, I would recommend the same if you are contemplating potentially damaging processes.

Next, it is important to remember that hair grows a 1/2 inch a month on average. So, you most likely aren’t going to grow 6-7 inches of hair by summer. However, in regard to your question about what you can do to help grow your hair back, I suggest you attack the problem from three angles.

DIET and EXERCISE:

Diet/Nutrition:
So often it seems that we are looking for the easy fix to our hair problems that comes in the forms of tonics and pills. However, truth be told, I think that nutrition and exercise are probably at the very top of the list of the most critical things to address and help improve the condition of one’s hair. That being said, take a look at your diet. Are you drinking around 60 ounces of water a day or half your body weight? Are you eating enough protein? Leafy and colorful vegetables? Fruit? Do you eat a lot of processed and refined foods like pre-packaged snacks, soda and fast foods that are filled with saturated fats and transfatty acids, added sugars, salts and preservatives? If so, I’d suggest starting there. Here are two good posts that were on BlackGirlLongHair about foods and nutrients that promote growth and healthy hair:

10 Foods for Healthy Hair
13 Nutrients That Promote Hair Growth

Exercise:
In addition, it’s important to make certain that you are getting adequate amounts of cardiovascular activity. Oxygen fed via the blood and circulation are critical to supplying those hair cells with the great nutrients that you are now ingesting ;). Not only will exercise improve your hair, it will improve your health and overall well-being.

TOPICAL PRODUCTS and TECHNIQUES:

Oils, Essential Oils (EOs) and Oil Mixes:
Okay, so though I said that these are often sought as the easy fixes, I think there is something to be said for topical “tonics” and mechanical techniques. There are a variety of essential oils (EOs) that are touted as promoting growth and a variety of homemade recipes that you may want to try. That being said, be careful when using EOs. A few drops will do ya’ … and they need to be heavily diluted in a carrier (base) oil such as jojoba oil, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) or virgin coconut oil (VCO). Here are links to a few posts with oil mixes that might help encourage growth:

Essential Oil Mix for Hair Growth (My post that includes an EO mix that I first learned of via MopTopMaven and corroborated was proven effective via clinical studies.)

Product Review Aloe Gro (Her Best Hair’s post on Aloe Gro, a mix of aloe juice and various EOs.)

My Staples: Jamaican Black Castor Oil (JBCO) (Some have found success re-growing thinning or non-existent edges by simply applying Jamaican black castor oil [JBCO] to their scalps on a daily basis.)

Scalp Food (Friend, fellow blogger and Grow Out Challenger, Marsha of Hairology, recently posted about how she has been able to regrow a thinning spot at her crown with water and jojoba oil.)

Scalp Massages:
Ultimately, what may be partially responsible for improvements in growth appreciated with these tonics are the regular scalp massages that take place when applying these oils. Scalp massages help stimulate circulation, which helps the hair follicles become receptive to the nutrients and oxygen they need for maximum health. I’d suggest incorporating a scalp massage daily or as often as you can and for as long as you can, up to 10 minutes a day.

Reduce/Eliminate Tension Styles:
French braids are probably fine as you shouldn’t be using a lot of tension with those. However, try to alternate your styles so that tension is not always in the same areas and so that it is minimal.

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LENGTH RETENTION REGIMEN:

Ultimately, it doesn’t make a difference if you grow hair if you don’t retain it. Therefore, it is very important to build and maintain an effective regimen that allows you to keep your hair clean, moisturized and protected. Check out this post on CurlyNikki.com if you need some basic pointers on building a simple, but effective, regimen: Building a Hair Regimen: Keep it Simple.

I would add protective, low-manipulation styling to the regimen line-up, as well as careful and patient handling of your hair every step of the way. You might also be interested in my post, Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day … And Neither is a Hair Regimen. My point there was that it’s not important that you get your regimen perfect overnight, it’s just important that you start to actively think about what you are currently doing and things that you may need to change to improve your results.

Hope that helps!

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What say ye ladies? Any other words of advice to help with bald spots caused by mechanical trauma?

Hair Rinses

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Tips & Tricks: Number Fourteen

I’ve only experimented with two hair rinses and ultimately didn’t incorporate either into my regimen for the long haul. However, many find benefit in them, so I thought it might be helpful to list the more common types and their purported benefits.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Rinse: Closes cuticle due to acidic pH, helps hair retain moisture, gives hair shine, bounce and definition.

ACV should be diluted in water and not used full strength. Start with 2 tbsp. of ACV in 1 c. distilled water and adjust your ratios from there. The smell does bother some, but tends to dissipate once the hair dries. ACV rinses should not be overused as they can be drying to hair. You may want to begin by experimenting with a monthly rinse and then determine if a bi-weekly, weekly or bi-monthly regimen is more beneficial.

I tried a couple of ACV rinses around June of 2010. I did notice that my hair appeared curlier and bouncier, which were both results I desired. However, I just didn’t incorporate the step into my regimen as I didn’t feel like it! LOL!! I also noticed that my hair felt a little drier than normal, though I can’t attribute that to the ACV definitively.

Black or Green Tea Rinse: Caffeine in tea is thought to decrease shedding by blocking DHT, promote hair growth in those suffering from hair loss disorders, promote shine, darken hair, enhance natural highlights

A black or green tea rinse can be made by brewing 1 teabag in 1 cup of water. Wait for it to cool and apply prior to shampooing or after conditioning, prior to final rinse. In May of 2011, CurlyNikki.com recently featured an article, Everything You Need to Know About Tea Rinses. It discussed the potential benefits of caffeine as a topical application to hair, but also indicated that too much caffeine can actually stunt growth. It also indicated that there are no published scientific studies on caffeine and shedding.

When I first learned of black tea rinses in January 2011, I found quite a few anecdotal stories of black tea rinses reducing shedding, like this one on Her Best Hair. I used a rinse on my wash day for a couple of months, but didn’t notice any appreciable reduction in my shedding. That being said, I was also brewing heavy dose batches of black tea (4-6 bags in 2-3 cups of water) and allowed the teabags to sit in the water for hours. That may have been my problem!

Baking Soda – Clarifies hair. Dilute 1 tbsp. baking soda in 1 c. distilled water. Some shampoo with a baking soda paste. Baking soda is an alkali and has a normal pH of about 8.3-9. Hair is acidic by nature. Alkaline products lift the hair cuticle, hence why some use baking soda to wash and clarify hair of dirt, oils and other product build-up. I’d suggest that you check out this video by Kimmaytube, Structure of Hair Part 2 – pH Balance Basics, before experimenting with it. Click here for more info on baking soda for clarifying (see note at end of article about diluting heavily in water to make a rinse as an alternative for dry hair).

Flat Beer – Reduces frizz, adds shine and body. Apply one cup of flat, room-temperature beer to hair full-strength after conditioning. Allow it to sit for a few minutes, then rinse with cool water. Check out these posts on CurlyNikki for more info: Unconventional Frizz Tips and 5 Home Frizzy Hair Remedies.

Herbal Tea Rinses*: Benefits vary based upon type of tea.

Calendula – Brightens blonde hair, nourishes the skin, healing and anti-fungal. Brew 1/4 c. calendula petals in 1 c. water.

Hibiscus – Astringent qualities, releases darkish purple dye that can be used to color greying hair, deepen underlying color and/or enhance natural highlights, provides slip to aid in detangling. Click here for more info on the benefits and application of hibiscus tea rinses and infusions.

Chamomile Rinse – Brightens blonde hair and brings out blonde highlights on light brown hair, heals inflamed skin. LivingStrong posted this article about the potential, though not proven, benefits of chamomile in preventing hair loss. Click here for a “how to” recipe for making a chamomile tea rinse.

Lemongrass Rinse – Controls/eliminates dandruff. Click here for more info and a rinse recipe.

Catnip – Helps with split ends, conditions, helps with manageability (reduces frizzies), soothes dry scalp, anti-dandruff treatment, temporarily colors white hair pale blonde. brew strong cup of tea, massage into scalp after shampooing and rinse)Click here for more info and a rinse recipe.

Rosemary – Stimulates scalp, thought to help decrease hair loss and promote growth, treats oily hair.

Nettle – Prevent and treat dandruff, stimulate scalp, great for winter.

Burdock – Maintains and promotes healthy scalp, encourages hair growth, improves hair strength adds shine and body.

Neem – Repairs damaged hair, restores sheen, encourages hair growth.

Marshmallow Root – Relieves scalp irritations, provides moisture and slip which helps detangle hair.

You can buy packaged teas as your local grocery store and/or loose teas at many natural food stores and chains like Whole Foods and Wegmanns. You can also purchase pre-packaged tea rinses that include one or several of the teas listed above online like the ones available at Krrb.com here and AnitaGrant.com here.

(Disclaimer: I have not tried any of these herbal tea rinses, recipes or ordered from any of the tea suppliers. So, I can not review them. I am only providing links for informational purposes. If interested, research the benefits of the tea of your choice and check out reviews on the retailer.)

Final Tip:
Although all of these rinses can be applied to the hair by pouring from a bowel or cup, using a dye applicator bottle or spray bottle are probably easier and neater options.

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Have you tried or do you use hair rinses? If so, which one(s)? Have they been effective? What benefits have you experienced?

Color Options with BAQ Henna

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Tips & Tricks Number Thirteen

Kendall asks:

I’ve been used to having the freedom to change up my hair style whenever I feel like it. I cut it short, I get bangs, I get a weave to change up my style. But now that I’m trying to transition and want to focus on retaining length, my usual methods of keeping my hair/look interesting are out the window! So now I’m thinking about adding color, BUT I don’t want any chemicals. Is there a way to add color without the use of harsh chemicals or the slight tint you get from Henna?

Why yes. Yes there is! *lol* I’ve often read comments from women who indicate that the would like to try henna, but don’t want the red/orange tint that accompanies it. Well, there is a relatively easy way to obtain a variety of auburns, browns and blacks with henna and it simply involves adding cassia, amla and/or indigo to your henna mix. Now, one thing that you must understand about henna is that it will never lighten your hair as it does not lift color from your strands. Rather, henna colors by depositing a dye molecule which bonds to the keratin in hair. So, the tone/color you achieve is dependent upon your starting hair color, which may be your natural color(s) or color achieved through other chemical processes (commercial dyes, bleaching and/or highlights) and your henna mix ratios. You can go deeper/darker than your starting color(s), but never lighter.

Henna/Indigo Mixes:
So, what are your options? There are so many, I can’t go through them all here. But, here is a list of some color possibilities and the henna mix ratios if your starting color is medium brown:

  • Red highlights: Equal parts henna and cassia
  • Dark Auburn: Henna only
  • Warm Brown: Equal parts henna and indigo
  • Dark Brown: 2/3 henna, 1/3 indigo
  • Darker Brown: 1/3 henna, 2/3 indigo
  • Blue Black: 2 step henna-indigo (henna applied alone, rinsed and then followed with indigo applied alone)
  • Cooler Browns: Mix 1 part amla with 3 parts henna prior to adding indigo

If you’re interested in learning more about the colors you can achieve on your hair color, check out Catherine Cartwright-Jones’s very informative and free e-book, Henna for Hair. The “Quick Mix Chart” on page 55 provides ratios for obtaining various color results on everything from grey to blonde to black hair. For example, if you have light brown hair with grey that you’d like to turn into blonde highlights, you can use cassia, which has a yellow dye molecule. Or, perhaps you’d like to make your blonde highlights or grey strands a strawberry blonde? Try mixing equal parts henna and cassia. The Henna for Hair e-book provides a vast amount of information regarding the benefits of this wonderful little ayuverdic herb, how to use it and many pictures that demonstrate the color possibilities.

More Henna Mixes:
In addition, some add common household ingredients to their henna mixes to enhance color. For example:

  • Add cognac, grape juice, beetroot powder or ground cloves for more intense reds.
  • Add strong black coffee,strong black tea or walnuts for deeper browns.
  • Add red wine for chestnut brown color.

See this post here for more options, recipes and mix ratios. However, I offer this information with the caveat that I’ve never tried any of these! So, I would recommend that you research your choice of “additives” before experimenting and do a strand test as I’ve read that some additions make for a very stinky henna experience and may not impact the color results!

Precautionary Advice on “Natural” Hair Dyes:
One final note, when searching for natural hair color options, be cautious and do your research when contemplating using “boxed” dyes that are purportedly “natural.” I went to a salon last February and, after I explained that I use henna, the stylist began singing the praises of a “new,” ammonia free, natural dye system: L’Oreal Inoa (standing for “Innovative – No Ammonia” … allegedly). Well, a quick internet search when I got home revealed that, although the dye might not contain ammonia, the post-color shampoo does and the ingredient label clearly lists ammonia hydroxide (see article and image of bottle here)! A little more searching also revealed multiple sources that indicate it also contains a high level of PPD, a potential carcinogen.

Ironically enough, Organic Hair Systems, Inoa’s competitor that provided the prior article “exposing” the misnomer, does not appear to be a perfectly natural alternative either. An article on Green Talk explains that Organic Color Systems is simply a trade name and although this hair color line does not contain any ammonia, it does contain small amounts of PPD as well as other chemicals. Therefore, it is neither an “all-natural” nor an organic color option.

So, if you are looking for truly all-natural hair color and are willing to spend a little more time with the process, BAQ henna mixes may be one of your best options. And hey, maybe you’ll end up liking a little red in your life. I know that I LOVE it;)!

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Do you mix henna with indigo, amla and/or cassia to dye your hair a shade of red, brown or black? What’s your starting hair color(s) and your mix?