Thursday, October 16, 2014

I'm Back... With an Evil Eye Manicure!

It's been nearly a month since my last post, which makes me a bit sad.  I have no intention of stopping; life just seems to get in the way sometimes!  I've had some financial hardship lately as a result of moving combined with some unexpected car problems, and I've been picking up extra hours at my job to try to compensate (the week of my last post, I did three overnight shifts).  As a result, I have just been too tired to spend any time on my nails.  Until I'm caught up (or I am back to normal hours after Halloween), I probably won't be posting as often. 

While I'm a bit regretful that I didn't finish the 31-Day Nail Art Challenge, I'm also a bit relieved.  Did I enjoy the five days I did?  Definitely!  It was a good excuse to try some nail art I might not have done otherwise, and I quite liked some of the results!  Will I do it again, or try to finish? 


Honestly, that kind of posting schedule put too much stress on the process.  Nail art is my zen activity, and I want to keep it that way!  From now on, I will stick to challenges that are one-offs, or that are spaced out more :^)

NOW!  On to the nail art!  For this challenge, I wanted to do some Halloween-ish nail art that didn't involve pumpkins, bats, or grave stones (not to say those themes are lame; I just wasn't feeling it this time!)  Here's my result:

I was inspired partially by Alexa Chung's evil eye nail art, one iteration of which is shown here:

....and partially by a bracelet that was given to me by my dear friend (and my brother's girlfriend) Caitlin.  A similar one:

So pretty!  (Source)
Here's some more photos of the results (scary cuticles and all):

Thanks for stopping by!  :^)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The 31-Day Nail Art Challenge, Day 5: Blue - Subtle Tone-on-Tone Stamping

My first late post of the challenge!  I have a good excuse, though - I painted my nails Thursday night, planning to take photos Friday when I got out of work at 3:30 when the light was better.  On Friday, I ended up getting called in to work at 7:45am, and asked to stay late - so I didn't get home until 9:45pm last night!  Twelve hour days may be good for my wallet, but not so much for my nail blogging schedule ^_^

So far, even though it's simple, this is my favorite manicure I've done for this challenge.  I found two lonely bottles of everyone's fave stinky blue, Sally Hansen Pacific Blue (the old version) at my local Walgreens recently, and picked one of them up on impulse.  I noticed that it was very close in color to Sinful Colors Endless blue, but was not a dupe... so I decided to do some tone-on-tone stamping!  Here is the result:

I was a little afraid that, because the colors were so close, I wouldn't get a good stamp.  Fortunately, it worked just fine - Pacific Blue is a hair lighter and more opaque than Endless Blue, so I used it as a base, and stamped Endless Blue over it.  I used the Mash-51 plate with the offset triangles, because I thought it complemented the bright color.  I honestly am glad that I missed out on posting, because I got to wear this mani for an extra day.  This will definitely go into my regular rotation!

I received a lot of compliments on this manicure at work from customers, which was very gratifying, since usually no one notices my nails, haha.  I just love this color blue; I think it's so flattering universally.  I wish I'd picked up both bottles when I saw them... hopefully the other one will still be there next time!

The stamping is very subtle, which I think works for such a bright color.  I am going to try other variations of this technique later on to see if I can do a similar manicure in more colors!
Here's a bottle shot (the colors in the photos are pretty accurate on my monitor, but yours may differ):

Thanks for stopping by; I'm having such a great time with this challenge, and I adore looking at the spectacular work that the other ladies participating in this challenge put out.  I'm so awed by their talent!

The rest of the prompts are shown below, in the lovely graphic shared by Sarah at Chalkboard nails, here:

Don't forget to check out their work in the links below, and please add your link if you are participating!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The 31-Day Nail Art Challenge Day 4: Green - Malachite Nails

Since my degree is in geology, I get a lot of inspiration from nature -- specifically, from rocks and minerals (there's a difference - know it, respect it!  :^P  ).  There is an incredible range of beautiful and colorful inspiration that can be derived from the study of geology, from invertebrate paleontology to mineralogy and petrology, stratigraphy, and even hydrogeology!  Until now, I haven't done a single nail art design related to this topic, which is surprising, since I find it endlessly fascinating and have a long list of designs I'd like to try.  Luckily, for the fourth day of this challenge, the idea for the design was obvious to me:  malachite.  Malachite is a fascinating copper-rich mineral that often grows in concentric rings (forming little baby stalactites).  When ground smooth, these laminations of malachite appear as little blobby circles of different shades of bright, bold green.  For obvious reasons, malachite is used pretty extensively in jewelry.  Interestingly, it also forms as a pseudomorph of another copper mineral, azurite (a pseudomorph happens when one mineral changes through chemical processes to another mineral, preserving the original shape of the first mineral).  Azurite is a fantastically bright blue mineral, and often, these minerals are found together as an amalgamation of vibrant blue and green crystals.  Isn't nature amazing?!?

Aaaannnnnnyyyhoo, I wanted to replicate the texture of polished malachite on my nails, and ended up with the following results:

I'm super happy with how these turned out, even though I had a few setbacks along the way.  For reference, here is a picture of some polished malachite:
Link here.  Disclaimer:  While I personally am not a believer in the healing properties of crystals,
my motto is "to each their own!"   She also has lovely pictures of rocks!
To create these designs, I used acrylic paint exclusively, since I didn't have the right colors of nail polish. I used two shades of green as well as white to produce the designs.  I first painted a light green base on my nails, and then painted large and small circles with dark green.  Using the light green, I painted rings inside of the dark green circles, and so on, until my dots looked the way I wanted.  I then used the light and dark green to paint little shapes in between the circles.

The paint above was my main issue -- it had separated in the tube into a clear gel and a grainy green sludge.  This made doing the dark green bits super difficult and annoying, and made the finished surface super bumpy.  I'd like to try this again with better quality paint, to see if I could get smoother circles and a better overall effect, but for now I'm satisfied with the results.

I ended up using two coats of Salon Perfect Topcoat to smooth it out... I might need to pick some up really soon; my bottle is almost empty!

What aspect of your life regularly inspires your nail art?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments :^)

Before you go, don't forget to check out the incredible work of other nail artists at the end of this post, and be sure to add yours to the list if you are participating!  The prompts for this challenge are in the image below, courtesy of Sarah at Chalkboard Nails! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wakey, wakey! The 31-Day Nail Art Challenge Day 3: Yellow!

Yellow!  Such a divisive hue among us nail bloggers... For some, a summery, sunshiney hue that brings images of bright cocktails and ripe fruit; for others, however, it invokes images of stained nailbeds or gives us the dreaded lobster hands!  I personally like yellow nail polish (usually), though until recently, I had only one sad, lonely yellow in my collection.  I now own... wait for it... three!  Yes, three.  I only used two for this mani though!

This was a fun one!  I had a couple of ideas, but none of them were very original, and one I had already done on my blog before!  Ultimately, this is what I came up with:

Eggs and bacon!  I hope that you can tell what it is, lol.  I am a big lover of eggs, and though I rarely buy bacon due to the price and fattiness, it is indeed delicious!  For this manicure, I used a base of Revlon Colorstay Buttercup (I have green gel underneath, which is peeking out around the edges, because I failed to cover it up properly.  Womp womp.).  I painted the egg whites with China Glaze White On White, and used a large dotting tool to paint the egg yolks with Julie G Canary Islands.  I used L'Oreal Mauvelous to paint on the bacon strips, and then painted little lines on the bacon using Pure Ice En Vogue and OPI My Vampire is Buff with an ultra fine tipped nail art brush.  Finally, I used black acrylic paint to outline everything with an ultra fine tipped nail art brush, and topped the whole thing with Salon Perfect Top Coat!

If you are interested in participating, check out the image below (courtesy of Sarah at Chalkboard Nails here - thanks Sarah!)

Thanks for stopping by, and don't forget to check out the amazing work of other nail artists for today's prompt below (and add your own link)!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The 31-Day Nail Art Challenge Day 2: Orange!

So here we are at day 2 of the 31-Day Nail Art Challenge, sponsored by Sarah at Chalkboard Nails!  I'm excited, as this is my first time doing this challenge.  My nail art skills have plenty of room for improvement, so I'm really psyched to learn some new techniques and improve on the methods I've tried in the past :)  Day 2's prompt is orange, so here's my attempt!

In diffused natural light

Here are the prompts for the challenge:

Visit Chalkboard Nails, the sponsor of this challenge, here!
For this mani, I did a gradient with some silver dot accents.  The polishes I used were Funky Fingers Hang Ten, Brah, Revlon Top Speed Haunted Heart, and Revlon Brilliant Strength Polish in Magnetize.  Hang Ten, Brah is a solar-reactive polish that appears neon yellow-orange indoors and coral-orange in sunlight; it also has a very subtle neon-green shimmer.

Closeup of Hang Ten, Brah indoors.  So shimmery!
Unfortunately, while the polish in the bottle is quite reactive in sunlight, that reactivity didn't translate to the nail.  I suspect this had to do with the topcoat that I used.  While it would have been neat to see this effect, I didn't really mind because I liked the gradient as it was!  Haunted Heart is a red-leaning bold orange with apple-green shimmer.  I did a sponge gradient of Haunted Heart over Hang Ten, Brah, and then made a dotted off-center cross shape using Magnetize, a classic silver chrome.  I topped the whole thing with Salon Perfect Matte Topcoat.

In sunlight
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for day three of the challenge, yellow!!!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The 31-Day Nail Art Challenge Day 1: Red!

Hi guys!

I'm a little nervous... this is my very first 31-Day Nail Art Challenge, and I must say that it looks pretty daunting from here!  I just took a temp job in retail with super nutso hours, so getting these challenges done on time is going to be a bit of a stretch!  As a result, I might combine some challenges if I'm having a busy week, and I might even post challenges late on occasion... Since this is a hobby for me, I have no intention of making it stressful :^)  Here are the prompts, courtesy of Chalkboard Nails:

The first prompt, "Red," was super tough for me!  At first, I thought I would do an adventure time theme, with Shades of Red a la Marceline... but I couldn't think of a good way to execute it.  Then, I thought I would do a little Orange is the New Black manicure, but I wasn't sure I could do ten odes to Kate Mulgrew's character in a way that would do her justice in the short amount of time I had!  I actually ended up doing three manicures before I did one I liked... and even this one is a bit wonky!  Here it is, in all its dubious glory:

I attempted brushstroke flowers for this design, but only about 25% successfully... There was a lot of touch up afterwards lol.  The flowers were done using China Glaze Seeing Red (a brick red from the new limited edition The Giver collection) and Julep Isla (a frosty pearl white), over a base of China Glaze Five Rules, a light putty-hued neutral also from the Giver collection.  For the black leaves and flower anthers I used Konad black.  I topped it off with Salon Perfect Topcoat!

I actually really liked how it came out; unfortunately the sun was rather bright when I took the pictures (I don't have a photo setup at my new house yet, womp womp). Here's a polish pic:

Thanks for stopping by for a look-see!  Check out some of the other lovely work below, and be sure to submit your nail art here if you are participating!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Zoya Jules vs. Sinful Shine Prosecco: Are they Dupes?

A few days ago, I made a quick trip to Walgreens and picked up a couple of Sinful Shine polishes I couldn't resist.  One of these polishes, Prosecco, is from their Shining Bright Off the Runway collection.  It's a gray-taupe (graupe? ...hmmm, not sure about that one...) crelly with ultra-fine gold microflakies.  It reminded me very much of a polish I already own from Zoya's Spring 2011 Intimate Collection, Jules.  I swatches them here to see if they were dupes.  In all of the pics below, Zoya Jules is shown on my thumb, middle finger, and pinky finger; Sinful Shine Prosecco is shown on my pointer and ring fingers. I used China Glaze Choo-Choo Choose You, from their new All Aboard collection, for the dots.

As you can see above, the finish is a bit different. Although I topped all of my nails with NYC Grand Central Station to help them dry faster, the pre-topcoat finishes were essentially the same as you can see above.  Jules dries just a bit shinier than a silk finish, but it's not a gloss.  Prosecco definitely dries glossy true to its brand name, but with a bit of bumpiness due to the microflakies, which I will address shortly.  In terms of application, Jules was the clear winner.  It went on very smoothly, with no streakiness or pooling at the cuticles.  Prosecco was a bit on the thin side and was a bit streakier than Jules, but the application was certainly not below average for a drugstore polish and didn't detract from my opinion of the polish as a whole.

Middle, pinky: Zoya Jules
Pointer and ring: Sinful Shine Prosecco

 The bases of both these polishes were quite sheer, requiring three thin coats for opacity. Jules was slightly more opaque, and you could probably get away with two coats if you were more generous with each. Drying time was pretty decent for both polishes; I didn't have any problems, nor did I notice a difference between the two.

Thumb, middle, pinky: Zoya Jules
Pointer and ring: Sinful Shine Prosecco
In terms of base color, Jules was just a half-shade darker and warmer than Prosecco, though both fall into the warm-gray-with-a-hint-of-taupe category.  The difference is actually less pronounced in real life than it is in the photos; my boyfriend couldn't pick out the difference.

Thumb, middle, pinky: Zoya Jules
Pointer and ring: Sinful Shine Prosecco
The shimmer is where the biggest difference lies.  Both have a pale gold shimmer, and the color is very, very similar; only in certain lights is the difference visible at all -- Prosecco's shimmer leans a tiny, tiny bit warmer than Jules'.  The texture difference is quite pronounced, however.  Prosecco's shimmer is composed of microflakies, and is significantly coarser and sparser than Jules' shimmer, which I am inclined to describe as nanoflakies.  They are so super small that it is difficult to even tell that they are flakies unless you look extremely closely.  The effect on a macro scale is that Jules almost seems like a grey-gold silk metallic, while Prosecco definitely reads exactly as it is:  a grey crelly with gold microflakies.

Thumb, middle, pinky: Zoya Jules
Pointer and ring: Sinful Shine Prosecco
The Verdict:

Are they dupes?  Nope!  Are they similar?  Absolutely, yes.  If you're a polishaholic like me, I think that these are distinct enough to add both to your collection, but they're similar enough that they will definitely fill the same niche in your collection if you're on a budget.  Prosecco is definitely a great wallet-friendly alternative to Jules at only $1.99, fully 88% cheaper than Jules at full price.

Have you seen any of the Sinful Shine Shining Bright Off the Runway Collection polishes in your local drugstores?  What did you think?  Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

An Adventure in Clashing: The "He Picks My Polish" Challenge

I should have known when I told my boyfriend about this challenge that he wouldn't make it easy on me.  After all, he approaches life from the perspective of a gamer:  everything is a challenge he wants to win. In this case, he wanted to choose three colors that I could not possibly make a decent manicure with: and let me tell you, he did a good job. This was definitely the boss battle of nail art; the colors he chose couldn't have been more at odds with each other.  This is my first #hepicksmypolish challenge, which is put on by The Sparkle Queen.  Rules are as follows :

His first choice:  Jessie's Girl Babycakes, a light pink neon that's almost, but not quite, pastel.  Next up: Hard Candy Sweet Pea, a pea-green small metallic glitter in a clear base; last, Julep Boris and Nicole, a burgundy-brown with gold shimmer.  I'm not gonna lie, it took me an hour before I just decided to wing it! Here is the... ...interesting... result:

Cool backdrop, eh?
Honestly, I was happy with the result, even though I never would choose those colors myself.  Here it is again in natural light:

"Ah, a cardboard box backdrop.  Much improved."

I didn't topcoat because, well... I didn't want to make it harder to remove than necessary. Even though I was proud of what I'd done with those colors, its still pretty fugly!

With nail polish, for scale of course!
So for now I don't think I'd call this a win... It could have been worse, but it didn't rate a top coat.  I'll definitely revisit this challenge again in the future, but I think I need to level up my nail art skills a couple times before then :)

Have you ever tried this challenge?  Did your guy pick "nice" polish colors, or did he pick impossible ones?  Check out the other entries in this challenge below!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Citron and Deep Teal Chevron Nail Art

Hello, reader!  I'm not sure what took me so long to post this mani; it's my favorite in a long time.  The inspiration came to me all of a sudden; I just saw the shapes and colors together all at once.  For this design, I used striping tape to get a clear line.  I had a little smudging, but I'm happy with it anyway:

Sorry about my cuticles; they're a horrible mess right now!  I have no excuse; I'm home all day (Ah, the bittersweet joy of unemployment?).  I did just pick up some lovely lotion, so hopefully I will remember to slather it on at night :^)

For the citron base, I used two coats of Julep Alma.  This polish has a decent formula (especially compared to other Julep polishes, which seem in my experience to be either horribly gloopy or hopelessly sheer).  In real life, the color on the nail is closer to to the color that appears in the bottle above - a bit greener.  It's a really lovely color, and I'm super glad I picked it up.

For the teal, I used Sinful Colors Blue Crushin.  I am totally in love with this polish, which is strange since I'm not usually a teal or aqua fan.  It's pretty color accurate on the nails in the photo; perhaps a hair darker and greener, and a bit darker than it appears in the bottle.  Blue Crushin is super opaque; easily a one-coater.  It has a thick but not gloopy formula, but it does dry quickly so fast handiwork is recommended.  I did get a couple stringy bits while removing the tape, which resulted in the smearing you can see in the photos.

I reversed the chevron direction for an accent on each hand, which turned out subtle, but in a cool way!  I'm really proud of how this turned out; I think my skills are improving (especially in the cleanup arena. On my right hand (my Cinderella hand of course), I used a striping tape that hadn't been cut evenly, resulting in weird, uneven stripes...

This is the most color-accurate photo of these polishes.

Still, I was happy with the results!  Fun fact:  If you've been reading my blog, you may have noticed my nails are nubs again.  There is a reason, albeit a gross one!  I was walking my darling Charlie, and... erm... cleaning up after him, and the baggie had a hole in it...  There goes my thumb, with my nice long nails, right into a fresh steaming dog poo.  After that, no amount of washing made my hands feel clean, so I decided to cut them so that I could get them truly clean.  So that was a bit yuck.  Good thing Charlie's such a cutie! #dogmomproblems

Sorry mommy!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Updated French Tips - An "Interview" Manicure

Hi guys!  I've been job hunting like crazy since I moved to Tennessee, but it's been slow going... I've had two interviews for positions in my field (one was a disaster - all of the employees I spoke to, including my interviewers, couldn't stop talking about how little they were paid and how they couldn't wait to retire!), but since I don't know how long it will take to get a job in my field, I have applied to some other, "fun" jobs as well to fill the void in my bank account!
Yesterday, I had an interview with a popular women's clothing store that I won't name specifically (though it rhymes with Tan Sailor...).  Since interviews in my field always call for quite conservative looks, I wanted to do something a bit more modern and fashionable, but still classy and interview appropriate.  I settled on the classic french tip with a few modifications:
I apologize for the less than crisp photo; until I'm bringing in a paycheck
there's a moratorium on both polish (!!!) and lighting setup supplies :(
 First, I used OPI Don't Bossa-Nova Me Around, a pale pinky-neutral base, rather than a sheer.  I then applied skinny french tips that were thinner than my true nail line, which creates an illusion of longer fingers.  For the french tips I used Sally Hansen Chrome Nail Makeup in White Gold (There are quite a few near-dupes for this around; in case you can't get hold of this one online.  Essie Good as Gold is pretty close). 

Another note worth mentioning is the topcoat that I used - having run out of my go-to Salon Perfect top coat, I stopped at Walmart to pick some up only to find that they were out.  I ended up picking up some Revlon Diamond Gel Topcoat (non-UV-curing) to try out, because it seemed like it should be comparable.  A few minutes after my mani (around dinner time), the Revlon was dry to the touch and seemed cured... until I got up the next day with sheet marks :(  Not cool, Revlon.  Back to Salon Perfect, as soon as I can find it...

Have a great week!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hidden Neon Tribal Nail Art

Hey there!

I've been spending the last month or so working to finish up my Master's degree and moving from upstate New York to Knoxville, Tennessee.  It's been an extraordinarily stressful transition, but I'm finally beginning to settle in.  One of the first things I unpacked, naturally, was my nail polish and nail art supplies!  For this manicure, I wanted to do something summery, but unexpected, and I had an image in my head of a tribal pattern with a hidden pop of neon.  This is what I came up with:

If you're thinking, "Wow, your nails look really yellowed," nope!  Here's a different angle:

I was picturing a different take on the Louboutin manicure that was so popular about a year or so ago, but updated for the season.  I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out! 

For this manicure, I stamped Konad Black over Red Carpet Manicure SOG in White Out.  The neon under the tips is China Glaze Sun Worshiper, courtesy of my lovely friend Mary!  I used the Cheeky Viva Mexico! plate for these designs.

Have you ever updated an old trend for summer?  Let me know in the comments! :^)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How to Dye your Hair with Henna - My Method!

So I know I usually do nail art posts, but I've been dyeing my hair with henna for almost ten years, and I wanted to share this important part of my personal beauty regimen.  Feel free to skip if you're not interested... more nail polish next time!  ^_^

 Growing up, I had light brown hair that was so mousy it was almost greenish-gray.  While this color is perfectly reasonable and downright flattering on some people, it did nothing for my pale, sunburn prone skin - my own natural hair color washes out my complexion.  Not cool, hair.

Long hurr, don't curr.
As a kid, I was too busy looking for frogs under rocks to notice this, but as a teenager and an adult, I was very self conscious about my skin, which was pasty and acne-prone.  Tanning wasn't something I was too interested in because of the potential health consequences, and I was terrified that I might further damage my hair with traditional box dyes or salon color after a disastrous perm in seventh grade.

Pictured:  Left, my mom - Gorgeous, and probably the kindest, most selfless person I know.  Right- the results of my disastrous seventh-grade perm.  Yikes...

As a high school student, I was very much a would-be hippie, so naturally, I looked into some "green" alternatives.  Enter, henna:  my hair holy grail.  After a engaging in a discussion about hair over on the fabulous Pointless Cafe, I wanted to share some of my experiences with this wonderful substance.  So in order to share the love, I thought I'd prepare this post so that you, too, can try your hand at henna - should you so choose!

Before you start, it's important to realize that dyeing your hair with henna is completely unlike conventional hair coloring methods, for several reasons.  Conventional dyes work by causing the cuticles on the hair strands to lift, and then tiny dye particles penetrate the hair shaft.  Some dyes are accompanied or preceded by lightening ingredients, which strip the hair of its natural color so that the color imparted by the dye is more visible. This is usually followed by a conditioning treatment that temporarily repairs the damage done by the harsher dye ingredients.  For this reason, conventional haircolor works very quickly and can achieve a very wide range of colors, but over repeated uses, will damage the hair.  Henna is derived from the leaves of the henna plant, Lawsonia inermis.  Henna colors hair by binding to the hair shaft, filling pores and smoothing the cuticle.  For gray ladies, this results in less frizz and thicker strands.  It's also fabulous for recovering from damage from perms, bleaching, etc.  The consequence is that any treatments applied to the hair within a month or so after henna-ing, such as chemical dyes and permanents, will not take or will have unpredictable results. The molecule that forms acts upon the keratin in the hair, lawsone, creates a translucent red tone on the hair surface (depending on the formula you use, the results can range from colorless(if the henna has little to no lawsone content) to golden (medium lawsone content) to rich orange-red (lots of lawsone), and even burgundy, dark brown or black if other vegetable dyes such as indigo, woad, walnut, or amla are added). This means that your original color will shine through, with a vibrant red tint.  In very dark hair, this red tint may only be visible in sunlight.  The result of henna dye is thicker, smoother hair.  Henna dye will fade and grow out like conventional dyes, but unlike conventional dyes, will not damage hair with repeated use.

For a more scientific, less hand-wavy description of how henna works, I recommend you read this article.  Yay chemistry!
Image Source:

While henna has many advantages over conventional haircolor, there are some tradeoffs that should be considered before taking the leap:
  • Henna is a time and labor intensive process that will take a couple of hours to prep, overnight to dye, and an hour to rinse.  I find it meditative and pampering, but some may not share this view.  Once it's on your hair you're committed to the removal process, so remember that before starting!
  • Henna will stain your skin and surfaces if not wiped off soon after - a bit of bleach will remove it from showers and counter tops though, and gentle exfoliation will fade stains on skin in a few days (in the mean time, concealer can fix any facial staining issues - though I must say, I have never had a problem with staining on my face or neck.  Hands, however, are another story: gloves are *highly* recommended). 
  • For about a week after dyeing, henna will lend your hair a distinctively herbal smell which some people may not like.  This goes away when it is dry.
  • Henna'd hair does bleed a bit when wet, especially during the first week, so either blow dry it before putting on your nice work clothes, or wash it at night and wear dark PJs.
  • Henna works by binding to the hair shaft, smoothing and filling in pores in the cuticle.  The protein that binds to the hair is red, so it colors the hair without penetrating it.  The result is that the hair shaft is thicker and smoother.  For gray ladies, this results in less frizz and thicker strands.  It's also fabulous for recovering from damage from perms, bleaching, etc.  The consequence is that any treatments applied to the hair within a month or so after henna-ing, such as chemical dyes and permanents, will not take or will have unpredictable results.
  • Henna's intensity does fade over about a month or two, but the red tones are permanent - it will not disappear completely unless you cut it off.  I dye about once every month or two, but you can get away with less if you wash it less frequently with a quality color preserving shampoo and conditioner (I highly recommend Ion Color Solutions, which I get at Sally's), apply henna glosses periodically, or have reasonably similar colored roots.

I use skin-quality henna, which is finer and has a more potent dye release, but hair-quality henna is fine as long as you make sure that it is 100% vegetable based- some products (almost always hair-grade henna) sold under the "henna" designation have chemical additives that will damage your hair and aren't too good to leave on your scalp.  These chemicals, such as para-phenylendiamine (PPD) are generally also present in conventional box dyes.  In conventional box dyes, this is fine, because they're only on your head for 10-15 minutes.  For good color, henna takes overnight- much, much too long for a sensitizing chemical to be in contact with your skin.  Fortunately, it's easy to tell if a henna product is a so-called "compound" henna (a henna that contains artificial additives).  First, any warnings on the box other than the general patch test recommendation should be a red flag, because vegetable henna is no more dangerous to put on your skin than, say, oregano.  Another tell-tale sign is the color and smell - vegetable henna should smell distinctly earthy and herbal, like compost.  It should be a shade of tan or green.  A sharp, chemical smell or purple-black color indicates the presence of non-vegetable components, which are not safe to apply to the skin for extended period.  These should either be returned to the seller or disposed of. So without further ado...


This is the way I henna my hair.  It is by no means the only way or necessarily the best way!  Do what you like, what's convenient, or what works best for you.  My feelings won't be hurt if you don't pick my way :^)

You will need:
  • ~1 cup henna powder (8 oz.) 
  • ~2 cups strong black tea or coffee
  • ~1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 10-15 drops tea tree oil
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup real mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
 I would recommend 4 oz. for every 8-10 inches of hair (stretched, if your hair is curly).  This recipe is for my length of hair, which is quite long.  You may need to adjust your recipe if your hair is shorter or longer.  To mix your henna, start by brewing some strong hot black tea or coffee and allow to cool.  The tannins in coffee and tea help the dye set, I believe- I have tried it with water, to disappointing results.  For lighter highlights, you can add chamomile tea or a tablespoon or two (per 4 oz. henna) of lemon juice, and for darker tones, use coffee.  While the coffee/tea cools, empty the henna packet into a large glass bowl.  To the dry henna, add the lemon juice, corn syrup, tea tree oil, and egg or mayonnaise.  The egg/mayo is a fantastic hair conditioner, and the tea tree oil facilitates dye release (and smells lovely). The only function of this is to make the mixture cohesive, so it will stick together (and to your hair) better.  You can use honey, but it is more expensive and I don't know if it would add any conditioning benefit.  Same story with molasses, but I suspect that molasses, especially blackstrap, would impart some color to the finished result (and also, save that for delicious cookies.  What were you thinking!?). If the vegetable smell of the henna turns you off, you can add 4-5 drops or a bit of your favorite essential oil, cinnamon, or ginger to tone it down.  Once these ingredients are mixed, add enough coffee/tea to make a dark green mixture with the consistency of thick brownie batter (you should be able to run your spoon through the mix, and it should leave a gap that very slowly fills in).  Cover it with saran wrap and set it in a warm place to let the dye release while you prep your hair.  Depending on the temperature, the henna mix should be left for between 2 (if warm) and 8 hours (if cold).

To prep your hair, comb it (however you usually do to remove tangles - I understand the process is a bit different for curly girls) until it is tangle free.  This will make your life easier both when applying the henna and when rinsing it out.  Wash your hair thoroughly with a clarifying shampoo to remove buildup, and DON'T condition.  Towel dry.  Check on the henna - if your henna is ready, it should have a dark brown skin on the top.  This is the dye release occurring at the surface:

To apply, wear some clothes you aren't too attached to, and wear gloves (I learned this the hard way, two days before a job interview no less.  Clearly I'm no planner). Scoop it from the bowl and massage into the part of your hair near the scalp. I like to do this over the sink, in the shower, or outside for easier cleanup.  Make a new part and massage more henna into your roots until your roots are covered completely, just as you would with box dye (except you don't need to avoid your scalp, as there is nothing hazardous or sensitizing to most people in henna).  Work more henna into the mid-length and ends of your hair.  When your hair is completely covered, twirl your hair into a bun on top of your head, and wrap your head (not including your face, of course haha) with lengths of saran wrap - you can use a shower cap, but I find that saran wrap works better.  Wrap around the nape of your neck, overlapping at your hairline on your forehead, and then add 1-2 foot lengths until everything is secure.  Use a cool, damp washcloth to wipe any henna from your skin, and then wrap up your saran-wrapped hair in a turbie-twist or the like to soak up any escaping henna.  I usually sleep on it, as it takes a good 8 hours for the best color, but 5 would probably be okay.  I put a garbage bag over my pillow and then layer a towel over it, and I've never had any problems!

Quack quack.
And seriously.  Wear gloves.
To remove the henna, use a (cheap) conditioner all over to rinse it out.  This will take some time - there are little specks of plant matter all up in your scalp's business, and it takes a bit of patience and a bit more conditioner.  Once it's 90% out, shampoo and condition with your regular products.  It should be all gone!  The color will set and intensify over the next 48 hours as the dye continues to develop, so don't wash it for at least 24 hours (48 is better).  You may notice your hair takes longer than usual to dry for a couple of weeks after henna-ing - this is normal, as the henna thickens the hair, protects from UV, and holds in moisture!  Enjoy all of the compliments you will soon receive!

Haha!  I totally forgot to put this in until after I published this post.  Womp womp.
I have to give props to the information sources I use, which I HIGHLY recommend you check out if you are interested in henna:
  • Henna for Hair - This is probably the most comprehensive website on henna in all its forms, and it's been around since I started dyeing my hair with henna almost ten years ago.  It was essentially my launch point, from which I developed my own way of doing things.  In particular, I recommend you check out this and this!
  • Cthuliz's Chemistry of Henna - related to her "How to Dye Your Hair Red with Henna" post here.  Cthuliz is a very cool, sciencey lady who posts on all sorts of fascinating topics that you should absolutely go check out now.  I actually just came across her site while writing this post, and it is chock-full of info that I didn't include here for the sake of brevity.