To turn medium-dark brown hair to an auburn color, you'll need:
If you have dark brown hair and you apply henna over it, the shade you will get will be a dark brown color with a touch of red. Over time with several applications of henna, you can get a dark auburn shade of color. Here, to obtain a lighter shade of auburn, food grade hydrogen peroxide is mixed with enriching avocados (or bananas) to lighten the hair first, and then high quality body art henna is applied. The result will of course depend upon your shade of medium or dark brown hair, but the shade will be considerably lighter than merely using henna. You can use this technique for an all-over effect, for highlights, or with another color for a balayage effect.
The H202 Bleach Solution. The usual ratio to use with 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide (H202) to get a solution of 3% is to use 1 part H202 to 11 parts water, e.g. 1 TBSP H202 to 11 TBSP water (these directions are written on the bottle). Since most bleaches use solutions between 10-20%, you'll be wanting to make a homemade bleach using less water. Instead of using 11 parts water, you'll be wanting to use half of that, say 5-6 parts water. This means, using the previous example from before, that you'll be using 1 TBSP H202 + 5-6 TBSP of water.
Now that you have this ratio in mind, you will need to double or triple it according to how long your hair is. For short hair, the above amount is fine. For medium length hair at the shoulders, double this recipe. For hair at the shoulder blades, triple this recipe.
The Avocado Mixture. Peel and chop the avocados (or bananas) and add to a food processor. Amounts: 2 for short hair, 3-4 for shoulder length, 5-6 for longer than shoulder length hair. Add in the H202 solution to make a thick paste. Avocados are high in natural oils which will help to protect your hair while bleaching it.
Salve Protection & Application. Protect your face by applying a salve (vaseline contains petroleum, no thanks). Any salve will do, although unscented is a good option for sensitive skin. Now, using gloves, apply the avocado bleach, starting at the roots, and then coating all the hair. Put on a shower cap and check the color every 15 minutes. It will lighten your hair and leave it looking quite brassy. Brown hair naturally has red and orange tones to it. Estimated time to bleach: 30 minutes up to 2 hours. When it's got that sassy orange color happening, rinse out your hair well with water.
On to step 2 to color hair. You can do this on the same day or another day, so long as you don't mind walking around with brassy hair. Might be a nice treat for Halloween :) If you do this on the same day, note that that you will have had to cure the henna beforehand.
About Henna. There are various ways to cure henna. Some use just water, some use coffee, some use lemon juice, some use vinegar. Various types of teas have also been used, including Chamomile and Stinging Nettle. Each is supposed to give a slight coloring difference to the hair. Personally, I have tried all of the above, except for coffee and teas. I have also used different types of vinegar, such as red wine vinegar vs. apple cider vinegar. The red wine vinegar does give a darker, burgundy coloring while the apple cider vinegar is more coppery.
Other things that will affect the color and the final result: the type of henna you use, for example Jamila vs. Rajasthani, and any powders that you've added. Common powders include amla, which offers a cool shade of color, and cassia, which gives a mild golden coloring. Indigo, as an aside, is a black pigment that can be mixed with henna to yield various shades of brown while pure indigo is a natural shade of black. Feel free to research and experiment further as to tinkering with henna, powders, varieties, etc.
Curing The Henna. The amount of henna you need will depend upon hair length. Once you've chosen what you'll mix the henna with, say vinegar, add the two together in a glass bowl. Henna doesn't react well with metal, so use the handle of a wooden spoon to mix together. You should estimate about equal amounts of henna and vinegar, for a final result of a thick paste that looks like ketchup (definitely NOT watery). Cover the container with plastic wrap, and leave to "cure" 4-8 hours or overnight.
Henna Application. Protect the sink and counter where you will be working and wear an old sweater because henna isn't particular: it will dye your hair and any other porous surface. Put a layer of salve all over your face, ears and neck. Wearing gloves, apply the henna well, starting at your roots, and then coating all of your hair. Put on a shower cap and let sit 4 hours. This can vary, FYI, from 2 hours to 6-8 to overnight. 3-4 hours is an average amount of time. You can also sit out in the sun or under a hair dryer at the salon, which will speed up the processing time.
Rinse your hair well with water until it runs clear. Once again, you have options:
Use an old towel to dry your hair. Style as usual.
Henna Staining. You'll notice if you do some research on henna that some people like to shampoo their hair right away whereas others don't. I have used both the shampoo + apple cider rinse + conditioner, as well as the apple cider rinse + conditioner. For this latter option, any henna left in the hair will still be working until you shampoo it out.
Indeed, you may notice that the towel gets stained when drying your hair, as there may still be henna in your hair; although for some, the henna may have washed out completely. I have experienced both, as well as henna stains on my pillowcase since I let my hair air dry. The color does wash out.
Henna Dry Hair. Henna does "coat" the hair and some people have noticed that it can leave their hair dry. If this happens to you (and since hydrogen peroxide does cause some damage to the hair) try using a hot oil treatment, mashing up some avocados or bananas with a bit of honey or water, and applying to hair as a mask for 30 minutes. I have used honey in the past with just a bit of water, and as a natural humectant, it makes the hair exceptionally soft :)
Henna Quality. When looking for pure, high quality henna, look for body art quality henna. See how the henna is kept (should be in the freezer), and that is ethically grown without herbicides and pesticides. Also look for companies that list WHEN the herb was harvested. This means that the company is interested in the freshness and viability of the herb. This is an important consideration when buying any herb, as high quality means that the herb has been harvested recently, within the past 1-2 years. High quality henna will not clump (or minimally) when you mix it with water/vinegar in a bowl and it won't feel like gritty sand on your head. Resources: USA Mehandi & Canada HennaCanada (this is the one I shop from).
Henna, A Permanent Hair Dye. Henna, by the way, is a natural herb that dyes hair without chemicals and without cruelty to animals. It is considered a permanent hair dye, and it does enter and binds with the proteins in the hair. In so saying, there is a caveat with henna: it is considered a long-term solution, as removing henna from the hair is difficult. While you can apply hair box dyes over the henna (I used to get my hair done at the salon and then used henna to get the color I wanted), the color may be off and it will not last as long as the dye will merely sit on your hair (mine lasted 2, perhaps 3 weeks at most). The 2 ways to remove henna are to let it grow out or bleach your hair at the salon, the latter of which will probably require some cutting in order to maintain the health of your hair.
My Love Affair Henna Story. On the bright side of things, after having used "natural" dyes from the health food store, over several years they left my hair as damaged, dry and dull as when I used to go to the salon. While there are less chemicals in these formulas, there are still chemicals, and chemicals, you know, are chemicals. Despite having hair to mid-back, I cut my hair and then ended up shaving it off. Yes, you read that right, SHAVING ALL OF IT OFF, from near-waist hair to none.
Short hair didn't suit me, but when it grew back, I returned to my trusty love, henna :) I have used henna faithfully for several years, and my little greys that sprout on the crown of my head are blissfully turned into coppery highlights. I've gotten many compliments on the shade of my hair, including from hair dressers, who are shocked to find out that my hair is hennaed. The color is a uniform shade of auburn, and the highlights look completely natural, as if sun-kissed. Henna also helps to keep my hair healthy and shiny, and my hair looks best after I've hennaed it. To many more years of henna to come!
Happy Henna Days ahead!
As always, Enjoy :)
P.S. For natural solutions for black hair, check out the plant indigo. For shades of brown, you can mix henna and indigo together.