My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Mea culpa

Well, yeah, I totally should not have referred to dyeing with henna “non-chemical.” As a couple of you pointed out, henna is a chemical. I should have said “non-commercial hair color.” Or maybe “non-man-made chemcials.” Mea culpa.

It was interesting to read comments from several of you who have been doing henna dyeing, and to see that you have had the same positive experience I had.

I had one comment from some who strongly believes I am full of it, and she told me so, but in a very nice way. She claimed that she can get results just as good as mine from $3.00 store bought hair dye. This intrigues me. While this may be true for her (as everyone’s hair is different), I can tell you I have never, EVER, gotten decent coverage of my grey with commercial hair dye, be it $3.00 dye or an expensive salon job. The henna and indigo I used covered every blessed grey hair on my head. (While I am less than 10% grey, it is mostly around the temples, so it shows badly when I pull my hair back.) And I’ve never had a commercial dye job that did not fade almost immediately.

Whether it stays covered and non-faded remains to be seen. Time will tell. πŸ™‚

This is sort of what it looks like today in artificial light — but in real life, it’s not quite this red.

I did email the commenter back and asked her if she has ever tried henna dyeing so that she has a basis for comparison, but have not received a response.

Anyhow, your mileage may vary. Anyone who has done both have any comments to support the theory that I am full of it and $3.00 hair dye works just as well to color, condition, and strengthen your hair?

And I can tell you, my hair looks even better today. The color has deepened slightly and my hair feels fabulous. I did use twice as much WEN conditioner on it in the shower this morning (yep, still shampoo-free) because, as another commenter pointed out, the lemon juice I used to activate the dye release in the henna can be very drying, so I wanted to make sure I conditioned enough. I rinsed it out thoroughly and ended up with soft, thick shiny hair.

I’ll take a picture a few days out, when I’m pretty sure it has reached its “final” color.

This is still a knitting blog, and I am still knitting, by the way.

I’m about at the halfway point on my Hanging Garden Stole.

Progress has been somewhat slow because I’m not spending as much time as I’d like working on it. I’ve got other non-bloggable stuff I need to be working on. My conscience nags at me when I don’t work on them, so less of the fun stuff for now. πŸ™‚

Stoopid conscience.

Lucy is pleased (some might say smug) that she is a natural beauty.


  1. Beautiful! Makes me want to try it! I don’t have any grey to cover, but I’ve heard it does a great job making your hair shiny, just as you said. And that shawl is gorgeous!

  2. First–where did she find $3.00 hair dye?
    As my hair gets greyer more quickly, I’m finding the need to dye more often. I’d rather use something like henna than the other stuff.

  3. I am a WEN user too, and have really liked it. I love your hair color and I think I might want to try it out too. The stole is beautiful!!

    stacys last blog post..Tempted on the Lime n Violet Daily Chum

  4. I did read the Henna info you referred to yesterday and it all sounds so wonderful and easy. However, I’m chicken to try it as I’d be afraid something would go horribly wrong and I’d end up with who knows what color. I think I’ll leave the job to my hairdresser. I do like the outcome you achieved and believe it is better for your hair.

    And, dang it with our pets anyway, why can’t our hair stay like their coloring?

  5. I think your hair look beautiful. Nice stole too!

    Jenny T.s last blog post..Last post 12 weeks ago

  6. When my hair was a good deal shorter, I used Loreal with excellent results. However, it got so long it took 2 boxes of the stuff so I gave it up. Now I like my very long multi-colored hair (grey, reddish brown, pale copper) but would love to put some blue streaks in it.

  7. I’ve used henna before, with nice results. That was before I had any greys, though (I still only have a couple, at this point). Never indigo, though.

    I used to get my hair coloured by my stylist, but I’m too cheap these days, so I use the stuff in a box — about $10 Canadian (I’m guessing that’s about $7.80 US today). It gets the job done. πŸ™‚

    I’d like to try henna again, but it always says don’t use it on commercially -dyed hair, and I’m not thrilled with the idea of waiting for months in between; how long since you’d coloured it before you tried the henna?

    yarnpiggys last blog post..Piggy Prorogues Cowl

  8. I only have a few greys, but the store bought stuff I use does cover them well. I go for medium auburn, so the red does fade rather quickly, I’ll be interested if the henna is better for that.

  9. I think it looks great, too, and hey–whatever works for YOU! Personally, I use Loreal Excellence and find it does a fine job covering my gray–which, since my natural hair is dark, dark, dark shows up right away. But even right now, badly needing to dye my hair (in fact, I’m heading to the bathroom as soon as I get through my RSS reader), the gray that was covered 6 weeks ago is still covered–it’s just the new growth that’s showing as gray.

    Of course, I hate to think what it’s doing to the environment.

    Oh–and of course this is a knitting blog. People talk about yarn and dyeing ALL the time!!

    –Debs last blog post..β€˜Tis the Season

  10. I’ve used henna in varying formulations since the late ’60s, as well as commercial hair dye for about 3 years in the late ’90s. (I’ve never used $3 dye, and not sure I’d want to, I have read the labels, and they are full of ammonia and other harsh chemicals). I’ve always found the henna to be unpredictably fun, and seemed to make my hair glossier, thicker and have more body and certainly more shine. When I changed from henna to commercial hair coloring, my stylist explained that it actually saturates the hair shaft. When you change to a commercial dye, the henna has to be stripped away chemically in order for the dye to take.
    I finally decided to let my hair go feral about 4 years ago. Here’s a picture from about a year ago:

    claires last blog post..The things I’ve seen

  11. I used henna for years with great success. I only stopped because I live in the middle of nowhere now and can’t get it.

    The best part is that it doesn’t leave a black stripe down the middle of your head when it grows out.

    alexs last blog post..(Food) Gingercakes

  12. I’m such a hair snob/product whore that “man-made chemicals” that sell for $3.00 a bottle scare me, but there are days when I wish mine cost a wee $3.00!
    Your hair looks lovely and heathly! Superb job – don’t make me come up there and have you do mine!

    Nice stole, by the way πŸ˜‰

  13. Linda from Kansas says:

    Hi from Kansas. I stopped dying my hair ages (eons) ago. I have quite a bit of grey now and rather enjoy it now, just wish it was beautifully snow white but it probably will never be that – to each his own, er, her own, as they say. But your hair color is gorgeous – I think your red hair is beautiful!

  14. I’ve been henna dyeing for a few years now – and I still love it. I may have to try the indigo though – as I am naturally a brunette and would like to transition back closer to my natural color. I have tried a range of off the shelf dyes in the past and I think the conditioning of a henna dye is unparalleled. And if you want a little more conditioning in your dye mix, try adding and essential oil (I like lavender, smells nice and it also helps develop the color – but I have no idea what it would do with the indigo).

    Do you like the Wen conditioning cleanser? I’ve been curious about it for a while.

    Queues last blog post..It’s late . . .

  15. Ask and you shall receive. “Many” years ago, when I was only about 10% gray (I started turning young), I used henna for a couple years. I had it done professionally, and it was very nice. Alas, it didn’t last either. Those gray buggers are notoriously hard to cover. Particularly, if you’re like me and they’re the waxy white as opposed to the lovely silver gray. I moved on to professional bottle jobs which lasted better, until my hair grew out. (I tried the home versions, but they were not nearly as durable.) I, though, was bothered by the ever increasing “white stripe” at my roots.

    I finally gave up, and now I have my hair “foiled” with lighter and darker colors, and the grays just blend in. My color is way lighter today then my original dark brunette, but, heck if I let it go gray I’d be lighter anyway. (Did you ever wonder why stars go blond as they age? Mystery solved.) I call it the “more [color] the merrier” approach. I can easily go 8 – 9 weeks between foilings. I’m much happier. If your pleased with the henna, keep at it. I do remember it gave my hair lovely auburn highlights.

    Cindy in Happy Valleys last blog post..You tell ’em Ruth!

  16. Your hair looks beautifully healthy and shiny. I’m way too lazy to cover my gray, but when my hair was long I gave myself a neutral henna conditioning treatment every six months or so. The results were well worth the time and mess, and I actually loved that hay aroma.

  17. Hi!
    Where I live now in the UAE henna is very common. They sell powder, premixed, and cones, both for hair and for hands. It is even used by men, (because this was the practice of our prophet), it is very funny to sometimes see a 50+ man with bright orange hair/beard!

    Evas last blog post..Eid Mubarak!

  18. Sandra Ball says:

    Wendy, I have used Wen for almost a year now and love it. Have you tried the lavender? I mix it with the sweet almond mint sometimes but the lavender is so nice and kind of tingles.

  19. I had meant to post yesterday about the Henna dye, but didn’t get around to it. I absolutely love my henna. I did it once to myself, and made a horrifying mess in the bathroom-which is pretty normal for me. And from then on, I take a package of my favorite stuff to my favorite hair dresser, and she does it for me-without so much mess. I especially love the conditioning that the henna does on my hair. I’m nearly a red head anyway, so the red in the henna doesn’t bother me.
    I love how yours turned out, and I hope it works for you!

    nikkapotamuss last blog post..And then they were 3

  20. Wendy, you hair looks beautiful and I really love the color. It looks so natural. I would love to try it. Stole is lovely.

  21. I am 45 and more than 90% grey; I started greying at 25. I have never tried henna, as I do not want red in my hair because my skin is very pink. I was able to use “level 2” non-permanent hair colors until about 25% grey, then I had to switch to salon coloring, which works extremely well for me (just about everyone who finds out I color my hair is shocked it isn’t natural). I should point out that the longest hair on my head is about 3 inches long (haircut similar to Anne of Knitspot), so regular conditioner works fine for me, as my hair is always just a few months old and doesn’t have time to get really very damaged.

    My family’s Burmese cat did finally get some white hairs in his sable coat around the age of 20. Hopefully, Lucy shall be as long lived.

    Brendas last blog post..Another Green Hat

  22. I have used Henna in the past and had some interesting results. I decided to not use any more when after about a week my hair turned the most wonderous shade of green. Oh I had wonderful high lights and great shine and many people who wanted to know if I realized my hair was green and how did I grow green hair. It had every imagineable dark green in it. It took a full year to grow out. And many odd comments and stares…………………but I cannot even find a root colour that cost $3.00. And you are so right the temples are the first to fade!!!

  23. We call the process: unnatural highlights covering the natural highlights!!……..words: they are magic!!

  24. I used henna on myself and helped my kids with various dyes. No comparison. The dyes all lasted, henna and nasty man-made chemicals….the “washouts” didn’t. BUT they henna’d hair was LOVELY. Thicker for a couple of weeks, bouncy, soft….in my dark brown hair (with about 1% grey) mild red highlights, not a lot, but nice. I used hair henna, not body art, so that is part of the mild color, but it’s what I was looking for, so I was delighted. I haven’t done it since, since I’m at least 1/2 grey, and I didn’t want orange (my grey then did turn orange, but there was little enough that it was a non-issue). I see now how to avoid that, and I’m tempted, but I don’t want to have to do this every month to deal with roots….tempting though! Thanks for posting….I may eventually do this πŸ˜‰

    Colleens last blog post..Can You Say Endorphins? (yes, knitting related content!)

  25. Hi,
    I wanted to say your hair is gorgeous!!! Such a lovely job that henna does!!!! I’ve been dyeing my hair for over 20 years, mostly with store bought, and once from a salon…I can dutifully state that I never really liked the results and the NEVER last…
    Now that I have greys starting to rear their ugly face, I’m overly anxious to try this henna out!!! Thank you for posting all about this!

  26. I started using WEN products a month ago. Love it!!! I should have bought some long ago, when you first posted about it.

    jacis last blog post..

  27. I’m not sure what kind of henna you are using but the kind i’ve always used is ground up henna leaves which is completely natural, no chemicals. i wasn’t even aware that there are chemical hennas out there. if you would like some natural henna powder, feel free to email me, i’m sure i can get you a hook up.

    Tanus last blog post..Lack of photos and a random generator

  28. How would you compare the Hanging Garden Stole to the Midnight Lace Stole? The Hanging Garden Stole looks like it is more fun to knit, though I’m not sure why. I’m in a Fair Isle phase for now, but I feel a lace phase coming on.

    Roseanns last blog post..Lace Rib Watch Cap Completed

  29. Speaking as a middle-aged natural redhead with lots of “natural highlights” as my hairdresser calls them (read white hairs), I think your hair looks fabulous!

  30. I’ve never used commercial hair dye or had my hair salon colored, but I am a natural redhead and use henna (in “auburn”) to cover my grey (less than 10%). It covers every strand and no one can tell there is any color in my hair. Before I had grey, I used henna (in “neutral”) as a hair conditioner. It’s amazing stuff. I don’t use vinegar, just hot water, and it works fine and lasts 6-8 weeks. I may do it that often, or only a couple of times a year, depending on my mood. The only thing I don’t like about it is the mess. I have never found a tidy way to use henna.

    Suzanne V. (Yarnhog)s last blog post..Yarnhog Screws Up

  31. I used henna for the first time a couple of weeks ago… check out my blog for pics.
    The chick who loves her $3.00 chemical hair dye must also really like the increased odds of cancer from using it.
    Henna is a chemical in the same way that grass is a chemical… you can make the point stick but why would you want to? It’s hardly in the same category as ammonia or any of the other carcinogens that the commercial hair-dyes contain.
    I for one love henna, and I love the henna in both my hair and yours.

    Susans last blog post..Anatomy of a Heel Repair

  32. My friends and I have been coloring our with henna for several years now and we all use henna from Lush. One friend has dark brown/blackish hair with lots of gray so she uses caca brown/caca noir and it comes out dark and shiny and the grays have a reddish hue and look nice. Friend number two has dish water blond and uses a mix of caca rouge/caca brown for a natural reddish brown color. I have dark brown hair with an slight ashy boring tone and mix caca brown/caca maroon and it warms it up, makes it glossy and conditions it perfectly for my long fine hair.

    Jamies last blog post..Post 179-Obsession

  33. I have used both henna and chemical color. While I have achieved superb gray coverage from both sorts (although I used Garnier hair color, NOT three dollar color), only the henna is a lasting color. My hair is as red as the week I last colored it, except for the gray. Chemical reds fade very rapidly with me, but henna lasts, lasts, lasts. And my hair stays healthier, longer, as well.

    Don’t know if it’s relevant but I am also a no-poo’er (I use baking soda rinses). I will say going no poo did help my chemical color last a bit longer, but my henna still outlasts it.

    Lissas last blog post..curly girl

  34. If the color looks pretty (it does) and lasts longer- use it! The only caveat I would offer is that if you ever decide to go back to regular haircoloring or any highlighting with bleach please make sure that the henna that you have been using is true henna with no metallic salts ( most likely called compound henna dye).

    Metallic salts are NOT compatible with perms, bleaching, or permanent haircolor (and some semi permanents). I once had a model’s hair MELT (the horror, believe me) away in my hand (it got really hot too) at a hairshow because she had Sun-In in her hair (also a metallic compound), but didn’t tell me when I asked her if she had any color in her hair. The metallic salts can be removed, but it’s quite a process.

    Wen Slowknitters last blog post..Letter

  35. Nothing on hair colouring, I’m afraid, but my hub says to tell you that in that photo Lucy looks just like Elizabeth Taylor being Cleopatra. Poised and gorgeous!

    Gennys last blog post..It’s beginning to look a lot like…

  36. After the age of 40, I started coloring my hair due to the grey and mouse. I have gone to high end salons, meh..salons, and home colored. Every single one, like every time!, it faded to a slutty orange. My “original” color was ash blond with red highlights.

    I have never tried henna, and just might if I weren’t happy with the 50% white (not grey) and chestnut. But for the $3.00 poster..I’m glad she can get away with $3, but she should realize that everyone is different .. and what works for her may not work for everyone. She is different from me, but there is no way I would consider her wrong if she takes penicillin, yet it would kill me if I did. And being involved in fiber, I am surprised that she didn’t realize that fiber (hair) varries from breed to breed, animal to animal….

    Different strokes for different folks. Good song, good message.

  37. Louise in Maryland says:

    I’ve used both, and find the henna works MUCH better on grey. Commercial dyes worked OK on my hair when I was in my 20s, although I liked henna better once I discovered it – made my hair silkier and shinier and didn’t stink as bad. Now that I am over 50% grey, the henna is the only thing that covers for me. Hubby uses henna on his beard, too.

  38. I have to say the one “problem” I have with henna is that it doesn’t fade like the dye-in-a-box that I’d been using for years did, so my roots are actually more noticeable as it grows out. The commercial stuff covers the grey I have just fine but I really don’t miss the harsh stench of it one bit.

  39. I dyed my hair red for ten years with commercial dye in and out of a salon and it faded very quckly. I was told by colorists that is common with red dyes. I now use blonde commercial shades and they turn very brassy after a few washings which I am told also can’t be helped.

  40. You will have to update us on how it well it keeps the gray covered. I am gray in the front and have also found that commerical dyes don’t last as long as I think they should. I am also a fellow Wen used, started that about 6 months ago. I have found that my gray stays covered a little longer since I started using the Wen.

  41. I think the color and texture (from the photos) look fabulous! I’ve been watching your hair adventures for a few years now, so I can say with certainty that this version is really nice. I am also tempted by this stuff; I’ve just gone from blonde to dark brown/auburn, so I think the henna/indigo mix (more indigo) would probably make a good color. And my texture is kind of bad from the years of coloring. (I used to bleach it, but ended up using a darker blonde that didn’t need bleach.) My stylist is an “artistE” so I’ll have to discuss it with him.

    Oh, and “chemical” is an extremely broad word, referring (legally) to any organic or inorganic substance of a particular molecular identity. So the substance that is produced by the henna plant in its leaves is most certainly a “chemical,” just one that results from “natural” processes. Remember — salt is a chemical and doesn’t hurt you (much), while belladonna is natural and will kill you.

  42. I’ve been using Catherine’s Henna for about 6 months, there’s no comparison between it and box color (I’ve used just about every type of haircolor known to man πŸ˜‰ ) My hair is just getting healthier and healthier since I switched.

    Chriss last blog post..

  43. L’Oreal Feria is good on gray. It claims to be “prismatic” and it is. The big trick is to go a bit lighter than your pre-gray color or it’s harsh. I used Feria with great results for five years. However, there came a day when I realized my face was older than my hair. I now go to a professional colorist to get a softer look.
    Just my experience.

    Helens last blog post..Double Yak Hat

  44. I don’t think you’re full of it, far from it, but during the years when I coloured my own hair I noticed that the price tag bore no relation to the quality of the product. The most expensive home dyes were sometimes much more drying and had much less subtle results than the cheaper ones, and sometimes not. Sometimes different shades in the same brand vary in the effect they have. I used Revlon Colorsilk mostly and was very happy with it, and the couple of times I used Feria (see previous Helen) I thought it was awful and was so far from being prismatic that it made my hair look like a hat, so evenly coloured was it. Mileage certainly does vary.

    I don’t have any grey (only in my eyebrows and up my nose, sigh) but my hair has thinned a lot in the last year and I hate it. I never thought that would happen to me, somehow, but it has, damn it. But it’s gone straight too, which is good. I’ve been too ill to get to my hairdresser for the last 6 months so I have long brown hair now – and no fringe, for the first time since I was 9 – but I’m a bit better lately and have an appointment onSaturday and will be a blonde again, hurrah. Shallow, moi?

    Helens last blog post..Live Squirrels and Dead Cats

  45. Nice hair color. I’ve used both (drugstore brands, professional jobs and home henna) and agree with you that henna covers the best with very little fading.

  46. I have used both with excellent results over the years. Unfortunately, you didn’t blog about the henna soon enough for me to test it on grey hair…I just used Clairol’s Perfect 10 to go back to what “I think” would be my natural color.

    The funny part is…I thought I was making a drastic change…but only one co-worker even noticed.

    I really liked using the henna, though, as it glosses and thickens the hair. The only drawback is, it’s a commitment because it doesn’t play nice with any other choices!

  47. First of all, Wendy, again, with all love and respect: you are a sweetie pie. A genuine, honest to Pete, sweetie pie. I apologize for the roughness of my comment in your blog. This is not a bulletin board or a forum, it’s a blog, your personal blog, and my buzzkill was not appropriate or necessary. I apologize from my heart. I didn’t get your email yesterday; I’ll check again today. Thank you for reaching out to me.
    But I still stand behind the accuracy and truth of my comments. I wouldn’t trust the henna manufacturers any more than I trust the commercial hair dye manufacturers. You pays your $3.00 or $400.oo or whatever, and you picks your poison, and hopefully you gets a good result, but no guarantees from anything, as we all can see from the comments. The stuff in the cheap bottles is made by the same guys that put the stuff in the expensive bottles, by the way.*
    Your hair looks gorgeous, it’s a lovely color with great lustre. You rock that henna, girl.
    *Re the $3.00, I go to the local beauty supply store, purchase a 16 oz bottle of developer for $2.99, and several bottles of color concentrate at 99 cents each. Less the expensive marketing and packaging, the cost is reasonable.
    And now, back to socks, stoles, yarns, etc. I’d love to knit a fancy pair of socks, but am held back cause I’d be afraid to wear them and put a hole in them! You do find the lushest yarns and colors, and you make them look so tempting.
    Val in Philadelphia, not a troll, not a sniper, just another knitting chick with a scientific background.

  48. Dang, what a wasted opportunity. I should so totally have said “genuine, honest to Pete, DYED IN THE WOOL Sweetie Pie.”
    πŸ™‚ v.

  49. I’ve used both. I like both. I get a more natural, more varied red with commercial dye (but I pay something like $8 for mine, and they keep discontinuing the color, then reinstating it under a different name), so I use that. Also, hennaing my hair takes upwards of two hours, and two jars of henna, and with a one year old crawling around, I don’t have that kind of time.

    I actually do find that the clairol natural instincts color does a great job of conditioning my hair, but ymmv, as always. πŸ™‚

    Kristines last blog post..Is it Friday yet?

  50. I’ve been doing “no-poo” for 6 months now and loving it! Glad to see others are too….

    Hair On The Brains last blog post..Sexy Short Hair

  51. I have a VERY stubborn swath of grey hair that runs from my part (the top front of my head) down to my ear, and when I use grocery store dye it turns it a lovely shade of Orange. If I wanted orange hair, I’d be all set. But since I’d rather have my natural blonde, I got to Sonya and she fixes me up. I tried henna once years ago, but more for the benefit of shiney lovely healthy hair, as opposed to coloring it (that was before the stubborn swath of grey). Maybe I should try it again, don’t know. Right now I’m pretty happy with Sonya, and fortunately while still chemical, the stuff hairdressers have at their disposal today isn’t as bad as it used to be. Anyone but me remember those AWFUL LILT home perms???

  52. Your hair looks gorgeous Wendy! I’d say I am between 5-10% grey (mostly on top as well) and I hate it when it sticks up. And why are the greys so thick and unruly? Maybe I should try this too. πŸ˜€

    Danieles last blog post..Christmas Stash Enhancement

  53. That website about Henna that you posted a few days ago is fascinating. I have been here before because I am allergic to an ingredient in hairdye called ppd and that site has info about that. I’ve also dyed with henna and indigo and been pleased with the results. I had some fading but I found out it was because I was rinsing my scalp with a lemon juice/herbal solution that I make to to combat my probs with sebhoreac dermatitis. Since I don’t use that solution (had to start using medicated shampoos, ugh!) anymore I should try henna again!

    Henna is a chemical only in the sense that everything including food is chemical in nature. It is actually an herb, a plant, not a man made chemical lotion. I thought it was really wierd putting what looked like wet oregano on my head, but what the heck–whatever works, dude!

    You should also know that health food stores carry premixed henna/indigo formulations by a company called mountain colors I believe. I have a box in the bathroom waiting to try. Also Aubrey Organics makes something similar. That is what I used last time.

    Thanks for the info on henna. It doesn’t always have to be about knitting!