What is henna and how do you use it?
Everything you ever wanted to know about henna and Les Cacas
What is henna?
Henna is a plant native to the Middle East, which has been used since ancient times to dye the skin and hair. The leaves are dried and ground into a powder, and it is this powder which forms the basis of our Cacas. We mix the finest Persian henna powder with conditioning cocoa butter to form it into a block, this also helps the henna to cling to your hair and so intensify the colour. We add some clove bud oil for perfume, as well as other natural ingredients to bring out the different shades in our four henna varieties.
How is henna different from a chemical dye?
The outer covering of a hair consists of cuticles - these look a bit like the scales on a fish when viewed under a microscope – which normally lie flat and protect the central shaft of the hair containing the cells which give hair its colour. Chemical dyes work by forcing the cuticles open and pouring colour underneath them, permanently dyeing the hair. However, once the cuticles have been lifted in this way they will never quite go back the same or lie as flat, making your hair feel rough and out of condition. As you keep re-colouring over time, cuticles will start to break and your hair will feel thinner and lose its shine. Instead of forcing the cuticles open with chemicals, henna coats them in a protective layer of glossy natural colour. Think of it as a varnish covering each hair and thickening it, giving it shine and making it more manageable. It’ll add weight to flyaway hair, calm and soften frizzy hair and smooth hair that tends to be affected by static or tangles. Henna really is the ultimate conditioning treatment!
Which Caca is for me?
Because the Cacas work like a varnish, the natural colour of your hair will still shine through the henna coating, meaning that the results will vary for different people. Generally, people with naturally blonde or grey hair will see a much more striking difference in their colour after a henna treatment than people whose hair is darker.
Caca Rouge is the full-on red henna, turning blondes and greys into fiery redheads. Those with naturally dark brown hair will see a more subtle result; a warm natural red tone with a glossy sheen which will catch in the sun.
Caca Marron will give blondes shiny hair the colour of autumn conkers. Brunettes will get a pleasing reddish tinge, though less pronounced than those using Caca Rouge.
Caca Brun will makes blonde hair several shades darker, giving a rich coffee-coloured glaze. For brunettes, this is the Caca to use if you want the conditioning benefits of henna without drastically changing your natural colour.
Caca Noir is mixed with indigo to give a black gloss with a very slight reddish tinge. All hair will go several shades darker after using Caca Noir.
How do I know I’ll like it?
The most important piece of advice we can give to anyone using henna for the first time is to DO A STRAND TEST! Because everybody’s hair is different, everybody will get a different outcome when they use henna so it’s important you know you’ll be happy with the result. Mix up a little bit of henna and try it on a small piece of hair first - you can wrap this piece in foil to keep it away from the rest of your hair while the henna is on. If you are going grey then make sure you include some grey hairs in the strand test, as they will look much more vibrant than the surrounding darker hair.
If you’re thinking of getting a perm then do the perm first and apply the henna later, as henna can diminish the effect of perming solution.
If you’re feeling creative and fancy making your own unique shade then feel free to mix different Cacas together. You can experiment with different proportions until you’ve made the colour that’s perfect for you.
How do I use Les Cacas?
For shoulder-length hair one block of Caca should be enough and if your hair is very short then you should be OK with just half a block. Those with long hair should use two blocks, but it’s always best to mix up plenty of henna as it’s annoying if you run out half way through applying it and then have to make up some more. Break the Caca into pieces and put it into a heatproof bowl, adding just enough boiling water to cover it (not too much – you can always add more later if you need too). Leave the henna to soak for a few minutes and once it starts to soften, give it a good stir with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring and adding boiling water a little at a time until all the henna is soft and well mixed and the mixture has the consistency of thick cream. Put the whole bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and heat gradually (Gordon Ramsay would call this a bain-marie). Never be tempted to nuke your henna in the microwave or you’ll risk cooking it and making it unusable. The hotter it gets the brighter the finished colour will be, but you don’t want it so hot that you burn your head!
Before you start, grab a pot of Ultrabland or Ultrabalm and smear some all around your hairline and ears (this will stop the henna dyeing your skin and giving you the dreaded stripy forehead). Then don a pair of sexy rubber gloves and get stuck in! Work from back to front on clean dry hair, starting at the roots and then working your way down. There’s no getting away from it, applying henna can be a messy job, so make sure your clothes are well covered or even take them off altogether. The bathroom’s generally the best place for hennaing in case you make a mess; if you drop any on the floor then make sure you clean it up straight away as it can stain.
If you want the most vibrant red result possible then, once your hair is well covered in henna, wrap your head up in cling film. This will stop the air getting to the henna and oxidising it, giving you a more vivid hue. If you prefer a richer brown colour then you can either leave your hair uncovered or wrap it loosely in an old towel.
You should leave the henna for at least an hour for the best result. After four hours it will have completed its action so there’s no need to leave it on any longer than this. Then get under the shower and start washing; you’ll need plenty of shampoo to get it out. Once your hair is dry your new lustrous locks will be revealed!
How should I maintain my new colour?
The more you use henna, the more the colour will start to build and become richer and more vibrant. You can use it as often as you like - try applying it for three days in a row for an intense colour and shine that will last for weeks. A single application of henna will start to fade after about 4 weeks, although there are things you can do to preserve the colour for longer. Try to avoid shampoos that contain a lot of chemicals, or ones that have a high concentration of fruity citrus enzymes which can strip colour. Cynthia Sylvia Stout is good (the effect of the lemon juice it contains is offset by the dark, yeasty stout!) and most of our solid shampoos work well with Les Cacas too. But probably the best shampoo to maintain your henna colour can be found in our Retro range, and it's a solid shampoo called Reincarnate. Reincarnate actually contains henna and, while it's not enough to colour your hair by itself, it is great for maintaining hair that's been treated with Les Cacas. An occasional treatment with Jasmin and Henna Fluff-Eaze will also help to keep your hair and its new colour in tip-top condition.