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Monday, July 2, 2012

Dying your gray hair naturally

While we found henna as a body art first, and learned about the hair applications later, we find that hair applications are becoming more popular and personally interesting as well. Our family has a history of going gray early. Really early. As in, I'm 26 and I'm surprised I don't have any yet (fingers crossed!). I don't remember a time when my mom wasn't dying her hair. But over the years, that kind of chemical interaction can really harm you. You can become sensitized to the dye which leads to skin reactions, rashes, tenderness and worse. Many hairstylists have to give up coloring because they can't work with the chemical dyes any longer.

Thankfully, Henna is a fantastic hair dye. It has been used since ancient times, in conjunction with other natural dyes like indigo and amla, to dye hair a range of colors. And it has a very very low allergic reaction rate- about .01% of the population may experience a mild reaction- think itchy wool gloves. This is in contrast to PPD sensitization which can cause severe contact dermatitis, chemical burns, and internal organ damage. When given the coice between PPD chemical hair dyes and good old fashioned natural henna, henna is the way to go.

At Henna Caravan, we get a lot of questions about dying hair different shades and especially covering gray hair. Grays are notoriously tricky to cover, and tend to fade very quickly. With henna, indigo, cassia, and amla, however, you can customize your dye to accentuate your natural coloring and cover those stubborn gray hairs! If you want to keep your hair light, stick with cassia. If you want to darken it up, get the other three dyes involved. A double application of henna is the best way to permanently, naturally, and safely cover your grays. Here's our favorite recipe for a deep burgundy hairstyle (assuming your roots are the only grays visible):

Application 1:
4 ounces of natural henna paste (about 20-30 grams of powder, mix 1 day in advance)

Application 2:
4 ounces natural henna paste (20-30 g) (mix 1 day in advance)
4 ounces natural Indigo paste (20-30 g) (mix immediately before use)

Step 1!
Mix about 50 grams of henna powder with lemon juice the day before you plan on dying your hair. The activation time for lawsone (henna) can be quite long and you will achieve better results if you let your paste rest for at least 12 hours before use. Divide this paste in half (2 oz for Application 1, 2 oz for Application 2)

Apply to roots:
Use Henna Caravan aftercare balm or A&D ointment to create a barrier around your hairline. Put on gloves to make sure you don't stain your fingers while applying the henna. Use half of your pure henna mixture (about 2 ounces). You can apply henna to your roots using a small ziploc bag or Henna Caravan storage bag. Try to thoroughly cover every inch of gray. Leave on 1-2 hours then shampoo out. Quickly towel or blow dry your hair and get ready for step 2!

Step 2!
Mixing your Indigo powder:

Mix 20-30 grams of indigo powder with water or room temperature chamomile tea. Start with 1/4 to 1/2 cup to reach your desired consistency. Let the paste sit for 15-20 minutes. At this point, there should be a shiny blue sheen on the top of the paste. Add your remaining henna paste to this indigo mixture and stir thoroughly. VERY thoroughly. Once the pastes are completely incorporated you are ready to apply your dye to your full head of hair.

Check out the hair application videos to the right to see the super simple beehive method of application. Put on a showercap and let the dye soak in. Leave the paste on 35 minutes under a salon heater, or 1.5 - 2 hours at home. Rinse thoroughly. Then rinse again. Then rinse again. Natural dyes may be a bit tricky to rinse out, but the results are fantastic! Avoid shampooing your hair for about 48 hours. You can use a light conditioner to help with tangles.

Naturally dyed hair is healthier than chemically treated hair and you will notice more shine, less breakage, and all around happier scalp with a natural hair dye regimin. Natural dyes like pure henna and indigo are safe to use during pregnancy, and are perfectly fine to use over chemically treated hair. Old-fashioned henna dyes (in the 60s and 70s) may have had additional chemicals that interacted poorly with PPD dyes, but pure natural henna has none of these. As always, do a strand test first to test for color and suitability. Natural dyes may take a bit of extra time, but they are definitely worth it in the end!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Great Henna Swap!

With all the stress of impending festival season (for us, it starts this weekend!), grad nights, after prom lock ins, and the general hubbub of spring, its easy to forget what brings us back to the office every day. The hours grow longer, the paste slings faster, and we hardly have a moment to stop and breathe. This April isn't any different. But a funny thing is happening over the next few weeks that we have termed "The Great Henna Swap".

"What is this amazing event?" you may ask! "How do I become a part of it?" Well, its pretty easy since it has happened completely by accident! Check it out.

Wendy is in Ohio to visit Catherine for a project. Flavia is on her way to Hawaii for vacation, and is making a local delivery while out there. Joey is coming out to California to help Henna Caravan while we're down a man (then 2!). Carissa is flying out to New Orleans to meet with Wendy to henna the heck out of Jazz Fest. Then, to top it all off, Chris is coming to California to lend a hand at Strawberry.

And thus! The Great Henna Swap is born. Join us!

Maybe one of your henna friends needs help at an upcoming festival or just a baby sitter for the weekend of their sister's wedding. Whatever it is, we are part of such an amazingly tight knit community, there are dozens of people able and willing to help. You don't have to fly cross country to lend a hand. Have a mini get together with artists in your area. Find an event that you'd normally be overwhelmed by and make a go of it with your new found team. Set up a Google+ party and video chat over tea, showing off your latest henna crafts!

The point is, its easy to let the frustrations of the busy season mount until all you can think about is "Why oh why do I even bother with henna?" Then you see something like this- friends jetsetting around to help friends- and you remember that the community makes it worth it. YOU make it worth it. At the end of the day that is what matters most. Working together for mutual success, because we're all a team, all one big crazy henna family.

The Great Henna Swap may not be all that exciting, but it is pretty cool. Or at least, that's what we think.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Fair Wedding- Henna Caravan Appearance!

There are literally hundreds of ways to incorporate special personal touches into your wedding. When Jessica got married, we created an homage to car culture by fashioning the bouttonnière into the Ford V8 engine logo. Former Henna Caravan artist Stacey was married last month and we hand-glittered her shoes with her favorite color aqua- a particularly fun project since her main job as HC staff was choosing, ordering, and handling all our glitter needs! Another friend paid homage to his Irish ancestry by incorporating his family motto "Non Sibi" ("Not for Himself") into his vows.

Honoring your family traditions is one of the best ways to give personal color to your wedding and make it extra meaningful. Henna is one of those traditions that can really make your wedding stand out. Cultures across North Africa, the Middle East, and throughout the Indian subcontinent use henna to celebrate auspicious occasions. These traditions are beautiful and meaningful, but aren't always suited to the aesthetics of a modern American Wedding. Don't be afraid to think of new ways to add henna to your wedding as an homage to your family history, without being overwhelmed by it.

Traditional Indian mehndi for Brides will cover much of a Bride's visible hands and feet. Oftentimes the henna will extend from the fingertips to the biceps in intricate lace-like designs. This type of mehndi will take many hours to apply, and during that time the bride must stay inactive. There is much symbolism associated with Mehndi, as well. The red color of the stain is auspicious and brings good luck. In some areas, brides are not to do any house work while their henna designs are still visible. Other cultures believe the longer a stain lasts the more your new inlaws and mother in law with love you! Certain symbols like peacocks represent love and fetility, and sun-motifs represent rebirth and your new life as a married woman.

You can add glitter to your henna stain for glitz and glam!

If you intend on wearing a white Western style wedding dress, but want to involve henna in your wedding, we suggest very simple designs with your favorite wedding motifs. This March, Henna Caravan was featured on David Tutera's My Fair Wedding to help create a wonderful Asian Fusion wedding for Bride Lauren. Check out this clip to see Carissa in action, and be sure to watch My Fair Wedding to see what other surprises are in store!

 Carissa applying glitter adhesive to a Bridesmaid
Jessica working on a Bridesmaid

Finishing touches for the bridal party!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Painting Val's Belly

When I heard Valerie was pregnant I was so excited. She would just be showing by the conference, and I knew I'd have a gorgeous little belly to use for the Pregnancy Henna class and demonstration. She was the perfect model. We did a small asymmetrical floral pattern (on right), with plans to meet up again in a few months when she was rounder.

Well, the months flew by and Val got rounder and rounder, and we still hadn't met up for henna part 2 yet! Late last Monday I got a text from my sister. "Do Val's Belly!" We jumped into high gear, set up the appointment for Friday, delayed it until Sunday, then actually did it on Monday while Carrie was seeing Eddie Izzard. Yes, I was jealous, but I got to hang out with Mike, Val, and their blue pup Merc, so it all evens out.

Every time I do a belly, I'm always amazed at how active the baby becomes, and Val was no exception. Wriggling and rolling, kicking and dancing, those babies move! It can become uncomfortable for the expecting mothers, and is certainly a challenge for any artist to work on such a dynamic surface, but it also makes for lots of giggling and laughing while spending an evening among friends.

The design we settled on is a Turkish inspired design from my research on the Iznik tiles of the Ottoman Empire. We used stylized chrysanthemums and peacock feathers to create a symmetrical, yet organic, design.  While mandalas always seem the obvious choice, centered on the belly button, I prefer to work higher up on the tummy so the new Mom can enjoy her belly henna without twisting about in the mirror. With this in mind, I tend to go back to arabesque shapes as my starting point. Their elegant curves and natural elements complement the roundness of a pregnant belly, without being limited by it. Arabesques are so romantic and have a wonderful feeling of growth and life as their tendrils curve around. And while I enjoy working with each mother to find her own personal style and meaning for her henna, it was fun to have Val choose exactly what I felt like doing!

I wrapped Mama Val up with fabric tape, feeling like I was in a sparring match with the Karate Kid in her belly, hugged Papa Mike, and gave some cuddles to puppy Merc. Val had strict instructions to stay cozy, stay dry, and stay pregnant (!) until we could meet up for pictures. Thankfully, she followed my instructions to a T and we were able to meet up again for a little photo-shoot and painting extravaganza!

For the photoshoot, I painted Val's belly with Henna Caravan Mica powders and Liquid Lacquer. These are washable with soap and water and are very gentle for momma and baby, while adding a wonderful bit of color and subtle shimmer. Just mix a bit of the lacquer with a bit of mica in a palette (or mica lid) and gently brush on with a good set of brushes- make up or watercolor brushes work best. It only takes a minute to dry, and looks amazing when complete. We went full-color for Val, but one or two colors could also be used to add just a bit of pizazz to your henna for special events.

Thanks, Val, for being a beautiful model, and Mike for letting us invade your home with sparkles! We know what a risk that can be.

For more information, visit or call 1 800 89 HENNA
Thanks to David Brand Photography for the stellar shots.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Henna Caravan has been working at festivals since we started business. Our first festival was a small arts show. Jessica took a chair, some patterns, and a canopy, and just tried to see what she could do. Last summer, Henna Caravan was at two major events, with 3 private appointments to top it off in one weekend.  Santa Barbara Summer Solstice and the Camarillo Greek Festival took half our team, while a hen night, sweet 16, and destination wedding took the rest. This means 2 canopies, 2 full set ups, 2 bins of decorations, 2 full festival crews, and 2 opportunities to hang out with our wonderfully loyal customers. And everybody running around with cones of fresh henna, slinging this way or that. While the Santa Barbara crew had lines 30 people long almost all day, the usually smaller Greek festival was busier than its ever been! Customers came up to us all day long, requesting their "annual" henna. They come back every year to get Henna Caravan designs, and we are so enormously grateful for this. Jessica and I were in Mexico for a private event and we are just so thankful we could leave our team and know everything would be OK. And now, its got me thinking, in the 15 years since that first tiny festival, how is it that we got to this point?

The answer is as simple as they come. Hard Work. We've had over a decade of hard work, trial and error, great days, bad days, big mistakes and big ideas. In the end, we seem to have ended up somewhere successful, and with something that works. Committing to festivals requires a lot of financial output up front. You have to get your canopy, your books, your booth set up AND you have to pay several hundred dollars in booth fees months before the event, without knowing whether or not you'll make any money when the big weekend finally rolls around. Sometimes, its a complete bust. Sometimes, you have to call in extra hands.

This week we've turned in our first set of applications for Spring Festivals. If you're a henna artist looking to branch out into the festival world, I suggest you start looking now. Find festivals with high attendance numbers (police estimates, if available) and a good demographic breakdown. Kids aren't drawn to henna the same way women are- from high school through to great grannies! Why not try some first-year events that look interesting to you? They may not be as financially successful this year, but as they grow, you'll grow with them, and your henna will become a feature of the event itself. People will be looking for YOU every year at that little fest. Always ask if they allow multiple vendors, and try to secure an exclusive agreement. Henna can be a hard sell in new communities and more than one vendor means nobody goes home happy.

We are so excited for new opportunities this year. From festivals, to private events, corporate promotion, restaurant openings and some extra special events in March, I'm sure we'll have lots to share and talk about!

Enjoy your Henna Journey!