People are always going on and on about how great henna is for hair health (myself included!) and it really is a wonderful herb to use if you can. But there are so many people who either have lighter hair colors or don’t want to have their hair color changed at all that are left out of this henna-goodness. So, I scoured the internet and did a little testing with some willing participants and have found some very nice alternatives: cassia obovata (often called “neutral henna”, although they come from different plants) and fenugreek (also known as “methi”, in case you’re a googl-er).
The benefits of the fenugreek and cassia combination are similar to the benefits you would see from henna-ing your hair: more resilient hair that is less susceptible to damage, breakage, or shedding, more volume, and glossy shine.
Cassia can be used to impart “golden” highlights on to hair but it requires you to leave it on for a much greater amount of time than I will suggest here. However, everyone has such individual hair color that I ALWAYS (always, always, always) recommend starting with a much shorter time when applying the solution at first and then increasing the time in subsequent applications.
I’m going to make a new paragraph so that everyone reads this: the lighter your hair color, the less time you should be leaving the cassia and fenugreek on your hair. I recommend starting with 10 minutes and then work your way up to 30. There’s no harm in doing back to back applications so it really is better to start with shorter times and see how your hair reacts. In reality, there’s very little chance that you’ll get any color change from this combo but, as someone who really doesn’t like surprises with her hair, I want everyone to err on the side of caution.
Note: I wrote up the ingredients for shoulder length, medium-thickness hair. You may need to increase or decrease the amounts depending on hair length and thickness.
- 2 tablespoon powdered fenugreek (if you can only find the seeds, I suggest pulverizing them with a coffee grinder)
- 2 tablespoons cassia
- 1/2 cup hot water
1. Place your powdered fenugreek into a jar or cup and add in your 1/2 cup of hot water.
2. Mix very well and then let sit for about 30-60 minutes. You’ll notice that it almost becomes gel-like.
3. Add in your cassia and stir everything very well together.
4. Transfer your fenugreek/cassia mixture into an applicator bottle. (If you had to grind the fenugreek seeds and the fenugreek bits are still a little too big for the applicator bottle, you can just keep the mixture on a bowl and apply it with your hands.)
5. Add in the cassia to the applicator bottle and mix until everything is very well incorporated. (I took the picture below so you know roughly how it would look although I didn’t have great lighting so the color may be a bit off. You’ll also notice that I didn’t do a great job of pulverizing the fenugreek seeds but that’s ok.)
6. While the mix “marinates”, wash your hair with shampoo (or whatever it is you use to wash your hair with). I like using more of a “detergent-y” shampoo to remove any build up before doing this mask so I use my homemade shampoo (that works for hard water)…but I have used my soapnut shampoo or homemade moisturizing foaming shampoo when I didn’t feel like I needed that.
7. While still in the shower, gently press excess water out of your hair and then apply the fenugreek and cassia mask all over your hair.
8. Put on a shower cap and get out of the shower. I suggest wearing clothes that you won’t mind getting a couple drips on and I usually wrap a towel over my shoulders as well.
9. Leave the mask on anywhere from 10-60 minutes. I highly suggest starting with a short amount of time and then increasing for the next application as necessary. I very strongly recommend that you don’t let it dry on your hair or you’ll have a heck of a time washing it out.
10. When it’s time to take the mask off, I either rinse my hair well while bending over my sink or I just hop in the shower again. I highly recommend finishing off the mask with an apple cider vinegar rinse. Not only does it seal the hair cuticle and makes your hair look extra shiny afterwards but it helps to get the tiny fenugreek bits out of your hair.
Note: if your hair is being extra stubborn when it comes to washing out the fenugreek, try following the mask with a healthy dose of conditioner and then rinse both off. You can even shampoo again if you’d like but I haven’t personally found it to be necessary.