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Hot mess, 2015 edition

For months now I’ve had a hankering to do something with my hair. Initially in early spring, I wanted to go red – RED! Red like my all-time favourite girl-crush (and lookalike?) Emma Stone. Something like this:

Hot mess - Sweetmadeleine.ca

Hot, right? But I thought about the decision a great deal – as I do about every decision, large and small – and I realised two things. One, the desire for red maaaay be a breakup hair decision. You know about those, right? When you get out of a relationship and all of a sudden you’re FREE and because you’re FREE you decide it’s time to debut that pixie cut you’ve always wanted? Yeah, I think this was one of those.

PLUS, when I started researching (which meant lots of googling and talking to a few fantastic fake-redheads in my life) I found out that red is one of the most high-maintenance hair colours out there. To maintain the vibrancy of the colour you typically have to re-colour it every month or so. Ummm, high-maintenance is not a word anyone would use to describe me or my hair. So I let go of the red, and the idea stayed on my Pinterest board, where it belonged.

Then, when a few months had passed, the weather started getting cooler and the hankering returned. So first, I had it cut into a choppy bob, courtesy of my infinitely talented psuedo-hairdresser sister Hilary.


That satisfied me. Temporarily. And then I started wanting chocolate. Dark chocolate. A rich, deep brown to bring me into winter. And that’s when it began.

You see, I felt conflicted about using commercial hair dyes, because of the environment and the chemicals and the damage to my hair. Henna hair dye, however, is relatively Eco-friendly, harsh-chemical free, AND because it’s mixed with cocoa butter, it leaves your hair in a better state than it was before. I was in.

I went by Lush to talk to them about it, and they very kindly gave me a sample of their chocolate dye, Caca Brun, so I could perform a strand test.

Internets, I will admit, I did not perform a strand test. Why? For reasons.

FINE, I couldn’t be bothered. When I want to do something I just want to do it. I don’t paint test swatches, and I don’t do strand tests. I didn’t think I would hate the colour no matter what, and I’d read a ton about how messy the process was and  I really didn’t want to have to go through it twice. So, one night when my sister mawney was visiting we got down to it.

Guys, they weren’t lying, this shit gets EVERYWHERE. Plus, um, it kind of looks like shit? Literally?

It comes in a huge block, like baking chocolate, and you chop it up and mix it with boiling water to create a paste, which you then bribe your sister to paint over your hair using a 3-inch paintbrush because you are a professional.

The process looks like this.


mixing henna in a half-knot, with a generous layer of vaseline along my hairline…so hot right now….





If you’re wondering what part mawney played in the process, this. She was useless. Let it be known.


Hey mawney, my hair isn’t going to henna ITSELF

We foolishly began the process quite late in the evening, so after the henna was applied, I wrapped my hair in an old towel, went to bed and set my alarm for 3am to wash it out. Jesus christ what a scene! Picture me at 3am, standing in inches of muddy water (my shower drain was backed up, which I forgot….lovely) washing henna out of my hair for what seemed like forever. I used regular shampoo, and had to do it twice to remove it all, and then spent forty-five minutes cleaning up the bathroom and the shower (it didn’t stain, it was just hard to get off because it has a cocoa butter base, so it was quite greasy).

At 4:30 am I collapsed into bed, and woke up the next morning looking like this.


If you’re having trouble discerning a difference between this and my original hair colour, it’s because there ISN’T ANY. If anything, it went a bit tiny bit lighter – a bit auburn-y? I left it for a few days because the henna continues developing for up to 72 hrs, but the colour stayed the same.

So.  Five hours, $30, a huge mess, my sisters now have a picture of me as a poopy-haired unicorn with which to blackmail me, and there was virtually NO CHANGE.

Clearly, this is my fault, because I did not do the strand test with the free sample of henna that the lovely folks at lush had provided. If I had, I may have chosen the darker Caca Noir colour, or mixed the two, or done baaasically anything other than waste five hours of my life and endure a ridiculous clean up for zero effect. Sigh.

Now, of course, I wanted dark hair even more. So I made an executive decision. I bought hair dye. FOR YOU.  The reasons for this were several: First, I wanted my goddamn dark chocolate hair god damn it. But also, every time I write about my DIY shampoo and conditioner I get questions about how it works on coloured hair – whether it react with the dye, whether it fades it, dries it out, etc. I could never answer them because I hadn’t coloured my hair in years, but now I will be able to.

I chose the lesser of a dozen evils and picked Clairol Natural Instincts hair colour #31,  “Darkest Brown” (I was not fucking around). It’s ammonia-free and contains a bunch of lovely natural ingredients like aloe and gluten-free hippie tears. I tried to make it as Eco-friendly as possible – I washed and recycled the dye bottle and the box and instructions.  I did it myself one night LIKE A BOSS, and now I look like this.


SO! In conclusion, and to wrap up this post which is filled with too many capitals and too much language, I would 100% endorse the henna hair colour if it had worked – even despite the mess and the process. I am totally willing to put in a little more effort if the result is effective and environmentally friendly. I boil water to make my own shampoo, which is slightly annoying, but I love the results so I do it. I grate soap to make my own laundry detergent, which does take some time, but it’s safe, natural, inexpensive and works like a hot damn, so who cares?

If you’re interested in natural hair colour and you’d like to try the henna, go to Lush and ask for a sample. Then, don’t be an idiot  – try the sample! Do a strand test!

As for me, I’m glad I tried the henna, I love the box-dye colour and I’ll update you guys with how it holds up to my hippie nonsense.




After Caca Brun henna


After planet-killing hair dye

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  • Reply James October 19, 2015 at 1:19 PM

    I’m sure Emma Stone had the same issues the first few times too and she turned out pretty hot looking!

    It’s all about the struggle…

    It looks splendid BTW!!

  • Reply Ariel October 19, 2015 at 8:19 PM

    It looks gorgeous 🙂

  • Reply Lou October 20, 2015 at 12:42 AM

    Can we talk about the fact that Lush called its entire Henna product line “poop” in French? In fact, you actually tried to die your hair with a “brown poop” henna…I am wondering if that says something about why it didn’t work haha 🙂

  • Reply Laura October 20, 2015 at 6:23 AM

    Hi! Your hair looks lovely with your new color! I’ve been dying my hair with henna for maybe 10 years now. It covers my gray, which at 40 I have a lot of (thanks dad), and gives me a beautiful auburn color, which hair stylists in salons always comment on. Then I tell them I use henna and they tell me some henna horror story. (people who work in salons hate henna)

    Henna is a commitment though. I am told it reacts badly if you want to redye your hair with regular color. I use the stuff I get in the Indian store for $3. It takes about 3 hrs 1-1.5 a month. I’ve gotten to the point where it’s really no messier than regular dye and no chemicals!!! So I don’t have to look like an old hag AND I don’t have to feel guilty about dumping chems all over my head for the rest of my life. Yay! Just thought I would add another henna experience. I’m new to your blog and think you’re a pisser!

  • Reply yvette October 20, 2015 at 4:10 PM

    I can totally relate. I’ve used henna twice. The first time was a gloppy mess. Try try again. The second time I added a little more water and it dripped everywhere. I had to stand in the tub as it was processing. Plus henna smells like cooked spinach. I’m a no peroxide drug store color buyer now. Your hair looks lovely with your new color.

  • Reply Sara October 22, 2015 at 2:57 PM

    My mom swears up and down that you can dye your hair with brewed herbal tea. I am skeptical.

    Your hair looks gorgeous! I secretly want everybody to have red or auburn hair, so I hope you try it one day, but the dark brown suits you beautifully.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine October 22, 2015 at 3:03 PM

      Well, you WOULD want everyone to have red hair, yours is gorgeous!! I actually stumbled on the same herbal tea thing when I was researching natural hair colouring methods, but I was skeptical, too.

      Maybe I will try the henna again and do a small strand test of the red colour… I’m still tempted!

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