Tag: essential oils

Homemade Henna Part 2: Application

Homemade HennaIf you haven’t read part 1, do it now! I shared the recipe I use to make henna paste.

So now that you have a bowl full of sticky, potent, henna dye it’s time to apply it to your skin! There are two methods of application, cone or bottles. When I first started doing henna, many years ago my parents bought me a kit that included plastic bottles and metal tips. Since I have kept and cleaned the bottles I never explored using the cones. I’ve read that the bottles are a bit more manageable for beginners, and you can achieve many line thicknesses with different tips. Henna Caravan has a variety of application options for decent prices. Amazon does as well: cones, bottles.

During the process of handling the paste remember that it is DYE and will DYE whatever it comes into contact with! It’s a good idea to wear gloves while you prepare the applicator and keep paper towels handy.

To prepare for application, take your henna paste and begin to thin it out with lemon juice. You want the paste to flow smoothly though your applicator. In the video below you can see that my applicator keeps getting clogged. You want the paste to be thin enough to be pour-able, but not so thin that it’s no longer sticky. Once the paste is a nice consistency spoon it into the bottle, and snap on the tip. Practice a bit on paper to see that the paste flows well, if it’s too thick add some lemon juice. If it’s too runny, add more of the undiluted henna paste.

When you’re ready to apply henna to the skin, make sure the skin is clean and dry. Different areas of skin will take the dye differently, since it works by dyeing the layers of the epidermis the thicker the skin the darker the stain. Palms of the hands, soles of the feet etc dye darkly, thighs, forearms etc dye more lightly.

Watch me draw out a wrist design below:

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Homemade Henna Part 1: Recipe

Homemade Henna

Henna or mehndi is the practice of using paste made with the powder of the henna (Lawsonia inermis) plant along with other additives to dye the skin or hair. It’s been practiced for 1000’s of years in the Middle East, India, Pakistan, and Africa. For a more in-depth history check out this article from Silk & Stone.

I started playing with henna when I was in middle school. I don’t have any tattoos and have never really wanted one, but every so often for years now I draw semi-permanent designs with henna on my arms and legs. I recently made a new batch of the sticky green henna paste and wanted to share the process on Zounds! In this mini-series I’ll go over the basic recipe, how to apply the henna paste to skin and then lastly design ideas! Today let’s tackle how to make your own homemade henna paste.
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Egg, Honey, and Milk Hair Treatment

This recipe comes from “Health and Beauty the Natural Way“, by Nerys Purchon. It’s meant to be used as a hair treatment or mask. I really liked it, simple to make, no exotic ingredients needed, and effective.

Combine, in a small bowl:

  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Optional: 4 drops rosemary, and 2 drops lavender essential oil

Add enough powdered milk to make a paste, and work through slightly damp hair. Cover your hair with a shower cap or a towel that you have wrung out in hot water. Leave on for 20 minutes, rinse out and shampoo.

I made mine too thick at first, and had to thin it with a bit of water. I also omitted the essential oils, and liked it fine without. I used my recipe for castile soap shampoo, with a lemon rinse to finish, check that recipe out here.

I really liked the results, my hair was very silky, easy to style, and the conditioned feeling lasted for another couple washes. This recipe can be used on all hair types, and is particularly helpful for dry/fine/damaged hair.

If you try it, let me know how it turned out! Just leave a comment.

Castile Soap Shampoo

This recipe is a compilation of several that I read online, and in print. It’s not precise, it’s more of a procedure then a recipe, and will require some tinkering from person to person.

You will need:

  • Enough liquid castile soap to coat your hair (somewhere around a tablespoon). I use unscented, but if you don’t want to add essential oils, many brands offer scented varieties.
  • Lemons or vinegar. I highly prefer lemons, I didn’t like the smell or the texture of my hair when I used the vinegar.
  • Optional: Essential oils (I have tried a rosemary & lavender mix and just lemongrass). For more information on essential oils read this post.

The idea is to mix the castile soap with the essential oils of your choosing, and apply to your hair like normal shampoo. I mix mine right before I take a shower in a mason jar. The castile soap lathers nicely so it’s not too different from using regular shampoo. Once you rinse your hair, you will notice that it is very coarse and hard to run your fingers through. This is because castile soap like all soap is alkaline. Regular shampoo, is a detergent and is acidic. So to balance out the pH of your hair an acidic rinse is needed to neutralize the castile soap. You can use a number of acids as a rinse but the most common are lemon juice or vinegar diluted with water.

My favorite mix by far is using castile soap mixed with 3 drops of lemongrass essential oil and a rinse of lemon juice and water (2 tablespoons lemon, 2 cups water). I mix my lemons and water before each shower, but you could prepare the lemon juice or vinegar in bulk ahead of time.

I’ve used this method to shampoo my hair for a couple of weeks and I like it a lot. I’ve noticed my hair is easier to style since it has more texture than with regular shampoo. 

I also like being able to customize the smell. Rosemary and lavender are suppose to be good for dry hair (like mine), but when I use them my hair ends up smelling kind of funny. As my sister put it, it’s not a bad smell, it’s just an odd smell… kinda like a health food store. So I’ve started using lemongrass instead, in combination with the fresh lemons in the rinse, my hair just smells like… you guessed it, lemons. I want to try more oils, but I haven’t ordered others yet.

That is about it. I think it works great, and although I’d like to try more natural homemade alternatives to traditional shampoo, I will be using this method regularly.

As always, if you try it let me know how it goes. Just leave a comment.

Just the Essentials on Essential Oils

Quite a few of my upcoming natural beauty recipes contain essential oils, and I wanted to write up a quick introduction to buying and using essential oils as a reference for anyone who is unfamiliar. Please note that this is just a basic introduction to essential oils and should not be taken as law. If you have a medical condition, are taking medication, or are pregnant, please consult a doctor before using essential oils. Also keep in mind that this information is for using diluted essential oils topically on hair, skin, etc not for ingestion, inhalation, or holistic medical applications. Without further ado, here are the basics of essential oils and their use in homemade beauty recipes.

Essential oils are “Volatile, rapidly evaporating oils [which] are obtained from the leaves, stem, flower, seed or root of a plant, and usually carry the odor characteristic of the plant. Essential oils are used in cosmetics, aromatherapy, medicine, perfumery and flavoring. They add fragrance to natural skin care products, as well as contribute to their healthful and beautifying qualities through their various abilities to tone, balance, relax, cleanse and invigorate. Although all essential oils are ‘fragrant’, not all ‘fragrances’ are essential oils. True essential oils are plant-derived. (Source)

It is important to understand that although essential oil’s are “natural” it doesn’t mean they are harmless, they require special handling. All essential oils must be diluted with a carrier to be used safely. Examples of carriers are olive oil, almond oil, and jojoba oil. It is also possible to use water although most recipes will call for a carrier oil to be added.

Essential oils can cause irritation to the skin/eyes/nose especially when undiluted. They should be used with extreme caution in children, if not avoided all together. It is also advisable to avoid essential oils during pregnancy because they “…can cross the placental barrier and there is little clinical research in this area.” (Source) It is also possible to have an allergic reaction to essential oils and when trying a new oil it is advisable to try a patch test to determine compatibility.

The biggest way you can insure a favorable experience with essential oils is to purchase quality oils which are 100% pure. It can be hard to research and verify quality oils, especially online. There are minimal regulations on essential oils, and any company can claim “therapeutic grade.” For more information on this check out diyaromatherapy’s post on the Myth of Therapeutic Grade.

The company I bought from is Mountain Rose Herbs (check out their website here) which offers certified organic oils. They also use sustainable farming practices, and earth-conscience recycled packaging. It’s important to do your own research on sources and decide for yourself if a company is legitimate, however here are some guidelines for purchasing quality oils:

  • Check that the website/store has information on the country of origin, method of distillation, and specific species of plant, because all of this information is an indication the source is serious about providing consumers with a quality product.
  • Check what type of bottle the oil is packaged in. Essential oils are light sensitive and can degrade plastic, so they should be sold in tinted, glass bottles.
  • Check the price of the oil compared to other dealers, if it’s cheaper than anything else around it’s most likely not pure.
  • Another word of caution there are several multi-level marketing companies that sell oils. Check to make sure that the website you are on for information, isn’t written by a representative. It is impossible to be unbiased if you have a financial stake in a particular brand. I would also like to mention that although I have never tested Young Living’s oils, there has been much written on the dubious background of the organization. Check out these links for more information: quackwatch.org and scumtasticly.com

Now that you have researched and selected a quality brand of oil it’s time to decide which ones to purchase. Remember that not all species of plants have therapeutic properties, for instant lavender (Lavandula augustifola or Lavandula officinalis) which can smell different with each bottle has the aromatherapy properties associated with lavender. However, lavender 40/42 which is a blend of many types of lavender, smells consistent from bottle to bottle and is less expensive, but doesn’t have any of the aromatherapy benefits of true lavender oil. (Source) For natural beauty recipes, it’s important to consider whether the oil is an active ingredient or a fragrance. Some good beginner essential oils are lavender, rosemary, lemon, eucalyptus and geranium.

For more information I would recommend the University of Minnesota’s page on aromatherapy, and organicfacts.net index on the uses of specific oils. Also check out “The A-to-Z of Essential Oils” by Joy Bowles and “Health and Beauty the Natural Way” by Nerys Purchon.

I am still new to essential oils, but I would be delighted to help anyone with questions, just leave a comment.