“Kittenwhiskers” is a series of posts where I go wildly off-topic and indulge in a little unabashed fangirling over somthing or the other. This summer I went a little mad scientist over natural hair color and it turned out to be one of the most-liked posts of 2021. I now bring you…
THE GREAT POOPGOO EXPERIMENT
Over the past few years, between the pandemic and weird schedules, our family has become world champion at-home staycationers. I’m not complaining. I like it because it usually is a good excuse to treat ourselves to our favorite local restaurants, but that’s another story.
Believe it or not, I have a doctorate degree that relates to this. Not a doctor of vacationing. I have an online remote study Ph.D. in Natural Health from back in the day before online colleges were a common thing. Move over Doctor Doofenshmirtz. Summer hiatus is a good time to put that information into actual practice and take the time to tinker with new things. Call it experimental research.
Genuinely natural alternatives (as opposed to unregulated marketing claims of “natual”) are just as effective as their mainstream counterparts, but they are also more time intensive. Natural things work, but they takes more time and effort than most of us are willing to put into them – myself included.
This year’s experiment might be my new pinnacle of whacky in my alternative tinkering – at least so far. Being middle aged and freshouttafucks, I’m usually not much for hair and beauty stuff. I am, however, getting ruthless about cutting our single use plastic consumption and using more eco-friendly products in general.
I don’t totally like my natural hair color and inherited a forehead adjacent early gray patch a la Bride of Frankenstein, thus Miss Clairol and I have been friends for a loooong time. But it is time for a change because chemicals, plastic, and thinning old lady hair. Enter plant based hair color. No more little non-recyclable plastic bottles and no more slap you in the nose chemical smells. With plant powders, the little plastic bottles are replaced with a bowl from the kitchen (or washed up from last night’s take out.) The eye watering smell (or the gag inducing froofroo fragrance they add to try and cover it up) is replaced by – you guessed it – the smell of plants. Think mowing the lawn or a day in the garden. Or, in this case, freshly mown hay on a sunny day with a giant pot of creamed spinach dumped on top.
This particular plant, cassia obovata, or “neutral henna” as it is marketed, comes from the Ayurvedic tradition and is actually healthy for hair and scalp. It’s been used for centuries for dandruff and the like. Lots of plants have dyes in them. That’s where dyes for cloth and inks originally came from, not chemicals. Thankfully the old recipes and what-plant-makes-what-color knowledge is still around. It is a day long project, but I wanted to give the old school plant based hair color a try.
It’s true that cassia is mainly a conditioner and won’t touch the color of darker hair. Not. One. Bit. I was genuinely surprised that it did anything for my lighter hair, but it really does end up with a nice, warm toned golden blonde, including the grays. Another tidbit I had read proved true…pure cassia obovata is not a good choice for anyone who wants or needs cool or neutral blonde tones. I actually dig the end color because I was aiming for warm tones. I’ve been paying for warm tones for years. This ended up being about the same price as a decent box color at Walmart or something. Certainly it costs WAY less than a salon visit.
The other thing that proved true: it’s volumizing. The old-lady thin texture is normal again. I’ve read that cassia can relax curl, and that adding amla (Indian gooseberry) power does two things: It preserves the curl plus provids the acid that releases the dye molecules from the cassia. If you don’t use amla in the mix, add a splash of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. I don’t think it takes much acid, but as I understand the chemistry, it is necessary. I used amla 15 gms to 50 gms of cassia powder. I also added a splash of aloe, which was suggested to enhance the conditioning effect.
For this project I used 100% pure Cassia Obovata powder (if you use lawsonia aka true henna, indigo aka black henna or anything combination other than pure cassia, it’s a whole different kettle of hair goo. Do your research!! ) Pure cassia is the only way to get the color I was aiming for, so I didn’t really research the other stuff.
To start, measure & mix the powder(s) in your chosen bowl. Add hot water and and about a Tbs of aloe until it is the consistency of pancake batter or a runny yogurt. Let the now brown & disturbingly baby poop looking mixture sit for 4 hours. Yes, hours. This is natural and plastic-free (the powders came in foil pouches) not modern and convenient. You don’t have to stand there and watch it. Just mix it and leave it. If it goes longer, no worries. For a dye effect and not just conditioning, word is that you have to use it within a 4 – 12 hour window after adding the water. Beyond that, and it supposedly works as conditioner but the dye degrades so much it isn’t useful even on light hair.
When it comes time to apply the poopgoo you might want gloves, or you might not. Lawsonnia, the real-deal red hair henna is also used for mehndi, the temporary (and gorgeous!) skin art that originated in India and will obviously stain. But like I said, this is about a pure cassia conditioner / gold-blonde spinach smelling poopgoo hair color experiment. I didn’t have any problem with staining at all.
I coated my hair with this deeply weird muddy stuff, covered it with a shower cap, wrapped that in a towel, and warmed the whole thing with the hair dryer.
Did I mention it felt deeply weird, like mud-clay wrapped in plastic wrapped in a towel, part ceramics class, part Laura Palmer Twin Peaks reference?
I tooled around the house with the spinach smelling poopgoo contraption for four hours. Yes, hours. I didn’t want to do much wearing a big wobbly towel turban, so instead I spent some quality time with my knitting needles and a copy of Matt Auryn’s excellent book, Psychic Witch. The final step is to rinse out the drying-clay-feeling abstract sculpture on my head with warm water and no shampoo, followed by air-drying. For the first evening, it felt like hair that had been caked in mud, but look at the mirror! Good color and better gray coverage than the store bought semi-permanent color. This is temporary too, which is why I was expecting the big fat nothing I’d gotten before from another instinctively “natural” store brand I’d tried in the past. By the next day, the recently caked-in-mud feeling was gone with soft and volumeized texture left in its place.
And look! Color! It worked! Cassia obovata spooged out its crysophanic acid and coated my gnarly looking Lily Munster streak with pretty blonde-ness. This poopgoo is the real deal!
Kitten Whiskers is a series of posts about some of my favorite things, even if they are a little off-topic. I hope they spark a little delight for you the way they have for me.
Just a quick non-throwback reminder: email Tarot readings are open all holiday weekend. Order yours HERE. The “year ahead readings are always in the special layouts section, but are on the home page through Lunar New Year.
A private year ahead reading by email is included when you join the TaoCraft Tarot Table on Ko-fi. For $5 per month you receive
- One time private Year Ahead Tarot reading by email
- Member exclusive Pathway Through The Month three card reading on the ko-fi edition of the blog
- Member exclusive newsletter on the ko-fi blog that includes random special offers and discounts.
And lest you think it odd to start talking about Tarot right under a .gif of Bill Nye, remember that my style of Tarot reading doesn’t do any of that oogie boogie predict-the-future stuff. My readings are all about understanding, making choices, and laying a foundation so that good old scientific cause and effect can carry us forward on a better path. Think of it as a sort of witchy jazzed up social science that is actually FUN to do.