Herbal dyes strengthen and reinforce hair. Sometimes these dyes can make certain hair types feel ‘dry’. This feeling is temporary and has little to do with moisture or lack thereof, and more to do with temporary changes to the hair’s physical structure.

Hair Structure

A strand of hair is made up of a cuticle layer (consisting of tiny scales of overlapping keratin) over a central core. ​​The cuticle layer is extremely important in regulating moisture within the core. It is tighter and thicker near the scalp, where the hair is newly grown and has not yet had time to experience damage. Nearer to the ends, the hair is older and often has a thinner cuticle layer that is more jagged. Split ends are the result of the complete loss of the cuticle layer, and the splitting apart of the inner core.

Hair that has been exposed to chemical processes such as bleaching, will have cuticles that are damaged and rough. The weather can also temporarily effect the cuticles. On windy days the friction causes the cuticles to lift, which makes the strands tangle as the lifted cuticles catch onto one another. Humid/rainy weather can cause the cuticles to become raised, which leads to the appearance of frizz.

What We Interpret as ‘Dry and Damaged’ vs. ‘Smooth and Healthy’

When the cuticles are raised, the hair feels coarser and less manageable. We often misinterpret this texture as ‘dryness’, believing that the hair is lacking moisture. As mentioned above, moisture itself can sometimes cause raised cuticles, so clearly this is not the case. It is simply a temporary change in the physical shape of the hair strands as a reaction to their environment.

Similarly, just because hair is artificially smoothed with silicones and glycerols, does not necessarily mean that the hair is healthier or more moisturized than it was prior to conditioning. As most of us are used to store-bought hair care products, we tend to think that tangled, crunchy feeling hair indicated dryness, and smooth, sleek hair indicates moisture.

What happens to hair during a herbal hair dye treatment

During a herbal dye treatment, moisture from the paste, along with the dye molecules move into the cuticle. The dye bonds to the keratin and this process plumps the cuticle, pushing each cuticle away from the others.  In addition, sometimes not all the dye is rinsed out and these two factors are what can cause the sensation of roughness for some hair types after a herbal dye treatment. As the dye molecules settle into their places and oxidise, and as the remnants of the dye powder leave the hair, the feeling of roughness decreases.

The pigments in the herbal dyes (henna/lawsone, indigo/indigotin) coat and stain the keratin in the cuticles which strengthens and reinforces the hair. The added reinforcement prevents breakage and balances moisture levels. Hair that has been dyed with herbal dyes can still absorb outside moisture (unlike hair that has been coated with silicones), and it can be treated with chemical dyes, lighteners, and relaxers as long as very pure herbal dyes (like Love My Hair) have been used.  Herbal dyes that are not pure may contain metallic salts and other chemical adulterants that will react badly to other chemical treatments.

How to fix rough hair after a herbal dye treatment

Here are some ways to help your hair feel smoother, softer, and more manageable sooner after dyeing your hair with herbal dyes.

Make sure that you have rinsed all the dye out before you shampoo. This can be done by submerging your hair in a bathtub, or with a strong shower. 

After rinsing work conditioner through your rinsed hair. This will help any remaining paste to slip out more easily. Rinse with fresh water and repeat if necessary, until the hair feels smooth, then wash and dry your hair as you normally would.  Washing will not cause anything to loosen except for leftover dye. It is however, best to avoid products containing essential oils (e.g. tea tree or peppermint essential oil) for this initial wash as these tend to loosen the indigo content out of the hair too soon.

If you prefer not to use conditioner, diluted apple cider vinegar will help to smooth the hair and close the cuticle. Rinsing with cool water also helps the cuticle to tighten and close.

Final thoughts…

Because the texture of the hair after herbal dyes is so frequently mistaken as dryness, some people choose to add ingredients such as coconut milk or oil, egg, milk, yogurt, and other plant oils to their herbal dye mix to prevent this feeling of dryness. This is unnecessary and these ingredients inhibit proper dye uptake.

Herbal dyes are so much better for our hair and bodies than chemical dyes. Love My Hair 100% Herbal dyes are certified organic and finely sifted for maximum purity and ease of use. They not only dye your hair, but also contain non-dyeing herbs to improve scalp condition and follicle health.

— thanks to Ancient Sunrise Henna for some information.