All Natural Hair Color and Conditioning

All Natural Hair Dye and Conditioner

This one is for the brunettes and dirty blondes.

A while back I talked about trying henna as an all natural hair color method to cover gray.  I did a crazy amount of research and ultimately chickened out.  Henna is red.  Orange-red.  From what I read on henna-friendly websites, there was a risk my gray would sop up that henna and turn orange despite the addition of other plant-based dyes.  Um, no thank you.

That, and I was intrigued by a comment from Ani of Paper and Lens about how she successfully covered her gray with a sage and rosemary mixture.

I used to make a concoction to color my grays and it really worked. It’s 1/4 cup dried sage and 1/4 cup dried rosemary boiled in 1 cup water, strained and cooled. (It keeps in the refrigerator.) I applied it after washing my hair with a spray bottle but that was messy so then I dipped a cotton pad into it and rubbed it on the gray parts of my hair. It works really well, and I think it smells nice (my family, however, did not agree) and my hair was soft. I found it on the internet originally with a few variations. Now I go to an environmentally friendly salon and still color only the grays, but honestly I like the sage/rosemary concoction better. Supposedly, if you keep using it, the grays disappear after a while. I may go back to it, actually, because I don’t like the whole salon thing.

A few days later I was at the health food store.

I want to say I found the answer to all my problems, but I didn’t.  My gray is not only color resistant, it frames my face and accounts for roughly 40% of my hair. Something as mild as this won’t be strong enough to completely cover, or even blend, my gray.  Still, the hair where it did take was a gorgeous, non-brassy, caramel. Gorgeous. I really do wish my gray took to it because the color was translucent goodness.

Note that Ani said it left her hair soft. This is where this little concoction has become invaluable. One of the reasons I started searching for natural hair dye was because of the dry, brittle condition of my hair. Seriously, it was like straw after ten years of non-stop coloring. I also think last year’s experiment with cheap shampoo was a failure.  (Never again.)  Like Ani said, a quick google search will pull up scads of recipes and techniques.  I chose one closest to Ani’s.  I applied it to the front, especially the bangs, where I have the most gray.  They say to leave it in until your hair dries.  Once it does, you wash it out with your normal shampoo.

My method:

  • Friday night.
  • Drape shoulders with an old bath towel.
  • Spray down dry hair with leave in conditioner.
  • Enjoy smell. (I agree with Ani on the smell. If you like the smell of Aveda products, you will love this one.)
  • Grab book/magazine/movie.
  • Enjoy the rest of the night.
  • Go to sleep.
  • Wake up.
  • Eventually take a shower.

I knew it was working because I immediately noticed an improvement in the texture and condition of my bangs, which is where I concentrated all my efforts.  The back and ends of my hair remained a hot mess.  Another quick google search confirmed my suspicions.  Variations of the same formula are used to condition the hair, mainly as a rinse with the addition of vinegar.  I’m not going to do it that way as I love my leave in method.

As for my gray?  Drama.  I ended up going to a salon that offers a more natural hair coloring experience.  A more natural hair coloring experience to which I was allergic.  My scalp just kept getting hotter and hotter and hotter until I realized that maybe it was ON FIRE.  Que the flock of hairdressers with cold towels and frantic swipes at my head.  I avoided cancer, but somehow managed to melt my scalp.  Only me.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. says

    Oh, honey. I am so sorry to hear about your recent experience! Just this year, I began coloring my hair because my naturally curly grays are so unruly. In fact, I just did it this weekend and DS2 asked, “Mommy, why do you keep changing your hair color?” Actually, I don’t keep changing it. I use the same color every time. For some reason, it looks redder when I first color it. (Maybe I am not rinsing enough.) Anyway, I hope that you find a solution that will work for you.

  2. Donna says

    Oh dear, not the burning scalp of doom! Allergies are horrible and unpredictable too. My skin is terribly sensitive to poison ivy and I swear if the wind blows in my direction, I’ll get those ugly, weeping, itchy/aching pustules all over my skin! Ah Jules if we could only get past our vanity. On the plus side, the natural conditioner sounds wonderful and I plan on treating myself to a Friday night Spa treatment very soon. Thanks for sharing! Donna

  3. says

    Grey hairs are a persnickety lot. My mom’s hairdresser suggested putting rubbing alcohol on the grey first … especially at the roots. This will help the color absorb better (and stick around longer)…then use something like Garnier Nutrisse. I don’t know though … after the burning scalp business, you may not be too quick to use a “natural’ anything. :) Yikes.

    Thanks for the recipe – and for trying it out first. I’m always a little too leary to try such things myself. With my luck, all my hair would fall out!

  4. hannah says

    Young person alert: can I put this on my non-gray, light brown hair just for the conditioning? My new found adulthood requires, GASP, that I actually blow out my hair every morning (janis joplin = not office appropriate) the breakage! the breakage!

  5. says

    Light brown? I don’t see why not! It dyes the hair (for me it was a light caramel) over time, so if you see it doing that you can take a break. I think the color of your hair is probably similar to the color of the stain, so maybe you won’t notice anything?

    YES on the breakage. I’ve been blow drying my hair, too.

  6. Brandi says

    LOL at Hannah!!

    I’ve never tried (read: not brave enough) to make my conditioner myself, but I use this wonderful stuff from Lush called Marilyn.. it’s really great, and although that version is for blondes, they have others for other ‘flavors’ of hair color.. You should try..

    Thankfully, no grays.. I’m paranoid though, looking every day, waiting. It’s anticipation at it’s worst. I’m worried though because I read somewhere that you cannot dye gray hairs blonde… WHAT??? It says that gray hairs are essentially a non-color, and since blonde hair is the lack of color as well, you can only dye gray hairs a darker color!!! For this reason, utter despair for advancing age has set in.

    I turn 32 in two months. :(

  7. roni says

    i will try this out too! my skin is very sensitive and i fear the same thing that happened to you – fried scalp! i can no longer pluck stray gray hairs, they are starting to frame my face too :(

  8. says

    I’m in the same boat. My face-framing hair has begun to be a very un-flattering gray and I started dyeing it this year at home, but it’s not taking well to the “Natural Instincts” that I chose. I’m pretty sure it’s the gray that’s causing the weird texture, all sort of kinky and kind of crazy. I think I’m going to try that herbal concoction next time roots start to show. Sorry you had such a bad experience at the salon!
    Did you ever try jojoba oil as a conditioner? It works pretty well, but I think laying off heat styling is probably the best thing (but impossible, too, (sigh)).

  9. says

    Jules! I’m speechless! Imagine my surprise when I read my name and comment on your post! Sorry you had a lousy salon experience. I’m glad someone besides me likes the sage/rosemary smell. I can’t imagine the vinegar either. Good for cleaning, but hair? I don’t think so. Let me know how it goes.

  10. Joy says

    Oh no I’m so sorry about your scalp-burning experience. How frightening!!!

    I totally understand your saga on finding non damaging hair dyes etc, I started having grey hair early as well and I dye it too, although not as often as I should to have nicer results.

    Hope you can find a better solution next time.

    Now, can i just ask what is your routine with your hair, cos in all pics it looks perfect!
    Do you blow dry it every time you wash? Do you wash it everyday? I’m fascinated to know how you make it look so stunning.

  11. says

    Joy–I don’t do much! Wash every other day and soft barrel curls with a curling iron. Although, I am looking into one of those round brush blower things. I used to have one I loved, but it broke. I just can’t get the hang of using a round brush AND a hair dryer at the same time.

    Jan–Wow! Thank you. :)

  12. says

    Oops! I forgot some people. {blush}

    Tammy–I haven’t tried Jojoba oil. Have you? Do you like it?

    Ani–vinegar is supposed to be a great conditioner. I’ve tried it before with no luck. Maybe my hair just has an attitude problem.

  13. says

    Chiming in with another “funny” salon story: Went off to an all-women’s college where one of the favorite pastimes was hair experimentation. By the time I wrapped my hand around my degree, my hair was bleach-blond, an inch long, and spiky… just in time to enter the career world. So my mum made an appointment at the salon. Can I just say we girls and our peroxide and cheap boxes of drug store color weren’t doing all that bad? The poor gal at the salon turned my hair blue. Almost electric blue. I think it freaked out my mom more than me. Who wants to get a real job, anyway??

  14. says

    Oh dang, the burning scalp… I remember that all too well. My poor stylist was in near tears over it all. She gave me a Benadryl from her purse and told me to wait until she found a better dye for me. Red whelps everywhere.

    I hope you find a natural approach that works for you.

  15. says

    LOL! I had the burning scalp too, but it was a chemical burn from my FIRST perm ever. That was also my LAST perm ever. After my scalp quit peeling off in huge chunks I was ok! ACK!!
    I’ll have to try this as a conditioner – my hair is so fine that I can’t use commercial conditioner or will never wash out enough. This seems nice and light.

    Have a great afternoon!

  16. Hailey55 says

    Having been a fan of the Shielo brand for years, I decided to splurge and try their Color Protect Conditioner (what’s a few more dollars when you’ve spent hundreds on your haircolor itself!).

    In short, it’s the best of the 5 or 6 other conditioning products that I’ve tried to no avail. In the wintery months, it makes my hair glossy and heavy enough not to be statically-charged and flying around my face. Many conditioners can’t seem to accomplish this! I can usually wait to wash my hair every other day (rather than every) in the winter, although when I use this conditioner I’ve found that I can’t skip a day (it gets greasy more quickly). I’ve been using it for about 4 weeks and I haven’t noticed any deterioration in my highlighted color, so that’s wonderful too.

    And the smell! I love the smell. It’s light and soothing and makes me feel immediately like I’m in a spa. It’s well worth the money, and a little goes a long way (I use less than a dime-sized amount).

  17. Dez says

    Try Naturtint Permanent Hair Color 6N Dark Blonde or Herbatint 6N Dark blonde-my gray is also resistant but this is dark enough to blend with my naturally dark brown hair and give the grey enough color to look like highlights : ). Down side is because it contains no parabens or laurel sulfate, it doesn’t seem to last as long as the ‘natural’ hair colors that do contain those ingredients so i need to color about once a month-my hair grows pretty fast and the greys are hot and heavy these days : (.
    I tried the sage and rosemary for months-it was great for conditioning my dry, naturally curly to frizzy hair, but did ZIP for the hair coloring : (
    Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>