The Caca* line is Lush’s henna hair dye offering. The full line consists of: Caca Rouge, for red hair, Caca Brun for a coffee brown, Caca Marron for chestnut brown, and Caca Noir, which promises to dye your hair blue-black. Before I go into the actual product review, I want to first address the question of “Why henna?”
If you have never used it before, henna is a huge pain in the ass compared with other at-home hair dyes. For one thing, you are literally dyeing your hair with mud. Not only do you have to intentionally put a bunch of mud in your hair, but you really have to work that shit in so that the color is even. It takes a little getting used to. Since the mud is more solid than chemical colors, you will leave little crumbs of it all over your bathroom and they will stain pretty much any surface they land on a carroty orange if you don’t get them up quickly. There’s also a lot of rules to preparing and using henna; you have to use it hot, don’t use any metal in the preparation and it can react in odd ways with previously bleached or dyed hair. “Odd” usually means “green” with henna, but one time I bleached my hair after it had been henna dyed and it turned school bus yellow.
With all this working against it, you have to be asking yourself “Why bother?” I have a couple of reasons. The biggest is the smell. I am very sensitive to chemicals and their odors, hair dyeing can be a miserable process for me. I have had to spend my waiting period outside, where the smell could dissipate, and I’ve even had to wash dye out of my hair early because my eyes were watering and I was starting to get dizzy from the ammonia fumes. Henna has a mild herbal scent that is, if not exactly pleasant, at least non-offensive (depending on the batch, it sometimes smells like you have been smoking a lot of weed, which can be a little strange if you haven’t). It also does little or no damage to your hair. If your hair was dry to start with, it can actually come out a little softer with the treatment. And I love the color. I choose the fiery copper reds, and they are beautiful. It is technically semi-permanent, so the copper fades slowly over time. If you are like me, and dye your hair on a whim every few months without any root touch-ups in between, the dye line is a lot softer with henna than it is with chemical** dyes. And last, but not least, now that I am a little older, I really appreciate the way henna sits on gray hairs. It makes them look like someone has threaded copper wires through my hair and I think it’s neat.
Now, on to the review.
I was hesitant to try Lush’s henna, mostly because of the cost. You can get a simple box of henna from a place like Whole Foods for under $10, the Lush Cacas are $24.95.
I finally decided to pony up the money because I have had some bad experiences with the cheap stuff. Since henna is a plant, each batch is a little different. Some crops don’t grow with the same staining properties of others. Let me tell you, it really sucks when you have gone through the hassle of coating your head in hot mud, and all the clean-up it entails, and washed it out to find that your hair is not noticeably different from when you started. I hoped that the increased cost meant that Lush did a little more in the way of color quality control. The other reason is that I did a little research and the reason the Caca Rouge comes in a brick instead of a little bag of green powder is that the henna is mixed with cocoa butter (and lemon juice and clove bud oil). Not only does the cocoa butter make the henna stick to your hair better, but it works as a deep conditioning treatment while you dye.
The preparation for Caca Rouge is a little different from what I was used to. They suggest using a double boiler, or a bain-marie, to heat up the brick while you mix in boiling water. I’m assuming the double boiler is to help melt the cocoa butter, since usually you just have to mix the powder with hot water and go. Lush also doesn’t have any directions about avoiding metal. I have used glass bowls and wooden spoons*** with my henna for so long that I was reluctant to use metal bowls just because they didn’t tell me not to. Since I don’t have a double boiler or a bain-marie, I cobbled one together with a Pyrex mixing bowl and a saucepan of boiling water. I boiled about a cup and a half of water in a different saucepan to add to the henna. You pour boiling water over the pieces of henna brick (I have fairly long hair so I used the whole damn thing broken into chunks) and let it sit for a few minutes. As it softens, you mix and add water until the mix is roughly the consistency of cake batter.
The application process is the same as with normal henna; gob it on until you look like you could play an extra in a caveman movie. The wait time is a bit different. Where my normal routine is to wrap my head in plastic and blow-dry for 30 minutes or so (the heat brings out the color), with the Caca you wrap your head in plastic and let it sit for at least an hour or two (up to six if you are feeling frisky)****. The Lush sales lady was kind enough to suggest a wearing a towel around my neck while I waited, because the cocoa butter melts from the heat of your head and oozes out from under the plastic bag. She was so, so right, as evidenced by the oily green spots on my keyboard from where I pushed the plastic off my ear and then started typing (did I mention that I am writing this as during my two-hour wait? Multi-tasking, bitches!). The towel is a good call.
It’s time! Off to the showers!
OMG, I have never been so grateful for my detachable shower head with the variable speeds. Being able to switch it to power-jet and get the water right up in my hair made it so much easier to wash out the mud, and I was able to use it to clean the walls and shower curtain. The whole thing reminds me of this:
Safety tip: the cocoa butter made the floor of my tub really slippery as I was washing it out. If you don’t have a bathmat or adhesive duckies, watch your footing.
Now that my hair is dry, it is R-E-D red, and I love it. This is easily one of the best results I’ve seen from any hair dye, henna or chemical-y. It is also soft, smooth and smells faintly of lemons. Was it worth $25? Hell yes. The overall process wasn’t much more difficult than regular old henna and the end product was worth the extra money. I give it an 8 out of 10 on the Damn I Feel Sexy scale.
*And yes, they do know caca is french for poo.
**Dear Hillary: If this is a poor use of “chemical,” please tell me what the proper term would be. I wracked my brain to find a more accurate term, but chemical was the best I could do.
***Another benefit from using a wooden spoon is that, after you wipe off the excess mud, the henna has stained the spoon roughly the same color it will stain your hair. It’s like a little sneak peek.
****Mr.B wanted me to stress the time thing (he mentioned it while cooking dinner for me and the kids, since I was tapping away at the keyboard with a bag on my head and no one wanted dinner with henna crumbs mixed in). The whole thing was about 3 1/2 hours from start to finish.