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Qualia — Henna

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Feb. 21st, 2015 | 10:06 am

I started using henna on my hair a few years ago but it was only this most recent supplier that made me realize how amazing it is. Everything about interacting with it is wonderful. The results are not the point (they are acceptable, not quite excellent); I want to use it forever. It's a pale olive color that deepens when wet. The powder is extremely fine, and it clumps slowly as you gradually add water, like high quality flour in a dry dough before you start kneading it. There is some critical point at which is suddenly becomes the wet color and kneads fluidly. The packaging refers to this consistency as "paste" but it's much more like a dough. So this dough then, it has incredible structural integrity. The actual application of any dye involves sectioning and coating your hair, usually an obnoxious and messy process. With this dough, the coated hair gradually forms a self-supporting mass, as you add sections to it. It's incredibly clean and there is no dripping. As it sits on your head, it warms slightly and has a texture more similar to wet clay. It can be spread and formed. When you draw your fingers across it, it leaves perfect pointed waves as it fills the gaps between your rounded fingertips. The layers of henna-dough-clay and hair gradually form a cap which is malleable but anchored by the root network of overlapping sections of hair. I am reminded of highly fibrous seaweed on clay-bottomed lakes. In fact, as you rinse it, it is exactly like the clay on the bottom of a lake. It becomes briefly silky and then disolves into dirt, its elastic properties disappearing as it becomes saturated with water.

Ah, there is one exception. If it dries on your head it is quite awful. It is hard to rehydrate and it tears at the hair as you try to remove it. So I always wrap it in plastic to prevent this. There is still the unsolved problem of the edges of the wrap not quite making a seal and the henna drying along my hairline. I suspect this could be resolved with vaseline, but then I would have vaseline on me. A horrible feeling.
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