Strand Testing Part 1: Creating Test Locks

You’ve heard it over and over–henna is permanent so make sure you strand test! This series of articles breaks down this often-glossed over topic in to easy steps. We’ll start with a rather critical set, getting hair upon which to test!

These strand tests are all of NightBlooming’s Herbal Hair colors strand tested on ash blonde human hair. You can see the full series of pictures here!

Why Strand Test?

Being that henna and herbal hair colors work with your own hair color, you must test to see what your actual results will be. It isn’t like chemical dyes where you (more or less) get the color on the box. Also, if you have a blend of colors in your hair, henna will affect each one of those differently. Even if you see a mix you like on someone with a similar natural color to your own, you’ll want to see the results on your hair. The final, and perhaps biggest reason, to strand test is the amazing permanence of henna and indigo. You’ll want to know if you love the color or hate it before it’s been applied to your entire head.

These test strands began as a natural dark blonde/light brown. From Top to bottom the colors are NightBlooming Enyo, Kitsune, Genasi, and Rusalki. The end of the control swatch (center) was dipped in a blend of all of the individually tested muds. Photo used with customer permission.

Making Test Samples

This can be as simple as a hairball or as complicated as a root-orientated swatch. If you’re growing out your natural color, your ends are bleached, or there’s any significant color change from the roots of your hair to the ends, it might be worth going through the more elaborate test so you can see how much blending you’ll get, and how the color will change down the length of the hair.

You may want to have some extra strand test samples that you do not dye. This lets you more accurately gauge the hennaed color vs the starting color in various types of lighting with samples of similar type and size.

Harvesting Hair

The two easiest places to get hair are from your brush and from your shower. When showering, you can stick the hairs that come off on your hands to the wall as you go and then gather them up at the end. The drain or the vacuum are other great places to find hair, but you’ll want to give anything from there a quick wash with shampoo in the palm of your hand to make sure they’re clean. If you’re testing several blends, you’ll need
several test hairballs/swatches. Don’t forget a control lock! Small pieces of hair are more easily compared to a control swatch rather than trying to hold them up to hair still attached to your head.

Gray or white hair

If you have gray or white strands, or even just a wide variety of color within your hair, you’ll want to make sure that these hairs are represented in your testing. That way you will have an accurate cross section of all the colors
that will be in your hair after coloring.

Types of Samples

The most basic form of test, it’s simple to acquire and easy to make. Just make sure the hair is matted up enough to hold a little form, but not so much that the mud can’t either penetrate or be rinsed free easily.

Folded over lock
A folded over lock is made by taking hairs laid out end to end and then folding them over something and tying off the folded end. This gives a better idea of how light will reflect off the hair and the end color with half the hair needed for a root-oriented lock.

Root-aligned lock
If your hair has a noticeable color change from roots to tips (for example if you have virgin roots and a chemically dyed length), or if you just want something that’s more like a lock of hair and less like a hairball for testing, you’ll need to root-orientate your hairs. The easiest way to do this is to take a piece of double-sided tape and as you untangle each shed hair from the rest, stick the root to the tape. You might need to fill a few pieces of tape before you have enough hair for strand testing. Ideally you want a piece of hair at least half the thickness of a pencil. Once you get enough shed hairs rounded up, tie off the top with some thread and secure it with a drop or two of super glue or nail polish. The very top of the lock will be hard and crispy, that’s okay.

This content is excerpted from Coloring Hair Naturally with Henna & Other Herbs, which has tons of information if you’re hungry for more! More than 300 pages of text, pictures, charts, diagrams, and recipes make Coloring Hair Naturally with Henna & Other Herbs the definitive resource for natural hair coloring. With it, you’ll be able to give yourself the hair you’ve always wanted, naturally.

Continued with Strand Testing Part 2: Controlled Testing!

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