There's a reason why blond women use chamomile, lemon juice and honey to enhance the color of their hair and why many non-blondes also turn to these natural substances to achieve slight changes in their hair color. It's just that sometimes these reasons get mixed up and I suddenly come across innocent questions such as "Will chamomile help me lighten my hair?" or "Do you think I can use pure honey to moisturize my hair?" The answer to both questions is a short and simple "No". If you want to know why, then go on and read this post.
Let's start with the first question. Chamomile, as many other herbs, can be used as a dye but it does not have the slightest chemical properties which would enable it to remove the original color of our hair. What it is capable of is adding a golden hue to lighter hair colors such as blond, light-brown or red. (It won't show up on darker colors.) In order to achieve this effect, we simply need to make a strong brew using a mug of water and at least three handfuls of chamomile flower, then thoroughly soak our hair in the warm liquid and leave it one for at least an hour. (Hair is preferably wrapped in a towel.) I tried this a few years ago and my hair acquired a pretty golden sheen which looked great in the summer. Be careful though: if you use too much chamomile or leave it on for too long (or do both) you might end up with a yellowish tint in your mane.
So now we know that chamomile does not lighten our hair. Now honey on the other hand... Okay, so what do we know about honey? Besides being jam-packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, it also has two very peculiar properties.
- When honey comes in contact with water, a small amount of hydrogen peroxide is formed which might be the reason why we drink warm tea with honey when we have a sore throat (H2O2 is a strong disinfectant), or why we can actually use it to lighten our hair and skin. (Hydrogen peroxide! It does ring a bell, doesn't it? :-) In honey, H2O2 is present in a low concentration only, which is why it is much less harmful than the substance used in hair salons.C6H12O6 + H2O + O2 → C6H12O7 + H2O2
- Honey in a pure and undiluted form is a very drying substance and should not be applied to hair or skin. (I once put it on my face as a mask and could not slather on enough moisturizer afterwards.)
Honey has a low water activity which means that even those few water molecules it contains are associated with the sugars in it and thus, honey has osmotic qualities. Osmosis is the passage of a liquid through a semi-permeable membrane from a solution of low solute concentration to a solution with high solute concentration. In the end, we will have the same concentration of liquid on both sides of the membrane.
As a result of the osmotic effect, when you put honey on your skin, your skin will act as a semi-permeable membrane, on the other side of which there are the lower layers of your skin, full of water. Because of its osmotic effect, honey will draw water to itself from your skin, leaving it dry, wrinkled and possibly even irritated.
When, however, honey is diluted at a minimum of a 1 to 10 ratio, the end result is a wonderfully moisturizing substance. (In this respect, honey works pretty much the same way as glycerin does. If you see glycerin among the first four or five ingredients used in a product than that means it will probably dry your skin instead of moisturizing it.) Adding a few drops of honey to your facial mask or hair conditioner is therefore one of the best things you can do for your skin. You can also mix a spoonful of honey with your bath water and even add a little milk and almond oil.
Now you know the science behind the beneficial properties of honey and most likely you already have a few ideas about how to put this wonderful treasure of Nature to use. In Part Two of this split post I'll share my personal experiences with using honey as a hair lightener and I'll also talk about some of its other uses.
Lots of love to all of you,