Let me tell you about my great grandmother’s hair.
Wait, no, first let me tell you about my great grandmother.
- She was Scottish. I mean really Scottish. Descended from the historical Lady Macbeth, her two children were Andrew, after Scotland’s patron saint and Bruce, as in Robert The.
- In the middle of the Great Depression in New York City, she demanded and summarily received a large baby grand piano, which she moved around by getting on her hands and knees under it and crawling it to her desired location.
- She was a devout Scottish Presbyterian until one fateful day when the choirmaster took away her solo. She flounced off to the Anglican Church across the street and that, friends and lovers, is How The Plumcakes Became Episcopalians.
- Her hair, the same shade as mine, kept its natural espresso hue well into her seventies, though a colorist’s brush never touched her precious mamie bangs.
***record scratching to a stop***
…back the truck up.
Lady Macbeth Thing: Fine. I’ve met the women in my family and I assure you, all the perfumes of Arabia would not sweeten our collective hands.
The Piano Thing: again, fine. Not everyone suffered in the Depression, and it would go a long way towards explaining my atavistic urge to buy a baby grand piano in the middle of the last recession.
Flouncing off to the Episcopalians: Anyone who doubts the veracity of this has clearly never been in or near a church choir.
Deep brown tresses into her seventies: ay, there’s the rub.
It seem great grandmother Plumcake had a teensy trick. Instead of setting her hair in curlers, she’d set them around damp black teabags. Tinting her hair ever-so-slightly with each wash and set.
Her caffeinated little secret sprung to mind the other day.
Harsh water and daily dips in the Pacific have not been kind to my hair. While I understand natural summer highlights and beach textured hair are both sought after (for the latter, skip the spendy products and use what the runway hairstylists use: non-iodized salt dissolved in warm water. Apply with a spray bottle) my dark brown Eton crop does not benefit from either.
I’m not especially interested in coloring my hair, but I don’t want to lose its natural hue either, so, like my great-grandmother before me, I went to the kitchen to improvise.
Coffee Hair Tint
3 tablespoons instant coffee
2+/- tablespoons sour cream/plain yogurt
2 teaspoons hot water
Dissolve the coffee in the hot water and add enough sour cream to make a thick paste. Apply to towel-dried hair. Wrap hair in a shower cap, let sit at least an hour and wash out with a gentle shampoo in the coolest water you can stand.
Okay, those are the basic directions. Here’s what I did:
Come up with a harebrained idea (see what I did there?) that should more or less work. Coffee stains natural fibers. My hair is a natural fiber. Thus, coffee should stain my hair.
Look for instant coffee in cabinets.
Find Dolca, an instant coffee with caramelized sugar which is ghastly as coffee but very nice with chocolate in baked goods.
Briefly entertain idea of making paste with the expensive Italian espresso, ground between the thighs of baby angels. Decide to take mercy on my septic system and my wallet by using the Dolca.
Hair takes color best with an open cuticle, but keeps color and shine with a closed one. Heat and alkaline products open the cuticle, while cold and acid slams them shut. Both coffee and sour cream are acidic, so I’d need a bit of heat if I wanted the color to sink in. You won’t really dye your hair with coffee, but it will add a nice tint to already dark hair.
I applied the paste, then wrapped my hair in a plastic bag (real people will probably have a shower cap, but this was an impromptu affair) then a hot damp tea towel, another plastic bag and then a dry hair towel. Pretending you’re Erykah Badu and reflecting on the lasting social and political import of 1997’s Baduizm is optional, but highly recommended.
Wait at least hour –conveniently, Baduizm’s run time is almost exactly 60 minutes– and decide whether you want to rinse now or wait another hour just for kicks. Decide anything worth doing is worth doing right, put on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and reflect on the time in late 1997 when you and your friend Megan went to that Wyclef Jean afterparty. Continue to reflect fondly on your misspent youth until ready to rinse, an hour to an hour and a half.
Rinse thoroughly in cool water, enjoy your glossy, coffee-tinted (and scented, if you don’t wash thoroughly) tresses for the next several shampoos. Don’t tell your great-grandchildren.