The name Robbia indicates the plants belonging to the genus Rubia, of the Rubiaceae family, which includes about sixty species. Those used for dyeing purposes, however, are essentially two: the Rubia Cordifolia and the RubiaTinctorum. The powder that is extracted from their roots is colored red, and is known and appreciated in the coloring of fabrics since ancient times.
The Rubia Cordifolia, is also known as Indian madder and we often find it reported in the INCI of the packs with the denomination Manjistha, its name in Sanskrit. The second, the Rubia Tinctorum, is also called common madder or garanza.
Because of its toxicity, the common madder has been banned by the Ministry of Health both for internal use as a food supplement and for cosmetic use. Therefore, it is recommended to pay maximum attention to the Inci: the madder that we can use on the hair is Rubia Cordifolia or Manjistha. Rubia Tinctorum is good for fabrics, but not for our hair.
The madder cordifolia is widely used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, both for external and internal use. It has the power to combat poor digestion by regulating the functioning of the gastrointestinal system.
When applied to the skin, the madder has remarkable properties: it is stimulating and anti-aging, astringent, purifying, tends to make the complexion of the face more homogeneous, eliminating the imperezioni and compacting the complexion. Let’s not forget, however, that it is still a dyeing herb, so the mask should not be kept on the face for too long or it could stain the skin.
The properties of the madder
On the hair, the madder or manjistha has properties:
It is very effective in fact to eliminate the itching caused by psoriasis and dermatitis, purifying the scalp.
The intense red released by madder is able to cover white hair and can also be used, in moderate quantities and for short poses, to revive streaks and sunstrokes that are now opaque and faded.
Its dyeing power, however, is not very high: the red color given by madder is not as permanent as that of henna, but tends to vanish in the range of different shampoos. As for the intensity of the coloring, it also varies according to the amount of madder used. The dyeing range ranges from pale pink to dark red, very intense and deep, rather cold.
How to prepare madder tincture
Madder tincture is prepared by dissolving the powder in hot water. The bowl, as well as the utensils we use for preparation, should preferably be made of wood, glass or ceramic, even plastic at the limit, but not in metal. It is not recommended to use metal objects because they could alter the properties of dust. If we want a lighter color, we will form a more liquid batter, diluting the madder very much in hot water.
If instead you want to obtain a bright red, you use a greater quantity of powder, to form a thicker and more homogeneous batter, of the same consistency of the yoghurt. After 10-15 minutes of maceration, the dyeing compound is applied uniformly over the entire hair, taking care to wear a cap or to cover the hair with a transparent film to maintain the moisture in the batter.
Shutter speeds range from 20 minutes to an hour, but they inevitably lengthen where there is a need to cover white hair. In this case, a laying of at least 2 hours is recommended to ensure a uniform and long-lasting coverage. At the end of the application, it is advisable to rinse with only water, applying only a nut of balsam if necessary. To promote the closure of the cuticles of the hair, making it more shiny and better fixing the color, it is advisable to carry out the acid rinse. A sour substance is added, that is to say vinegar or lemon juice, to the last rinsing water, a light cleansing is carried out and then it is dried.
Foul or henna only pack
As for the hue, generally the madder colors a cold red, tending to mahogany or cherry. Obviously a lot of the final result will depend on our basic coloration, in the sense that on the light hair you will get a brighter red, while applying the madder on the dark hair we will dye a more intense red hue, close to mahogany. You can still get warmer and more coppery colors going to act on the PH of the environment in which we prepare the dyeing powder.
In this case the preparation method really makes a difference compared to the final shade. By oxidizing the madder in an acidic environment, ie dissolving the powder in lemon juice or vinegar for at least 12 hours, we will have warmer shades. Vice versa, by macerating the madder in a basic environment, adding a teaspoon of bicarbonate to the hot water necessary for the preparation, you will obtain a darker, colder red. In any case, to avoid unwelcome results, it is advisable to perform a test on a hidden lock, for example behind the nape.
As is the case with other dyeing herbs, it is recommended to add henna to madder powder, for several reasons. In the first place because henna, the only one among the dyeing herbs, is able to bind to the keratin of the hair acting as a catalyst for the release of the madder coloring pigment. Secondly, because henna, precisely because of its ability to layered on the hair, ensures a more lasting dyeing effect to the color of the grass to which it is mixed. Finally, because madder exercises a beneficial effect on the hair, but certainly does not bring the same benefit of lawsonia.
Henna combined, therefore, the madder intensifies the color and the reflections, in addition to fully exploit all the benefits. Then it is up to us to choose which shades we prefer, if more coppery or more “cherry”. The oxidation of the mixture of henna and madder in an acidic environment is surely a longer and more laborious method of preparation, because it requires a minimum time of at least 12 hours to complete. Instead, by macerating the same compound in a basic environment with hot water and bicarbonate, it is sufficient to wait 10-15 minutes before proceeding with the application.
Regarding shutter speed, they vary depending on whether the combination of henna and madder is also used to cover white hair. In this case, a laying of at least 3/4 hours is required, but obviously the longer the laying will be prolonged, the better the result will be in terms of uniformity and durability of the color. If we do not need coverage of white hair and we just want to accentuate the henna shades or dye our brown, it’s enough an hour of laying, or an hour and a half at most.
On dark blond or light brown hair the madder can be used to obtain pleasant shades ranging from apricot to cognac. We often find it on the market as an ingredient in specially pre-packaged mixes. Suitably mixed with red henna and the intense yellow of rhubarb, or the golden yellow of turmeric, the madder can give life to this type of nuances, warm and enveloping.
We can however reproduce these coloring blends in a home version, managing to better modulate the quantities of the individual herbs according to our basic color and the effect we want to obtain.
As far as the percentages of the individual dye powders are concerned, the characteristics of each individual grass must be kept in mind. If, for example, a light brown base color, considering that both turmeric and rhubarb have a very high dyeing power, it would be advisable to use minimum quantities, in the order of 10-15% of the total compound. Then we need to consider the different tonality released by the two powders: rhubarb gives warmer and more orange hues, while turmeric has a strong tendency to cold yellow, close to straw.
The remaining part of the dyeing compound (85-90%) could be equally divided between henna and madder, or even shared with the cassia, non dyeing grass able to dilute the coloring power of the batter as well as exerting a major restructuring function on the hair.
However, these are general indications which are not universally valid. In any case the final result will result from the combination of a series of factors: the initial coloration, the possible presence and percentage of white hair, the laying time and the porosity of the hair. Therefore the advice is not to set a precise result, as in the case of chemical shades, but to experiment continuously.
The universe of dyeing herbs is not even remotely comparable to artificial dyes. But knowing the characteristics of the individual herbs, with due patience and a bit of experience, we will be able to master their use, becoming the creators of our beauty.