Welcome to Potions 401!

Please read the following announcements before joining the course.

1. If you have submitted an assignment for this course, do NOT send the grading staff a message asking when your work will be graded if less than a month has elapsed. If more than a month has elapsed, please contact Professor Draekon and provide your Grade ID for that assignment in your message.

2. If you have any questions about the course content, please reach out to any Professor's Assistant for Potions 401. A list of current PAs can be found on the right side of this page.

3. If you believe an assignment has been graded in error, please reach out to Professor Draekon or Andromeda Cyreus, and provide your Grade ID for that assignment in your message.

4. Suggestions, compliments and constructive criticism about the course are always appreciated. If you have any comments about Potions 401, please send an owl to Professor Draekon.

Lesson 5) Brown-Eyed Girl (Hair and Eye Color)

An ominous quote can be read on the blackboard when you enter the room.

"Those whose hair is red, of a certain peculiar shade, are unmistakably vampires. It is significant that in ancient Egypt, as Manetho tells us, human sacrifices were offered at the grave of Osiris, and the victims were red-haired men who were burned, their ashes being scattered far and wide by winnowing-fans. It is held by some authorities that this was done to fertilize the fields and produce a bounteous harvest, red-hair symbolizing the golden wealth of the corn. But these men were called Typhonians, and were representatives not of Osiris but of his evil rival Typhon, whose hair was red."1

With a swipe of the wand, Professor Draekon erases the entire board. "Hearing such a statement might sound absurd at first, and I agree that this makes no sense. However, and here I urge you to think deeper about the matter, how many natural or innate traits are used to perpetuate the same type of discrimination nowadays? In present times, we might not judge based on hair color, but prejudices based on skin or blood are still everywhere - in fact, I have to constantly grade assignments from First Years that claim Muggles to be inferior and jealous just because of their birth status. May this be a warning that, if you agree with these opinions, then you are no different from the ones you criticize", the man stated gravely.

It probably seems silly to most of you that something as simple as hair or eye color could lead to outright oppression. I know that my own Potions grading staff has been composed of blondes, brunettes, redheads, all of equal skill in brewing. Nonetheless, prejudice exists when it comes to hair color. For instance, as you see in the above passage, something as simple as red hair has been associated with witchcraft and vampires. You will remember in Lesson 2 that witches and wizards tended towards hesitancy when it came to the trendy mouche, as birthmarks were thought to be associated with magic and heresy. Similarly, there was a period when magical people would also conceal their red hair and green eyes in order to escape affiliation with magic and possible persecution based on those qualities. Thus, while mundane dyes were available, there were also potions available to magical beings that would semi-permanently (at least until an “antidote” was taken) alter their hair and eye color.

For a brief time, this type of mild physical modification was actually very en vogue. As a moderation of the tinting practice, young, naturally redhaired witches would dye most of their hair dark, leaving a small red spot on the underside of their hair or elsewhere that would not typically be seen. When in public, they would conceal the small hint of red from non-magical people. However, around their magical brethren, they would set their hair in a fashion that showed this streak of red that they allowed to remain. They often called this political and fashion statement ex tactu diaboli in jest, “of the Devil’s touch”. It was a rare example of light-hearted rebellion in the paranoid days of Medieval magical persecution.

The potion we will brew today is a relatively simple Tinting Tincture that is best on hair, but can also be used (with some added caution and dilution) to change the color of your eyes. It should be noted that this potion can only change one’s eye and hair color in degrees lighter or darker than its original tone, and cannot increase or decrease the overall redness present in the hair - we will discuss this in a little bit of detail at the end of the lesson.

Tinting Tincture

Estimated Brewing Time:
Pewter Cauldron: 2 hours, 40 minutes and 30 seconds
Brass Cauldron: 2 hours, 26 minutes and 12 seconds
Copper Cauldron: 2 hours, 13 minutes and 19.8 seconds

Total Brewing Time:
Pewter Cauldron: 1 day, 2 hours, 40 minutes and 30 seconds to 3 days, 2 hours, 40 minutes and 30 seconds
Brass Cauldron: 1 day, 2 hours, 26 minutes and 12 seconds to 3 days, 2 hours, 26 minutes and 12 seconds
Copper Cauldron: 1 day, 2 hours, 13 minutes and 19.8 seconds to 3 days, 2 hours, 13 minutes and 19.8 seconds

2 L of water
30 mL of Gomas barbadensis2
60 mL of lemon juice1
60 g of Indigofera peculia1
4 pomegranate seeds2
3 pitted* cherries1
4 fairy wings2
15 mL of giant squid ink1
30 g of dried nettles1


Part 1:

  1. Add 30 mL of Gomas barbadensis to the cauldron and bring the heat to 373 Kelvin (100°C/212°F).
  2. Heat the Gomas barbadensis for 3 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to 363 Kelvin (90°C/194°F).
  4. Add 250 mL of water to the cauldron.
  5. Add 30 mL of fresh squeezed lemon juice to the cauldron.
  6. Add 15 g of Indigofera peculia to your mortar and crush it into a fine, even texture with your pestle. Add the crushed material to your cauldron.
  7. Stir once counterclockwise with your wand.
  8. Allow the potion to brew in your pewter cauldron for 53 minutes(This would be 47 minutes and 42 seconds in a brass cauldron and 42 minutes and 55.8 seconds in a copper cauldron.)

At this point, the potion will be a deep violet, emitting a licorice scent. No steam is produced.

Part 2:

  1. Add 500 mL of water to the cauldron.
  2. Add 4 pomegranate seeds and 3 pitted cherries to the cauldron.
  3. Stir twice counterclockwise with your wand.
  4. Allow the potion to bubble for 15 seconds.
  5. Add 4 fairy wings to the caudron.
  6. Stir three times clockwise.
  7. Increase the heat to 373 Kelvin (100°C/212°F) for 1 minute and 15 seconds, then reduce the heat to 363 Kelvin (90°C/194°F).
  8. Allow the potion to brew in your pewter cauldron for 40 minutes(This would be 36 minutes in a brass cauldron and 32 minutes and 24 seconds in a copper cauldron.)

At this point, the potion will be a pale red liquid emitting yellow fumes. Its smell is quite similar to burnt almonds.

Part 3:

  1. Add 15 mL of giant squid ink to the cauldron.
  2. Add 30 g of dried nettles to your mortar. Crush it to a fine, even powder.
  3. Add the crushed nettles to the cauldron.
  4. Stir once counterclockwise with your wand.
  5. Add 250 mL of water to the cauldron.
  6. Allow the potion to brew in your pewter cauldron for 32 minutes(This would be 28 minutes and 48 seconds in a brass cauldron and 25 minutes and 55.2 seconds in a copper cauldron.)

Both the potion color and its steam will be black by this stage - this is completely natural. Your potion should smell like pine needles by this point.

Part 4:

  1. Add 500 mL of water to the cauldron.
  2. Add 30 mL of lemon juice to the cauldron.
  3. Stir once clockwise.
  4. Add 45 g of Indigofera peculia to your mortar and crush to a fine powder with your pestle.
  5. Add the crushed Indigofera peculia to your cauldron.
  6. Increase the heat to 373 Kelvin (100°C/212°F) for 3 minutes, then reduce the heat to 363 Kelvin (90°C/194°F).
  7. Stir twice clockwise.
  8. Allow the potion to brew in your pewter cauldron for 18 minutes(This would be 16 minutes and 12 seconds in a brass cauldron and 14 minutes and 34.8 seconds in a copper cauldron.)
  9. Cool your potion for 10 minutes before transferring it to its appropriate vial.

Your final product must be completely clear and emit a similar clear vapor - however, white or pale blue steam might also be produced by the final potion. The Tinting Tincture must smell like a combination of olive oil and lavender.

Maturation Notes:

For the first 24 to 72 hours, the potion should be left in a room temperature environment with moderate light exposure. This allows it to mellow and become less volatile in nature. The longer the finished potion is left to mature, the milder the potion becomes.

To Store:

Depending on whether the user wants the potion to lighten or darken hair, it should be stored differently:

Lightening: Following maturation, those who wish to use the Tinting Tincture to lighten his or her hair should leave it in a bright and sunny environment. The temperature of the place in which the potion is stored should not matter, although overall the potion generally should not be stored below 5℃ (41℉).

Darkening: Following maturation, those who wish to use the Tinting Tincture to darken his or her hair should leave it in a dark environment without access to sunlight. The temperature of the place in which the potion is stored should not matter, although overall the potion generally should not be stored below 5℃ (41℉).

The Tinting Tincture can be stored almost indefinitely, but the effects will be more pronounced the longer it sits in its vial. It should never be applied to the hair after approximately three months of storage, as it will cause severe damage to the hair and can even burn skin if it comes in direct contact.

To Use:

For Hair: To use the tincture on hair, one should combine 60 mL of the finished potion with between 15 mL to 30 mL of water, depending on hair length. Using a slim brush, one should brush the potion onto the hair, particularly making sure to cover the roots in full. After the potion has been applied topically to the hair, it should be allowed to set for 5 to 7 minutes (leaving it on no more than 8 minutes). After this point, it can be washed, dried, and styled as normal.

For Eyes: To use the tincture on eyes, one should combine 5 mL of the finished potion with 60 mL of water. A mundane eye dropper should be used to put 2 to 3 drops of the diluted potion into each eye. This can be repeated once every 20 minutes up to 5 times to lighten or darken eye color.


The Tinting Tincture is a relatively harmless potion that can be applied to the hair or eyes with little worry. Allergic side effects rarely occur with the final product, but when they do, they will usually cause mild to moderate rash, itching and irritation. Ingesting the Tinting Tincture will cause an upset stomach and other mild but unpleasant effects.

*If you purchase your cherries unpitted, it is recommended that you pit them during the brewing process following Part 1.

Potions 401 Practical Notes: Moving To Intermediate and Advanced Potions

As we move ahead in Potions class, you’ll notice that recipes will begin to be more abbreviated. This is done to gradually reflect the potions books you’ll find yourself reading in the magical world - including simple home-brewed recipes. As we’ve discussed in the past, there are some simple metrics that you can count on always holding true when you brew. To explain a few of the shortened annotations that you might see in the future, please pay attention to the following notes:

Brewing Times

As we discussed in your first year, brewing times typically reflect the slowest speed, the pewter cauldron - except when stated otherwise by the recipe you're using. Most family brewing cauldrons are of this material, so publishers will typically use this as the “default” cauldron brewing time. In order to calculate the time in a brass cauldron, subtract approximately 10% of each stage of the brew cycle. To find copper cauldron brewing times, subtract approximately another 10% of the brass cauldron's brew time. This can be done relatively simply by moving the decimal place over by one place (for example, 55 minutes turns into 5.5) and subtracting that number from the original number. Some potioneers round their final number; however, I defend that using decimal digits will entail the best results in your brews. Try to be as precise as possible.

Another strategy that you can use in calculating times is to use decimal multiplication, which can be quite handy if you have a calculator nearby. In order to convert from pewter to brass, you just need to multiply your time by 0.9; the same holds true to convert from brass to copper. Therefore, in order to convert directly from pewter to copper, simply multiply your time by 0.9 * 0.9, which is the same as multiplying it by 0.81.

Colors and Scents

If they note it at all, most potions textbooks will follow the following formula:

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This will reflect what you should see, smell, and otherwise perceive of the potion at each stage of brewing. Some older and more advanced potions books will not indicate with each part, but will only reflect the final product.

Your Mortar

This should go without saying, but please make sure to thoroughly cleanse your mortar between uses. Even if you find yourself crushing and preparing the same ingredient in two different stages, residue from the previous can impact the total amount or concentration present in the subsequent stage. While we have not brewed anything horribly dangerous to date, going into Year Five and beyond, if you do not take proper precautions, you will find yourself not only with a ruined potion, but one that may become quite dangerous to the consumer.

And that is all for your practical notes this lesson!

So before we brewed the potion, we mentioned that this particular Tinting Tincture cannot make your hair any more or less red than before. So, what does it do, exactly?

The Tinting Tincture we brewed today impacts the amount of brown eumelanin in your hair. When the potion is exposed to direct sunlight, as stated in the recipe, it will lighten the hair and turn it blonde. However, when stored for maturation in a dark environment, it will prompt melanocytes (this is what creates melanin) to create more eumelanin, which will darken the hair. Young witches who practiced ex tactu diaboli in the Middle Ages would typically leave the Tinting Tincture to mature in a dark closet for upwards of sixty days before applying it to their hair. This would cause their hair - excepting the parts they didn’t expose - to become a dark brown in color. It would not eliminate the red undertones, which are caused by a different pigment, pheomelanin, but it would make the red less pronounced.

Today, there are potions that increase or decrease the amount of pheomelanin to make a person’s hair more or less red. Similar to the Tinting Tincture, they semi-permanently change how much pigment is present until an antidote is taken. Many young witches and wizards, in fact, prefer to sport vibrant red hair these days - possibly to contrast with previous generations. The Rouge Residue Reddening Potion is constantly a favorite in Madam Primpernelle’s beautifying shop.

Humanities Break

By way of interesting anecdote, one of the major opponents of tinting was Obadiah Walker, a 17th Century wizard who was often in trouble with the British authorities for his outspokenness as well as his unwillingness to submit to the Church of England (beginning his life as a Protestant, and eventually converting to Roman Catholicism following the accession of King James II).

He spoke out not only against ex tactu diaboli within the magical community, but also against those Christians who believed that red hair was heresy. In his widely work Periamma epidemion, he said, “a common yet causeless calumniation: viz the vilifying of red-hair’d men, the putting of disesteem upon persons, merely because of the native color of the excrement of the head.”2 He believed that for both magical and non-magical people to put too much stock into simple physical characteristics, such as hair color, eye color, and birthmarks, when judging a person’s character led to a dilution of real issues of cultural identity in regards to magic and magical society.

As a religious man, he also took issue with the implications that those associated with red hair might naturally have commune with the Devil. Walker suggested that evil came in all sizes, shapes, tones and hues, and to reduce it to prejudice against red hair was not only a shallow stereotype, it also reduced the ability to identify and expel darkness when it actually occurred in society. Whether or not you agree with his religious views, this makes a great deal of sense, given what we know about dark times in the magical as well as non-magical world. Walker was eventually arrested and imprisoned under archaic charges, such as “changing his religion”. Two years later, he was released from prison and removed himself from non-magical society. Walker spent his final nine years in seclusion.

And this brings us through Lesson Five and right into our midterm! I hope that you’ve enjoyed the year so far, and look forward to seeing you next lesson, in which we present a theoretical view of the famous Polyjuice Potion. I will also discuss in brief the two major magical ingredients in today’s potion.


Original lesson written by Professor Lucrezia Batyaeva
Image credits here


1 Institoris, Heinrich, Jakob Sprenger, and Anton Koberger. Malleus Maleficarum. Nuremberg, Germany: ... Per Antonium Koberger Nurbergen Ciue Est Ipressus & Ad Huc Finem Perductus, 1494.

2 Jenison, Thomas, Obadiah Walker, and Ralph Battell. Periamma Epidemion: Or, Vulgar Errours in Practice Censured. Also The Art of Oratory, Composed for the Benefit of Young Students. London: Printed for Richard Royston ..., 1659. Print.

In Year Four of Potions, students will focus on Physical Modifying Potions. This will include beauty, blemish removal, and even the famous Polyjuice Potion. Every lesson will include a lab exercise that will teach the student the relationship between potions and their impact on the physical body.
Course Prerequisites:
  • PTNS-301

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