Going Green-- A henna hair adventure

The decision to henna

I looked in the the mirror, the advance of the grey hair arriving faster than I wanted.  The grey hairs started appearing obscurely around the temples. Slowly they invaded the rest of my hair. I didn't mind when the greys started to appear because they made subdued highlights.

Then I was invited to join a gallery of featured artists on the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads website. Of course, they wanted a picture. I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to send them a picture of me with grey hair.  I questioned myself; should I go and get my hair dyed or should I try henna, again?   I decided on henna.

I had done henna years before my hair started to grey.  I stopped dying my hair because, I didn't want to go to the beauty shop and sit for hours and the chemicals in the dye was damaging my hair. I had bought brown Egyptian Henna in the tin can. I was hoping for a reddish brown or a very dark auburn.

I followed the directions on the can. I put it on my hair and couldn't see a difference in my hair color. A friend suggested a product called Sun In. The purpose for Sun In was to lighten the hair so that more of the color from the henna could penetrate the hair shaft. This technique didn't result in the reddish brown hair that I wanted so I dyed my hair. I stopped after a couple of trips to the beauty shop.

How to do a strand test

 If you are a first time henna user or want to make sure how henna will look on your hair then do this simple strand test.

  • Mix your henna recipe in a small container and let it sit overnight so that the dye will release from the henna.
  • Harvest some hair from your brush or comb.
  • Soak your hair sample for about 3-4 hours long enough for the dye to seep in.
  • Then rinse.

You can keep doing this procedure until you get the result you want.  It will take 2-3 days for the final color to set.  Wait before you decide if that is the color that you want.

Research Before you buy & try

When I decided to get rid of the grey, the henna way, I went out to buy the same thing I bought before. I thought that the Egyptian Henna would work better now that my hair was turning grey. I called the beauty supply stores, most didn't have henna, only one did. It wasn't Egyptian, I hurried out to get it anyway.

I asked the sales clerk, where I could find the henna, then asked if she had ever used it. She said that she had never used henna then directed me to where it was located. I didn't see it when I looked at first, it was on a bottom shelf, a place reserved for things that don't sell. There was a color chart on top of the bags of henna.

There were about ten different colors of henna, I picked a copper color. The color chart said that on dark brown hair it would be dark brown with copper highlights. I envisioned that this would look good on me.

I looked on the bag for directions, I didn't see any and bought the product anyway since I had used henna in the past. In the car, I fished the directions out of the bag. I read that this would be a two step process. The directions said for the color to develop, I'd need to get a bag of the red color henna in addition to the copper I had. Each color had to be done separately. I thought that it had to be an easier way. The next morning, I looked on the Internet about using henna on hair. Then I found a website devoted to henna and hair; Henna for Hair.

There was a wealth of information on the website. I will talk about a few of the highlights. The best kind of henna to use on hair is Body Art Quality (BAQ). The majority of the henna that is used for body art is grown in North Africa, Middle East and Southern Asia.

The henna that is used for body art is from the stems and the leaves of the plant. The dye from the plant is called lawsome. It's a red-orange dye. The leaves have a 1-4% dye content depending on the climate and soil conditions. The low dye content henna is saved for the commercial hair dye industry. The top 5% of the henna crop, that has high dye content, is saved for body art use. After drying, the leaves are ground and finely sifted, making the henna easy to mix and rinse out of the hair. High dye content and fine sifting make BAQ henna good for hair dye.

The BAQ henna is 100% pure. It is a green powder that smells like hay or grass. A very earthy smell. Herbal henna has no metallic salt additives such as copper or iron nor any other additives. The additives might make it a different color other than green. There are some henna products, which are 100% henna, that will include an herbal packet. The herbs should be 100% also. Mineral salts and other chemicals, that are added to henna make it a compound henna. This make the range of colors of henna found in beauty supply stores. This mixture of henna and mineral salts is bad for your hair.

This is what I was buying when I bought the Egyptian Henna and the other henna that I bought recently. It said on the directions that if I didn't do the two step process then my hair would have a greenish color. A red flag went up. I didn't have 100% henna. Ways of testing your henna are on the Henna for Hair website.

Is henna good for my hair? Yes, henna is good for your hair if it is BAQ. Henna makes your hair silky, shiny and strong. It repairs damage done by perms, blow drying, pressing and coloring your hair. Hair dyed with henna, has less dandruff, hair loss and breakage. The color in henna binds to the keratin in your hair and reacts with your natural hair color.The combination of the dye and your hair color produces the final result. Examples of how henna can be mixed to produce the color that you want,can be seen on Henna for Hair website Henna looks different on different people. It takes about 2-3 days for the color to finalize. One thing to remember, henna dye is permanent. So, as the website suggests, do a strand test. This procedure will let you see how the color will react with your hair. .

Henna is good for African-American hair. It will not give the deep red color but it will cover the grey and blend with natural hair color. It will also relax the hair while adding shine and strength.

The greatest advantage to using henna is that it is natural and there are no chemical additives.


equipment for mixing henna and tutorial video

  •  Plastic mixing bowl with tight fitting lid (for freezing and refrigeration)
  • Rubber spatula (dedicated to henna)
  • Plastic gloves (prevent the staining of the hands.)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Plastic unlined shower cap (disposable, can buy at the beauty supply store.
  • you tube video on hennaing black hair http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SIq5MokOpA (this is the first of three.)

Now that I have done my homework

I went to the Henna for Hair website, did my research about henna and why is it good for my hair, now is the time to do it. On the Henna for Hair website there is a place where you can buy BAQ henna. If you don't have time to wait then you can go to your local Indian grocery store they'll have BAQ henna there. You can find Indian grocery stores on Google. I was anxious to henna my hair so I found an Indian grocery store near me.

It was a warm Sunday afternoon, the day after I went and bought the henna at the beauty supply store. I went to Artesia Ca, where there's a multitude of Indian speciality stores. The streets as well as the stores were crowded. I asked the cashier for the henna for the tattoos and she directed me to the shelf where they were located.

On the shelves there were many products which were labeled henna and some said henna for hair. Most of the boxes were written in Arabic. I looked at the labels which featured body art work on them. I was torn between two brands. Jamala and Vinita's. I picked the Vinita's. I picked the Vinita's. I picked this brand because the package was written in English. I saw that it was 100% pure henna. There were pictures of the body art on the box.There's also a picture on the box demonstrating what hair would look like dyed with henna. Vinita's has an herbal pack that is included for added strength, shine and thickness.

Now that I've purchased the henna, it has to be prepared and so does your hair. As stated earlier, henna is a powder and it has to be mixed. There are many henna recipes as they're people using it. On the Henna for Hair website there are many ways to mix your henna for your type of color you're trying to achieve.

My henna recipe is specific for my hair. I'm an African-American female who doesn't have course hair, it's wavy with fizz on the ends. My hair color is dark brown with about 25-30% grey hair. The result that I would like to achieve is dark auburn with copper penny highlights.

To prepare your hair for the henna experience you should wash and dry it the night before Make sure that the shampoo that you're going to use doesn't have a conditioner in it. Do not put any type of conditioner or oil in your hair. Oils and conditioners might inhibit the uptake of the dye. The henna mixture should be prepared the night before. Henna releases the dye at room temperature. The dye release can take 6-12 hours depending on room temperature. I wrapped the used cool whip container,with the henna, in the plastic cap I also wrapped it in a towel to increase the heat. The day that I mixed the henna, it was a hot day in Long Beach (between 95-100 degrees) which helped speed up the dye release process.

The dye can be released with boiling water, packages of henna which come from the beauty supply store have this direction. This was one of the directions that came with the henna I bought. Another red flag. Henna which is 100% pure should never be reconstituted with boiling water. This causes the henna to fade. Henna should be reconstituted in an acidic solution such as lime, lemon, orange juices, apple cider vinegar or a combination of juices. Lemon is the most acidic of the citrus juices. There are some who use wine or other lightly acidic solutions to achieve dye release. The dye lasts for 3-4 weeks when medium for dye release is acidic .

Other additive such as spices, essential oils (tea tree and lavender) take a way the earthy smell of the henna. Olive oil adds extra moisture since the citrus juices have a tendency to dry the scalp. There are other herbal additives that can make the hair stronger, shinier, darker and resistant to dandruff.

These are the ingredients that I used to prepare my henna (all measurements are approximate):

  • 1/2 box henna
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of each cloves, cinnamon and ginger
  • Note this henna comes with an herbal pack which I didn't use.

When the henna is mixed it is a darker green mixture than the dry powder. Dye release has occurred when the henna has turned from the dark green to a dark brown. If you're not ready to use your henna, it can be refrigerated and should be used the same day. If your not going to use it the same day put it in the freezer in an airtight container (used cool whip container works well). It can be kept for 2-3 weeks.

Next day when my henna was ready I wasn't, I put it in the refrigerator until that evening when I came home from work.

I took the henna mixture out of the frig. I tried to wait for the mixture to warm to room temperature but I couldn't. I put on my gloves (henna stains), then I put the cold, gooey mixture  on my head. It felt good after a long day at work. I tried to separate my hair into sections like it suggested on the website but my hair wouldn't cooperate. I just spread the goo on my hair willy nilly and worked all in with my hands.

Once the mixture was worked in well. I took some plastic wrap, wrapped my head with it, put a plastic shower cap on and then a towel tied tightly around my head. I did this because the henna reacts best when you have the heat from your head captured. It takes the dye in henna from 2-4 hours to seep into your hair. I watched, two movies, Jungle Fever and Why did I get Married. When those two movies were over my hair was done (approximately 4 hours).

I unwrapped my hair with anticipation on what the color would look like. I rinsed my hair with tepid water. Henna is very gritty and it doesn't come out fully with plain water. When the henna was halfway out of my hair, I used a cream rinse (VO5) to get the rest of the henna out. This works well for getting the henna out.

When I got all of the henna out, . My hair wasn't dry yet  but I could tell the difference between before henna and after. My hair felt smooth and silky. I even had the copper penny highlights that I wanted. The aromatic clove smell was a bonus. I put in a leave in conditioner, braided my hair and then went to bed.

I'm Happy

When I got up the next day, I upbraided my hair and looked in the mirror. I had ringlets, from braiding my hair, they were a lighter color. It looked like my hair had a cinnamon/orange/ brown color with the copper penny highlights which were the grey hairs. I still thought that my hair was still frizzy. I took a picture with my phone and sent it to my friends. They thought that it looked good and looked like a professional did it. In about two days the color deepened to a nice deeper dark brown with the copper highlights.

I began to see a slow difference in the frizz at the ends of my hair. I tried a daily leave in conditioner and oils and still had the frizz. In a week and a half I conditioned my hair with what they called a henna gel. This is usually made by using a cream conditioner such as VO5 and henna which has the dye already released. I made a 50/50 mixture of the henna and  deep conditioner. I let the mixture set for about a half and hour to let the henna and conditioner mix. I washed my hair and put in the conditioner/henna mix. It stayed in my hair for about 15-30 minutes, rinsed it out and I had the silky hair that I wanted. The henna not only enhanced the silky feel of my hair it relaxed it. I can twirl my hair around my finger and make curls.

I went out for for my birthday a couple of days ago. It was the first time that my boyfriend has seen my hair since henna. He said that the grey hair made me look distinguished, now he he says that I look sexy with my new copper penny highlights.

I will be doing henna again. The more you apply henna the deeper the color gets. I can't wait.

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Comments 4 comments

Alex 4 years ago

Awesome---I just bought the same brand you bought and it's mixing with the apple cider vinegar right now!!! I'm so excited!!!

Thank you for writing this, I'm super looking forward to the red hair.

mystixsprings profile image

mystixsprings 4 years ago from Long Beach Author

Thank You for reading my hub. I have been usuing henna for 2 years now and it has changed my hair for the better. I also use other herbal products such as aritha powder (better known as soap nut powder) which makes a great shampoo. When I first tried it I didn't believe that it could clean hair well. After I did a test after I used it to see if my hair was clean. I took a dime size dab of shampoo and the shampoo foamed right away so my hair was clean. So if you like henna then try aritha power. I hope that you read my other hubs too.

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 3 years ago from United States

Thanks for this very detailed article. It really helps to explain how the process works.

Jerry 11 months ago

Hi. I loved the article. I would also try www.magicwaterbeads.com. This is an awesome site that will add to this story.

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