Tips for Dying Hair Effectively With Henna
I've been dying my hair red for quite a while. I've also worked as a self-employed henna artist for many years. And pretty recently I began dying my hair red with henna, and found that it is the most effective, permanent, and non-damaging red hair dye I've ever used! Here are some tips for mixing your own henna hair dye and tweaking the dye to get the color you want.
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Start with henna powder
Don't use a pre-mixed paste! These pastes that you can buy in supermarkets are usually mixed incorrectly; also, once henna powder has been mixed it has to be refrigerated (or better, frozen) to retain its ability to color hair and skin for any length of time.
A lot of people will tell you to use body art quality henna, and it's true that doing so will give you a more reliable color that might be more vibrant, but lower quality henna will also work and will be cheaper. I mixed high and low quality stuff last time, and it worked quite well.
Mix it up!
Here's a basic recipe for hair henna:
Henna powder - amount varies based on length of hair; 4-5 oz should be enough for hair that falls a little past the shoulders and isn't unusually thick.
Lemon juice - enough to make a thick paste (it does not need to be fresh squeezed). This provides the acid that the henna needs to release its dye.
Essential oil - about 2 tsp. Certain essential oils act as "terps" in henna, strengthening the dye. Some effective essential oils are lavender, cajeput and tea tree. Always use high quality, pure essential oils.
Tweak your mix to get the perfect color
I always want my hair to be super red, so here are the additives I use to achieve that:
Red wine - replace about a quarter of your lemon juice with a dark red wine; wine is acidic, so it helps with dye release, and it will add richness to your color. Use the cheapest stuff you can find--you just want the color and acid.
Brandy - a couple of tablespoons will help deepen your color.
Cinnamon and/or paprika - a few tablespoons of these lovely red spices will enhance your color as well.
For a more golden result:
Strong chamomile tea - again, replace a little of your lemon juice with this
Turmeric - if you've seen what this stuff can do to a plastic cutting board, you know it dyes like crazy!
Mix the henna powder, lemon juice and your various additions until you have a nice, thick, non-drippy paste; then add the essential oil. You will want to let this mixture sit for at least a couple of hours for the dye to release fully; press plastic wrap onto the top of the paste, squeezing out air bubbles, and leave in a warmish place to aid dye release.
Next, wet your hair with warm water, don some latex or nitrile gloves (this stuff WILL stain your skin), and start working the mix into your hair, front to back. You may want to apply some hand cream or vaseline to your hairline before doing this so that you don't end up with patches of orange skin.
Once your hair is full of brown goop, it's time to make yourself look even sillier! Henna dyes best when it's warm, so it works really well to wrap your head in plastic wrap while the paste is on there. Yes, you will look crazy, but it's for a good cause.
Leave the paste on for a couple of hours at least, depending on how long you let the dye release before you applied it; I find that a total dye release time of 4-7 hours works well. Some people sleep with the dye in, but they must be wizards if they don't get it all over their bedclothes.
Happy coloring! I'll be posting soon about mixing and applying your own body art henna, because that's an art form everyone should get to enjoy.